Improving your posture is one of the best things you can for your general health, especially if you have pectus excavatum. Rounding of the shoulders, weakness through the hips and core, and excessive tightness and pain through the neck are all symptoms of poor posture.
In the case of PE, this can make your chest look even deeper. So, here are three of my go-to tools and stretches for making serious improvements in this area.
Tools: The Bowtie
The Bowtie is a posture support brace developed by world-renowned powerlifter Donnie Thomson. It is made out of a very strong material that pulls your shoulders back into place. This is something that I wear religiously, especially while I’m working at my desk, and it makes a huge difference.
Depending on how out of alignment your shoulders are, the bowtie can be quite uncomfortable. When I first started using it my hands would start to go numb after 10 minutes or so because of how poor my posture was. Now I can wear it for hours (though it’s still not the most comfortable thing in the world). And the beauty of this brace is how simple and immediate you feel its impact. You don’t have to do any thinking. Just put it on and it will pull you into place.
If you want to pick one of these up for yourself, just make sure you get the right size:
Stretch: Shoulder "Dislocates"
Don’t worry, we’re not actually dislocating anything…
This is an amazing stretch for tight shoulders. This can be performed with a PVC pipe, broomstick, or a band. Grab ahold of whichever implement you are using, starting with your arms relaxed at your sides, with the rod in front of you. Keeping your arms fully straightened, reach overhead and bring your arms back behind you, until the rod touches your lower back. The closer your hands are together, the harder this movement will be.
Performing this for 2-3 sets of 20, nice and slowly can help open up your chest and shoulders immensely.
Stretch: Scrape The Rack Stretch
The scrape the rack press is something I first learned from a T-nation article by John Meadows and is an awesome exercise on its own for loading up the shoulders when overhead presses are painful.
We are using the same idea here, but without extra load (just using a PVC pipe or broomstick) and accentuating the stretch at the top. Push the rod into the power rack all the way up to full extension. At the top, you can press your torso forward, creating a big stretch through your lats. You can add an additional benefit to this stretch by taking a deep breath and maximally expanding your chest and ribcage as you are stretching into your lats.
These three simple things can have a great impact on your posture, shoulder health, and the overall look of your physique. Throwing these stretches into your morning routine and pre and post-workout is a great way to start. Additionally, wearing the Bow Tie on a daily basis will help to expedite the process. This is not a quick fix, but with consistency and time, you will begin to notice positive changes in the way you carry yourself.
BONUS: Checkout Mihail’s article on proper pectus posture, he’s got some great tips that expand on what we’ve discussed here.