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The Basics of Upper and Lower Cross Syndrome

By nature, a lot of us are “flexaholics” - meaning we are in flexion (bent over, pushing, slouching, sitting, squatting) much more than we are in extension. Most times, this can lead to tightness in some areas and weakness in others. This can then result in muscular imbalances and, eventually, chronic pain and/or injury.

The phenomenon described above are the precursors to what is coined as “upper and lower cross syndrome.” By definition, UCS/LCS is “characterized by alternating sides of inhibition and facilitation in your upper body and lower body.” In simpler terms, upper cross syndrome is characterized by rounded shoulders and a forward positioned head, which is directly related to having tight muscles in the chest and weak/elongated muscles in the back. Some common ways to combat this is to add in as many “pulling” movements as you do “pushing.” For example, to go along with a bench press or push up, add in a TRX row, lat pulldown, chin up, etc. It is also helpful to add in a some chest stretches, such as a “corner stretch.”

Similarly, lower cross syndrome is driven primarily from our sedentary lifestyles. When we sit for long periods of time, our hip flexors become tight and glutes/hamstrings become inhibited, weak, and elongated - the structural result being a forward rolling pelvis and arched back (also known as an anterior pelvic tilt). Some simple ways to counter this is by stretching the hip flexors and glute/hamstring activation.

Ideally, through these counter movements, your muscles will balance out over time, leading to a more structurally sound body.

Stephanie Spoto, CSCS

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