Deadlift 8

“My posture is horrible and it really hurts how much I can bench, squat, and deadlift!  What are some things I can try to stand more upright and start lifting heavier weights again?” – Bryce Harding

Shoulders that are slumped forward – referred to as a kyphotic posture – can really affect how well you can perform certain exercises and how much weight you can use with these same exercises. 

If your shoulders are rounded forward:

For the Bench Press – You won’t be able to keep your chest up on the bench and this will put a ton of stress on the anterior (front) part of the shoulder when the bar is at the bottom position – right above the chest.  Not being able to pull the shoulder blades back and down and drive them into the bench will also affect how much tension your can create across your upper body and into the lats – which will ultimately decrease the amount of weight you can use.

For the Deadlift – You won’t be able to get into a good position before you ever pull the weight.  Having forward shoulders will unlock the straight (neutral) position of the entire torso and head that you want and set you up for a potential rounded back once you start pulling on the bar.  The better position you can start an exercise, the more likely you’ll stay in that good position throughout the entire execution of the lift.

For the Squat – You will have a really hard time grabbing a hold of the bar tight to lock in your upper back.  When your shoulders are rounded forward, you have to externally rotate your arms to reach back and grab the barbell.  This will really stress your shoulders and affect how much tension you can create in your upper back and how well you can keep your chest up.  Both are critical for locking in your core and staying upright when you squat.

So you can see, your posture affects everything!

Foam Rolling: Your New Secret Weapon

To fix your posture, get you back into better positions, and help establish better tension in your lifts, here is a simple 1-2-3 sequence of drills you should do every time you train.

1. Thoracic Extension on the Foam Roller

Volume:  2 sets x 10-15 extensions

Lay flat on a foam roller with the roller across the middle of your back.  Anchor your hips to the ground and extend over the foam roller without allowing your chin to extend back – which means keep head in a neutral position.  Perform a few extensions and then roll down to another segment and continue.

Prone y raises

2. Prone “Y” Raises

Volume:  3 sets x 10-12 reps

Lay face down (prone) on an incline bench set at approximately 30-45 degrees.  Take two light (8-15lb) dumbbells and perform raises into a “Y” position directly out front of your body.  Try to achieve a position where your arms are in line with the angle of your torso.

Prone db isometric holds

3. DB Row Isometric Holds

Volume:  2-3 sets x 20-30 sec holds

Lay face down on a flat bench (or a bench set at a slight angle) and perform isometric holds with dumbbells for the prescribed time.  The row should be done until the tricep is in line with the torso.  Don’t be afraid to push the weights with this movement. 


Meet the Lift Doctor

Jim Smith is a highly respected, world-renowned strength and conditioning coach. A member of the Fitness Advisory Board, Jim has been called one of the most “innovative strength coaches” in the fitness industry. Training athletes, fitness enthusiasts and weekend warriors, Jim has dedicated himself to helping them reach “beyond their potential.” He is also the owner of Diesel Strength & Conditioning in Elmira, NY.