The Cross

I have both Upper and Lower Crossed Syndrome. Basically, a muscle imbalance in my shoulders and chest as well as in my pelvis that forces my head to tilt forward, my upper back to roll forward, my shoulders to roll forward and down, and my pelvis to tilt forward. After much research on the almighty google machine I have come up with a series of stretches and exercises to help correct my postural issues and get me back in balance. Note that some of the exercises and stretches that help fix this condition are already in my other routines, like planks, so I did not include them here as well. I will do this routine 6 days a week along with my morning routine immediately after tai chi.

For some just the stretches and maybe a couple of the exercises listed below would be enough. I feel that climbing exasperates certain traits of upper crossed syndrome by strengthening the muscles that create it so I need to work the counter muscles more to offset it, everything is about balance. In order to balance everything out I need to stretch the tight, over worked muscles and work the weak ones. I also want to point out that for just about every exercise or stretch I found, I also found a video saying not to do it, I’m just going to not do anything that hurts and focus on form.

I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on this or spit out a bunch of jargon. This is a common condition and a lot of information is available on line about it if you’d like to learn more. Really, you should probably talk to your physical therapist or athletic trainer about it, I used to be married to one so I’ve had my consult. I normally leave out descriptions and just put the real names for exercises so one could look up the exercise on YouTube and get advise on proper form from someone that has proper training. I didn’t find proper names for a lot of these so this is what you get. I believe you should train right or don’t train at all and if you don’t feel you can do these with perfect form please seek out advice from someone that knows better than I.  

This picture shows my forward head and shoulders as well as my sway back and forward pelvis tilt. My ear should be above my shoulder and my shoulder should be rotated clockwise and back a little more. This is not exaggerated, this is my normal relaxed posture. 

I am in my relaxed posture here, I stuck my thumbs out to demonstrate the rotation of my shoulder. When I’m in balance my thumbs should point forward not towards each other.

When I lay flat my neck is so far out that this is the relaxed position. When I’m back in balance the bill of my hat should point straight up. 

This is my best effort to stand straight and with everything in alignment. I’m pulling my head back without raising my chin, and rotating my shoulders back to correct the top and sucking in my gut while tightening my butt cheeks to rotate my pelvis to where it should be. This took a lot of effort. 

Upper Cross Stretches:

Shoulder thingy up against door jamb

Hold 30 sec right then 30 sec left

Arm out, bent up 90deg at the elbow, push arm up against the door jamb being sure to keep the shoulder from rotating forward and down. Move hand back away from wall to control shoulder rotation. Make sure stretch is all in the peck and not in the shoulder.

Peck minor

Hold 30 sec right then 30 sec left

Push shoulder into wall with arm up, squeeze shoulder blades together in back while pushing against wall. Raise and lower arm while squeezing shoulder blades together

Darth Vader Stretch

Hold 30 sec right then 30 sec left

Take arm and place it on your back between the shoulder blades, turn head away from arm

Forced Thoracic Extension

Hold 1 min

Lay on back with foam roller across the shoulder blades, extend your arms in the air to get your shoulder blades out of the way and roll out to the middle of your upper back. From here bend you upper back around the foam roller doing your best to keep your lower back straight. Keep your butt down and bend from the upper back.

Weird twisty thing with bar

Hold 1 min right then 1 min left

Lay on stomach with arms extended above head with a bar or broom stick in your hands more than shoulder width apart. Rotate your upper body leaving your hips and legs where they are, at least as best you can. 


Upper Cross Exercises:

Shoulder activated dead hang

Hold 45 seconds but work up to 1 min

Dead hang from hang board but activate shoulders. Suck shoulder blades towards each other while lifting body. 

Push head into wall thingy

Hold 1 min

Back up to wall arms by sides, tuck chin, push head into wall. Try to make as much of your body touch the wall as possible. Tucking your chin is key, if your were wearing a baseball cap the brim would be level not tilted up. 

Wall press

Hold 1 min

Back to wall arms up against the wall, elbows bent at 90, force everything to touch wall. Slide arms up and down the wall without losing contact. Tucking your chin is key, if your were wearing a baseball cap the brim would be level not tilted up. 

Behind the head scapular depressions

20 reps with heaviest band that allows you to do 20 with good form. 

Grab band at shoulder width, hold behind head then pull the band apart while moving your arms down. You should feel it between the shoulder blades. 

Pull apart with external rotation

20 reps with heaviest band that allows you to do 20 with good form. 

Hold a band with both hands straight out in front and pull the band apart while rotating hands away from each other. Right hand clock wise left counter clockwise. 

Band row

20 reps with heaviest band that allows you to do 20 with good form. 

Standing row with exercise band. when you pull back hold for a couple of seconds before extending back out. Slow and controlled with quality over quantity. 

Lift your ass

20 reps

Get in dip position on paint can apparatus, shrug shoulders and straighten out shoulder. Basically move you body up and down with your shoulders. Make sure to rotate shoulder to where they should be before you start and don’t let them rotate forward. 


I started off also working on my lower cross in the beginning but then I rolled it all into other workouts. My lower cross isn’t as bad as my upper so I’m focusing more on that. I now do two rounds of all of the Upper Cross workouts. 

Lower Cross Stretches:

Hip flexor stretch

Down on one knee lean forward with your body while keeping body straight and chest out, after getting into position and feeling the stretch in the growing area lift arm above head and lean to extend the stretch.

Lumbar stretch

Lay on back bring knees to chest and hold them there, straighten the back not flexing back


Lower Cross exercises:

Modified sprinter lunge

One foot forward one foot back, on forward leg engage glute while bending over and touching the ground with weights, then stand up tall leaving feet where they are. Hip flexor on opposite leg should get a stretch

Hump the ski

Lay on back with knees bent and toes off the ground, push up into a bridge while engaging glutes, hold bridge for a second or two then come back down and repeat.

Face the wall goblet squats

Toes against the wall do a squat to pick up dumbbell

Slow and low box step up

Shorter box, slower and more controlled than circuit step ups. No push off


As with any exercise routine you should make sure you are healthy enough before you start. Know your limits and listen to your body. This site offers health, fitness and nutritional information and is designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on this information as a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other health-care professional. Do not disregard, avoid or delay obtaining medical or health related advice from your health-care professional because of something you may have read on this site. The use of any information provided on this site is solely at your own risk.

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