It seems like a million years ago that I started my personal hyperkyphosis challenge. In case you don’t recall, I challenged myself to spend the summer really focusing on shoulder and upper body work in an attempt to change the excessive curvature of my upper spine.

Like so many ambitious plans, this one started off well and then…well…not so much. I did a solid month with lots and lots of shoulder work. Then, I have to admit, things kind of went off the rails. Instead of focusing on my shoulders, I found myself with some foot stuff that needed my attention, and so I switched and did lots and lots of gait-focused exercises. Which, I’m happy to say, is working out really well – though that’s a subject for another blog post.

So I didn’t do all the shoulder exercises I had planned, though I do at least a little bit daily, as computer breaks.

On the other hand, what I did do was challenge Chris to a 45 day hanging challenge. 45 days, 7 minutes of hanging a day. Not necessarily continuous. I was really feeling the challenges this summer…Anyway, I figured I might as well hang, because I wasn’t spending much time walking.

I started out by keeping my feet on the ground, and did lots of really free form stretching and hanging. Since I have a pair of rings in my studio, I played around a lot with twisting and rotating and stretching my lats. So, so enjoyable!

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I did lots of ‘sideways’ hanging – where I grabbed onto something around shoulder height and leaned my body weight away. Doorways and subways are perfect for this.

As I got stronger, I spent more and more time with my feet off the ground.

I’ve got hypermobile elbows, so I focused on hanging with a slight bend in my elbows and keeping my shoulders away from my ears.

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I also started climbing and hanging from trees again. Which is extremely awesome when you find the right tree.

Now, I’m at the stage where I’m starting to work on two armed swinging. Much easier on bars than on trees, as long as the bar isn’t on the subway.

The 45 days are finished now, but I’m still hanging now that I’ve got the habit going. It’s just so, so *fun*.

Anyway, I figured I should circle back on my hyperkyphosis challenge, even though I’ve been a giant slacker, so I got Chris to measure me again this past weekend.

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Here I am – feet exactly 3.6 cm from the wall, pelvis neutral, ribs neutral, and head ramped up into the always-attractive double chin.

MY HEAD IS ONLY 4 CM AWAY FROM THE WALL!!!!

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It was 10 centimetres away when we did this same test in May. That’s a 60% improvement!!! It’s totally insane – and completely unexpected.

The moral of this story? Obviously: hanging is fantastic (and next year, it’s going to be brachiation – I’ll be swinging across monkey bars like nobody’s business).

However, I would strongly recommend that you spend time prepping your shoulders and learning about ribcage alignment before you start a hanging practice, since you’ll get better changes and less injuries if you don’t overdo things. Don’t forget that even if I was a slacker by my standards, I’ve had two plus years of regular RE practice prior to this summer’s hanging extravaganza.

One place you can start with is with the great, free Alignment Snack from Katy Bowman: Can’t Get Enough Shoulders. Katy has also recently posted a tonne of great tips for people with hypermobile shoulders on her blog – every single one of these steps is worth exploring. And of course, if you live in Toronto, I do lots of shoulder work in all of my classes – even the pelvic floor ones – because, guess what, your shoulder health has a direct impact on your pelvic floor.

Since it’s about to be winter, you have 6-8 months of time in which to prep your shoulders before you have a chance to climb trees again next summer. Ready, set, go!!!

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