Upper Body, Posterior Chain Exercises Everybody Should Do

Maurice Williams | 21 Aug 2019

We live in a world where technology has become advanced. From the smart phone, to the tablet and to the laptop, every device is designed to make our lives easy. However, in making our lives easier, technology has done a number on our bodies, especially our posture.

If you don’t believe me, just watch the next ten people who pass you by walking down the street. My guess is that ten of them have poor posture! They have what is commonly called in our exercise world upper cross syndrome (UCS).

Let’s delve deep into UCS and see how we as fitness professional can help anyone improve their posture with three awesome exercises!

What is UCS?

Upper cross syndrome is a compensatory pattern discovered by Dr. Vladamir Janda in the early 1970’s. He observed how certain individuals’ bodies would present themselves in static posture with a forward head and rounded shoulders. If left unaddressed, this body position could lead to certain injuries, such as headaches, rotator cuff impingement and thoracic outlet syndrome.

Some of the typical muscles that are overactive (i.e. overworking) in UCS include:

  • Upper trapezius
  • Levator scapulae
  • Latissimus dorsi
  • Pectoralis major/minor

Some of the typical muscles that are underactive (i.e. underworking) in UCS include:

  • Serratus anterior
  • Mid to low trapezius
  • Deep cervical flexors

The overactive muscles can lead to many things, including excessive cervical extension and the underactive muscles can lead to reduced shoulder extension.

UCS Solutions

As fitness professionals, we have clients with UCS. Here’s a simple solution to help them:

  1. The first thing we want to do is get the overactive muscles to relax. A proven approach is to use an inhibitory technique followed up with static stretching. For example, you can have your client foam roll their latissimus dorsi and then statically stretch it too:

  2. After getting the overactive muscles to relax, the next step is to work on the underactive or weak muscles. For example, you can have your client work their mid to low traps with an exercise like prone cobras:

    Two other great mid/low traps and rhomboids exercises are Cable Shoulder Extensions and Ball Combo I:

  3. Lastly, now that we have the over and underactive muscles working together, it is time for the body to allow all its muscles to work together with proper activation and timing between them. This is known as intermuscular coordination and control. For example, a good exercise that integrates multiple muscles for upper cross syndrome would be a squat to row:


In conclusion, UCS is common with many of our clients. Fortunately, we have many proven techniques that we can use to help them with their exercise program particular the one listed above. Give it a try with your clients!

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Maurice Williams

About the author: Maurice Williams

Maurice Williams offers a rare combination of advanced academic training, personal experience as a competitive athlete, and twenty years of experience in personal fitness and training. That combination –- a strong understanding of exercise and sport science and clinical exercise physiology, the determination of a competitive athlete, and broad fitness experience –- makes Maurice uniquely effective in helping his clients meet their health and fitness goals. He has a BS in Exercise/Sport Science from Elon University and an MS in Clinical Exercise Physiology from Ohio University.

Experience that makes a difference for you
Recognized as a Master Personal Trainer by the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) and an Elite Personal Fitness Trainer by IDEA, Maurice can help you no matter what your age, condition, or fitness goals. He works with women between the ages of 35-50 who are looking to regain the energy and look that they had in their 20’s and 30’s so they will not be frustrated and upset with themselves when they look in the mirror. He also is certified as a Personal Fitness Trainer, Corrective Exercise Specialist, Performance Enhancement Specialist, Senior Fitness Specialist, Weight Loss Specialist & Fitness Nutrition Specialist by NASM, a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), a Barefoot Training Specialist-Level 1 through EBFA, a Fitness Nutrition Coach-Level 1 through Precision Nutrition and a Master Instructor for NASM & Most-Fit. As a fitness educator with his own education company, Move Well Fit Academy, Maurice teaches the Certified Personal Trainer course through NASM.

Smart Training that Produces Results
Maurice exercises his clients through the concept of functional training – focusing on everyday body movements, not muscles, in a progressive fashion to allow for optimal improvements in everyday activities, such as walking and lifting, as well as helping contribute to weight loss, increased stamina and strength. Maurice has helped people match exercise to their specific health challenges, too, including diabetes, osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis, hypertension, coronary artery disease, lower back pain, pulmonary issues, and pregnancy. His personal training studio, Move Well Fitness, specializes in 30-minute, semi-private (3-5 people) personal group training sessions that action packed with results driven programs. 

The Right Values
Maurice believes “Everyone has fitness is them, the challenge is bringing the fitness out.” His current workout includes resistance training, cardio and yoga. A former high school and collegiate athlete, Maurice grew up in South Carolina with roots that reach back to Brooklyn, NY. An avid sports fan, he still roots for Elon and his favorites, the Miami Hurricanes and the UNC Tarheels. A leader in his church, husband with a beautiful wife (just ask him) and father of four children, Maurice brings the right values to his work and his clients – a shared commitment to good health and fitness, an honest determination, and an understanding of what it takes to meet difficult challenges.

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