“What exercise is best to pull shoulders backward?”– Mike Boss
Mike, any type of row, shoulder retraction, external rotation, or shoulder extension will activate and strengthen the muscles of your upper back responsible for better posture.
But, you also must determine what is causing your shoulder to be slumped forward; typically referred to as a kyphotic posture? Your shoulders could be slumped forward for three possible reasons; you sit around too much, you don’t have balance in your training, and you have bad breathing habits.
If you have a job where you’re sitting a lot or you play a lot of video games, you probably sit in a pretty flexed position for long periods of time. Make sure you get up every 20 minutes or so and stretch out.
Bad posture can also come from benching too much and not performing the movements we’ve already talked about like some type of rowing exercise. It is important to balance your training volume, i.e., for every rep of a pressing movement, you should be performing a pulling movement. This will work to keep the muscles that surround your joints in balance.
Next, research has shown that learning how to breathe deeper, into your belly, can have a profound impact on how ‘tight’ your resting muscles are and you’re your shoulders and hips in better alignment. When you breathe into your chest – called chest breathing, which is typically associated with anxiety – it can cause bad posture and make your core unstable.
Finally, strengthening your upper back is only one component. You also must work on the restricted and shortened soft-tissues of your upper body; namely your chest, shoulders, back and lats. Slow and deliberate foam rolling or lacrosse ball rolling on these areas will help to relax and improve the quality of your muscles. This will help to bring your posture back to a neutral position and allow your muscles to contract harder.
Check out this awesome 3 minute shoulder warm-up routine. It will not only help you to prepare for the workout, but it will get your upper back fired up: