Posture isn’t a sexy topic. But in a society full of desk jockeys poor posture is becoming a serious problem.
Poor posture can lead to a whole host of issues, including shoulder impingement, rotator cuff issues, lower back and disc problems, hip tendonitis and stabilization issues, and many others. Not only will these limit your athleticism but they will set you up for more injuries as you age.
The Anatomy of Poor Posture
Most postural issues stem from two areas: the hips and shoulders. If your postural alignment is off in one or both of these areas, you’re gonna have a bad time.
Hips are the big player when it comes to athleticism, and all movement really. The major postural issue with the hips stems from sitting down too much. Without getting too anatomical on you, what happens when we sit is we put some of the muscles in our hips and quads in a shortened position. The more time you spend in this position, the more your muscles are going to want to stay that way. This causes your hip flexors to tighten up.
When you stand up with tight hip flexors they pull your pelvis into anterior pelvic tilt, which is not good. Anterior pelvic tilt causes poor abdominal control and poor stabilization, which leads to lower back issues.
The shoulders are the second major player in poor posture. Think about it, when you sit at your desk or in class, how are you sitting most of the time? Probably hunched over right?
This position causes your shoulders to internally rotate. And while this is a natural movement pattern for your shoulders, just like with your hips, sitting in it for extended periods of time will cause the shoulders to stay in this position.
The problem with this is that our shoulders are actually stronger when they are externally rotated, or pulled back. Having internally rotated shoulders weakens the posterior deltoid (back of the shoulder), lats, traps, and other muscles of the upper back. This causes lack of mobility, stability, and will lead to pain in the shoulders, neck and upper back.
Fixing Poor Posture
I could give you general recommendations on how to prevent bad posture, such as get up and walk around for a few minutes every hour, or sit up straight and pull your shoulder blades back and down when you sit.
But if you’ve had poor posture for a while, you are likely suffering from some weaknesses and imbalances. In order to correct this you need to increase strength.
Here are some exercises to improve posture. Add these into your workout to help strengthen and correct muscular imbalances in your hips and shoulders…
It always seems to come back to the deadlift doesn’t it? Well there is a reason for that. The deadlift is a total body movement that hits nearly every major muscle group and arguable the best exercise for increasing strength.
Where the deadlift has the advantage when it comes to improving posture is that the two primary muscle groups it works are the hips/hamstrings and upper back. In addition, the deadlift also works to improve core stabilization and strengthen the spine.
Throughout the entire movement of the deadlift, you are working on moving your hips into full extension, while also externally rotating your shoulders. This will help strengthen the muscles in these areas, making it easier for the body to stay in those positions.
Goblet or Front Squats
Squats are great for increasing core stabilization and stretching the hip muscles. And while back squats will do both of those, by switching to front squats you are increasing the effect.
By front-loading the weight, most people are able to sit deeper in the squat, thus increasing the stretch in the hips. The front-loaded weight also increases core activation and stabilization, thus strengthening the abdominal and lower back muscles.
Face Pulls & Dumbbell Shrugs
Our gym routine often doesn’t help our posture. Guys tend to focus on a lot of chest work. And while there is nothing inherently wrong with working your chest, ignoring your upper back and shoulders creates imbalances. This makes it easier for your shoulders to internally rotate. Face pulls focus on externally rotating the shoulders by working the muscles that pull the shoulders back and down.
Shrugs work by strengthening the upper back, specifically the traps. Just make sure you use dumbbells rather than a barbell. Because dumbbells hang at your sides, you can easily pull the weight up AND back. Yes you can use more weight with a barbell, but it also forces your shoulders into a more internally rotated position, which is what you want to avoid.
Poor posture isn’t something you really think about until one day you are hunched over in the doctors office complaining of back pain and hip issues. By taking preventative measures now, not only can you fix these issues, but you can prevent future, more serious ones. Implementing these tips and exercises into your life will go a long way towards making sure you stay healthy and moving well.