Exercise Improve Your Posture Today!

Improve Your Posture Today

When posture is brought up, the first thing we think of is our shoulders slouching. But it’s so much more than your mother yelling at you to sit up straight when you were younger.

If we don’t maintain proper posture and alignment in all areas of our body, it can lead to discomfort, pain and eventually serious medical issues such as herniated discs or joint degeneration. 

How do things get so bad just from some poor posture? Think of your body as a chain link fence, if there is a weak link, the surrounding links have to compensate to pick up the slack, and as a result of this compensation, they are taking on more work than they are intended for. Thus, the entire fence is affected. You’ll see a few examples of this throughout the article showing that when one area of the body is shortened(tight) or underactive, the other side is the opposite. For example, Your tight quads can be causing your knee or hip pain. What’s causing those tight quads? Your posture in your hips.

Posture in shoulders 

As referenced above, your shoulders slouching way forward and having a hunchback look if it is bad enough. This is typically seen in people who have jobs that have them stuck at a desk all day or always traveling. This is because being seated at a desk, car, plane, etc. forces our body into this hunched over position. Basically, we get stuck here and our body thinks this is how it is meant to be all the time.

Specifically, your hips are being forced into a posterior tilt and your shoulders internally rotated. A tight or shortened chest, anterior shoulder muscles and underactive or overstretched upper back muscles can also be expected. These are characteristics of the upper cross syndrome. Your body eventually thinks this is just how it is naturally supposed to be and your posture becomes stuck here. A good place to start with getting your body back to neutral is stretching and exercises that get more activation out of your upper back and stretches to lengthen those short chest and shoulder muscles. 

Posture in the rib cage

When people try fixing their slouching shoulders, in the process they usually flair their ribs up also without realizing it, which is cranking pressure into their lumbar. One problem out, a worse one in. It is possible to roll your shoulders back without compromising your rib posture and back. This is getting your shoulders out of internal rotation(slouching) and into external rotation (sitting tall). It just takes some attention on your part with some exercises that can help this become more natural. Examples are any kind of scapular activation exercises, farmers walk, even core exercises to help keep those ribs in place. 

Posture in hips

Anterior tilt: This will look like your hips are dumping forward, and/or your butt is sticking way out. This is typically accompanied by a rib flair in your upper body. This results in your lumbar getting pinched from the pressure coming from both directions. 

Causes: Tight quads, hip flexors, overstretched/underactive hammies, core, and glutes. So we want to program stretches that neutralize all of this imbalance such as daily quad stretches and SMR. Additionally, more hamstring/ glute contraction work such as glute bridges to get more engagement and stability in those antagonist muscles. These things will begin to get hip posture back to neutral. 

Posterior tilt: This is when your tailbone is tucked way underneath your body. It can give the appearance that you have more of a gut than you really do! It is usually accompanied by the internal rotation or slouching in the shoulders. 

Causes: Tight Hammies and glutes and psoas, overstretched/underactive quads, and hip flexors. Same concepts as above to neutralize areas. 

Standing Posture 

Our posture in how we stand is incredibly important as well. This can actually be where your posture problems are originating from. For example, a common mistake made is that we stand with our weight too much towards the front of our foot. This causes us to be underactive in our posterior chain (glutes, hammies, etc.). Also, this can cause a domino effect to eventually falling into posterior tilt. 

Another common example is seen in someone who may be on their feet for the majority of their day. An easy mistake for us to make is to shift our weight towards one foot or the other rather than stand evenly on both feet. If done consistently, this can cause some discomfort and eventually damage in any of your joints on the side due to that side carry more weight than it is meant to and the other side not contributing.

A personal example is that I tend to shift my weight to my left, which eventually caught up to me. It was causing some pretty severe pain in my hip which eventually progressed to back and knee pain. All of this was being caused by just a slight lean to my left. Most of the time, all the pain your feeling can be alleviated just by a simple behavioral change such as this. 

Things affected by poor posture

All this being said, you might be sitting there asking, “how is my posture really going to affect me?” The most likely part of our body to be affected by poor posture is our lumbar as it has to pick up the slack of a lazy thoracic spine or hips that are out of alignment. Poor posture can also lead to our sleep being affected, that can be a decrease in sleep quality or quantity. This is caused by our body not settling in ideal alignment and you not being comfortable, or even in pain causing you to not be able to fall asleep or wake up in the middle of the night with aches and pains. 

Our exercise can even be affected. The most common exercise I see this effect is someone’s deadlift. Either their shoulders are so internally rotated and they have not been taught properly how to get into external rotation and flatten their back. Or their hips have too much anterior tilt which is causing a pinch in their lumbar or too much posterior tilt preventing them from getting their lumbar into a neutral position to safely perform the deadlift. Not only is the person going to be at risk lifting with poor posture, but they are never going to progress and reach their goals. 

So what can help all of these potential postural issues?

So long as things have not reached a point to where there is actually structural damage, in which case you want to pay a visit to your doctor, if done correctly, exercise can resolve all of these issues! They key is to have a plan for you and doing things to improve your imbalances and not make them worse.

That being said, it’s going to take more than those corrective exercises and working out to improve your posture. It is going to take a real sustained change in your daily behaviors. This requires you to gain a true sense of body awareness. You need to understand where your body is in terms of posture.

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