When you’re out next, look at the example of how badly we need to improve posture these days. Overly forward heads, rounded shoulders, arched lower backs, feet turned outward, bloated stomachs, and many other issues have impacted most of us. But why? Is it just the fact we spend so much time sitting? Or possibly incorrect training? Yes, and yes! But there’s more to it than just these points.
Our lifestyles are vastly different from those of our hunter/gatherer ancestors. But our biomechanics are the same, and we are designed to move! It’s no wonder we fall apart when we sit at a desk all day eating processed foods, scrolling our phones, only to come home and sit down some more on the couch. Luckily, posture can be fixed when you know what is happening and how to correct it.
Of course, we have to continue working, so not saying you should quit your job and move to the forest, but there are steps you can take! Here are the most important steps to achieving better posture especially being a busy professional.
STEP 1: KNOW YOUR POSTURE
The most important step to gaining a better posture is to assess what is going on with your body. Knowing this will allow you to assess your current exercise and lifestyle routine and see if you are doing things that may be making matters worse. Here are some things for you to be aware of.
- You want to see your joints stacking nicely
- Check to see if one side is lower than the other
- Check your shoulders to see if they are rounded
- Is your head too far forward from your shoulders?
- Does your lower back arch too much?
- Do your shoulder blades stick out?
- Do your hands rotate inward?
- Do your feet want to rotate outward?
Take some photos of yourself and have a look. Once you know what is going on, you can correct the issues and get one step forward to a better posture.
STEP 2: UNDERSTAND WHY THIS IS HAPPENING
Ok, now we have a few noticeable things that need to be addressed. Knowing why this is happening can help you prevent making these issues worse. Let’s go over some common issues here, and you can choose which applies to you.
1. Excess time spent sitting – We all knew this was coming. It’s clear now that sitting for long periods isn’t good for us. If you have rounded shoulders, forward neck, or lower back pain, sitting too long won’t help.
2. Poor exercise choices – We won’t discuss good versus bad exercises in this article. But instead, what may or may not be best for you considering your unique circumstances. We’ll go over a few examples here. If you have issues with rounded shoulders, we don’t want you to be in a rounded position when you’re exercising. If this is something you’re experiencing, cycling and spin classes may be best avoided and focusing on exercises that have you in a better, more upright position.
If you have structural issues resulting from inactive muscles not doing their job correctly, such as rounded shoulders or pelvic shifts, exercise styles that involve excess stretching may be best to avoid. You may be experiencing lower back pain or an overly depressed ribcage. (neck looks overly long) This indicates that you may need to cut out the heavy compression-based exercises and stick to exercises that don’t incorporate so much weight going up and down (longitudinal force) & stick to more latitudinal work like cable work.
And finally, the big one on this point. Does it cause you pain? If being in a specific position or doing a specific movement is painful, it’s a good indication to stop and reassess. This no pain, no gain attitude is no way to live a life of sustainability, quality movement & longevity. Remember that we are exercising to be healthy! And there’s nothing healthy about getting injured.
3. Lifestyle habits – What you do in your day-to-day life dramatically affects your posture. Do you stare at your phone with your head forward and down more than you should? Or maybe you stand a lot with your weight favouring one leg with your hip kicked out. One too many hours sprawled awkwardly on the couch, maybe? Sitting for long periods may not be suitable for us, but that doesn’t mean standing for long periods is better. Often it’s worse!
STEP 3: FIX IT TO BETTER POSTURE
Knowing what may be causing your issues is a great start so that you can stop or at least do them less often. But that doesn’t get you back to a better posture and just reduces the chance of it worsening. When correcting posture, there are 3 key elements we’ll cover here that will help you.
1. Knowing what good posture is – Most of us have no idea what a better posture even looks like. We’re told to stand up with our shoulders back and down, right? This isn’t good and causes problems in the scapulae and thoracic region. Good posture can be seen on www.functionalpatterns.com, experts in posture and biomechanics.
The founder of FP is Naudi Aguilar, an excellent example of a better posture. Stomach in, chest elevated, joints well stacked and neutral, no tilts or shifts in the pelvis, and a decompressed ribcage. This is what we’re going for! Once we realise good posture, we can compare that baseline to where we are currently and look at the differences. Much easier to correct something when you know what you’re comparing to.
2. Release work (MFR) – This is a critical step to improve your position. Over time bad posture leads to your body thinking a neutral position is the one you are currently in. Over time, it feels comfortable as the body develops calcium deposits that better hold you in your frequent positions.
For example, people with rounded shoulders tend to have a lot of tightness in the chest area. So we would release the chest to help with that issue. You’ll need a trigger ball (lacrosse ball) to get into most places to do release work. Follow this method for the best results.
- Apply pressure to an area with the ball, usually against a wall or floor.
- You don’t want it to be too painful, but it should be pretty uncomfortable.
- Don’t move around a lot. Stay still and focus on that spot.
- Let’s say the feeling is about 7 out of 10 for pain. Hold that spot until it goes down to about 3 or 4 out of 10. Then very slowly move slightly to find the next spot.
- Keep going like this until you have done the entire muscle, then move on to the other side.
- Never apply pressure directly to a joint. Be careful around the neck and avoid applying pressure to overly sensitive areas.
Recommended areas for release work include chest, traps, quads, hamstrings, calves, plantar fascia, piriformis, upper mid & lower back, psoas, and TFL. If you’re ever unsure of what to do, just ask. Always happy to help.
3. Exercises – Once we have addressed the tight areas, we can move on to addressing the weak areas. Muscles need to be working correctly for you to be in a good, upright position. The most important being the TVA (transverse abdominis), the glutes, lats & rhomboids. If these areas work well, you’ll be in a pretty good position. This is where things can get a little technical, and the strategy for better posture will be based on your unique imbalances. Here we’ll go over 3 exercises to help target these areas and what you should be feeling for.
Lunge – We want to ensure that we are getting glute activation with the lunge. Many of us are quad dominant, causing the pelvis to sit in the wrong position.
We must teach the body to prioritise the glutes again; the lunge is an excellent start. If you cannot get the glute to switch on, let us know, and we’ll help. Check out the video below to see the correct technique. Many of us have learned to do lunges with a long stance. But in real life, when is that ever relevant?
It is always best to make exercises as relevant to everyday, common movement as possible to get stronger and utilise muscles within a relevant context.
Single-arm row – In this exercise, we want to try and get the rhomboid and lat to work. This is basically where your shoulder blade is in the upper back area. Do both sides feel the same? Or is one side feeling more dead than the other?
If you can’t get these areas to work at all, you may have a trap dominance, or the muscle has just been inactive for so long that it will take a while for you to “reconnect” with it, so to speak.
Plank – Finally, we have the plank. Rather than being entirely focused on a great position and strong activation, we are conditioned to worry about how long we can hold one. These are the things to focus on as they will benefit your core strength to help you get a better posture.
Things to focus on for a good plank.
- Make sure your stomach is sucked in. Think navel to your spine.
- Make sure your lower back is not engaging. We want the core and the glutes only. The mid-back is ok for some, as holding a straight position can get that working sometimes.
- Squeeze your butt to get that working a bit as well.
- Make sure you are dead straight. No arched or curved backs.
- If your lower back engages, you may need to regress to your knees.
- If you can’t get your stomach in, you may be inflamed there and struggle to get what is called intra-abdominal pressure. This issue is a whole new post but let us know if you feel you may be experiencing this, and we’ll help as best we can.
Getting a better posture is no easy feat. Your current position has probably happened due to many years of bad habits, poor lifestyle choices, and many hours spent at a desk you’d rather be far away from! The critical thing to remember here is to know what your posture is, and you then can determine what is going well with your body and what needs to be corrected.
Once you’ve established that, you can see what excellent posture looks like by going to www.functionalpatterns.com and checking out Naudi Aguilar.
From there, you can determine what areas need to be released and which need to be strengthened. Returning your body to a much more balanced and upright position. Still, need a little more assistance?
A postural assessment is part of our initial consultation if you live in Brisbane, so we’ll cover everything for you there. We will also do a muscle function test and put a plan in place specific to your unique circumstances. We aren’t always available to take clients as spots are often sold out, so let us know asap if you need an extra hand with your training, and we’ll do our best to fit you in.
Also more than happy to answer any questions you have. Head over to our contact page to get in touch.