As an internet addict myself, I’m telling you your posture must be cared for. The way you care for your back or lack thereof is reflected in your health.
Let’s firstly cover the importance of taking care of your posture and then we’ll move onto ways you can minimise and rehabilitate your posture.
I grew up in the internet generation, I spent most of my teenage years slumped in front of a computer playing video games, and to this day a suffer the consequences as I still scroll through the depths of Reddit.
What you do a lot of in your adolescent years really does reflect some of your traits as an adult and posture is no exception.
Back pain is one of the most common issues people have in the 21st century. Our sedentary lifestyle is a recipe for disaster in the instance.
Never in my life have I had a client which didn’t need at least some improvement in their posture. You must understand that back pain isn’t just an issue for your back, the ill effects of misaligned posture affect many aspects of your being.
It can affect your emotions, your confidence, the way you speak and your overall longevity and vitality in life.
Chances are you are affected by back pain, maybe it’s moderate, maybe it’s severe. The bright side is that rehabilitating your posture is relatively simple, but it does take time.
Benefits Of Good Posture
- The alignment of your joints and bones are fixated correctly. Movement of your muscles is optimised.
- Reduces the risk of arthritis as the likelihood of joint wear and tear is lessened.
- Less stress on all your ligaments, which hold your spine and joints in place.
- The spine remains in the pattern it should be in and has no abnormalities.
- Improved confidence and ability to speak clearly and pronounciate your words.
- Lessened muscular aches and lower back pain.
- Fatigue prevention as muscles are being used efficiently.
- Overall appearance improves.
- A longer and healthier life. People who consistently have good posture are less likely to die from certain illnesses.
The Basics Of Posture
Posture is simply defined as the way your vertebrae aligns through the body.
Whether you are sitting, standing, or actively moving, posture is simply defined as the way your body moves in accordance with the task you are doing.
Your posture and back health are based on various factors and it can never be pinned own for one specific reason for everyone.
It could be a matter of muscular imbalance, tightness in certain muscle groups (such as the pectoralis minor), overall core strength or stability.
Here are some techniques you can use for both short and long-term relief for Lordosis, Kyphosis and Scoliosis.
- Lordosis means the spine is curved inwards in the lower region of the back.
- Kyphosis means that the upper back has an abnormal curve on either side.
- Scoliosis refers to one who’s spine is curved in a sideway position, to picture this think about the letter S.
Techniques To Improve Posture
When I say mindfulness I am not referring to meditation, rather just the practice of being ‘mindful’ about what your posture looks like. I’m going to cover some exercises and stretches to do to help align your posture soon, but the most important way to begin rehabilitating yourself right now is to actively be aware of what your posture looks like.
Try and find a trigger so you remember; setting an alarm can be useful in this instance.
Try to visualise a straight line down your body. Standing against a wall can be great for understanding the correct way to align your spine.
The more you do this the more natural it will become and the less you will have to be mindful about it, over time.
Squeeze Your Shoulder Blades
Place your hands on your legs or hips. Shrug your shoulders up squeeze them together as you retract them back and this force them down to a locked in position.
Keep your chin neutral and your chest up.
Hold this for at least 15 seconds and repeat 2-3 times.
Upper Body Stretch
Face the corner of a room, put your hands up and place them either side of the wall.
Make sure your elbows are at around shoulder height and by bending one of your knees put your weight forward until you feel the stretch in your chest.
Make sure to have a slight bend in the elbow and exhale as you push downwards.
Hold for at least 15 seconds, repeat 2-3 times.
Put one of your arms up and keep it at shoulder level. With your palm facing the ground bend your elbow to 45 degrees and make sure that your forearm is parallel to the ground.
Now with the other hand pull your elbow towards your opposing side and hold for at least 15 seconds.
Repeat on either side 2-3 times.
The plank is an exercise which works on the strength and stability of your entire core. It’s a powerful exercise to making sure your core strength is adequate to support good posture.
If you do this exercise correctly your shoulders and back will also feel the effects too.
Lie on the ground facing downwards, keep your elbows at 45 degrees, with your elbows parallel to your shoulders.
Keep your head neutral and make sure to have your glutes down. Contract your abdominal walls as you do it and breathe in deeply.
Hold this for at least 15 seconds or long as you can and increase the duration of time in due course.
Back extensions directly target your lower back. When you’re learning how to improve your posture your back is clearly going to play a vital role in your success.
To perform this exercise lie face down to the ground, place your arms in front of you and clasp them together above your head.
Stay flat on the ground and try to focus on your lower back using your mind. Brace and lift yourself first from your chest/shoulder region as high as you can and proceed to hold.
Hold the tension at the top for at least 15 seconds. Repeat this 2-3 times.
Tightness is also an important variable to consider in correcting posture. Your hips are interconnected with the function of your lower back and tightness can cause lordosis of the spine.
Start in a lunge position with one knee on the ground. Place your hands on the knee which is on the ground. Now push your hips forward slightly. You should feel a stretch in your iliopsoas.
The iliopsoas is a small muscle that is responsible for keeping your spine upright and rigid.
Hold this stretch for at least 15 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times.
Invest In A Foam Roller
The purpose of foam rolling is to get rid of the knots in your muscles. Doing so allows blood to circulate more freely and when done correctly myofascial release occurs.
Everyone who engages in a moderate-intense exercise program should have a foam roller.
Stretching really isn’t enough sometimes and this is when the benefits of myofascial release come in handy.
Lower back, upper back pain and tight muscles are able to be massaged within the comfort of your own home. They are cheap and easy to find.
It will feel very strange at first, maybe even painful. The pain should be at a 7/10 (similar to pressing on a bruise); don’t get discouraged too quickly because of this.
Allow your body to get used to the feeling and you’ll soon understand why it has become such a popular phenomenon.
Areas To Focus On
Put the foam roller beneath your hamstrings.
To balance and stay stable you can out one ankle over the other leg and then proceed to roll your hamstrings up and down focusing on finding the tender spot around the glute/hamstring insertion.
The glutes are little more tricky to foam roll. Lie down with the foam roller underneath your glutes and then try bringing your leg up or across your other leg and depending on what feels more stable.Try to focus on the entire muscle as it is probably extremely tight. The glutes are important in your bodies ability to remain upright.
Try to focus on the entire muscle as it is probably all extremely tight. The glutes are important in your bodies ability to remain upright and don’t forget they’re are your strongest muscle. They are activated constantly throughout the day.
This one is going to hurt. Begin with the foam roller under your thigh similar to the hamstring roll, but turn so your side is facing upwards. By doing so you will target the IT band (Iliotibial Band).
Roll from below your hip all the way to your knee to loosen up and myofascial all of it.
Again this will take some time to get used to but it is well worth it if you can manage maintain a habit of foam rolling.
Ergonomics is concerned with arranging things in a manner to work most efficiently and safely as possible for people. We can apply ergonomics to the science of sitting.
It’s critical to minimise the time seated as your first resort, but in today’s world it is necessary. When you do sit, you have to do it right.
Firstly, refer to ‘squeezing your shoulder blades’ this position should give you a clear idea on how your posture should be as you are seated on a chair.
As you are working try to remain very close to the desk, this will force your back to make contact with the seat which will automatically create an upright arch.
Sit back as far as you can to take advantage of the natural structural rigidness of the chair.
Your feet should be flat on the ground, enough so that you can place pressure on the floor. Elbows are ideally 90 degrees to the desk.
Simply stand up. I have given you the guideline on how to sit properly, but this does not give you the excuse to sit all the time.
When you have the opportunity, stand! Standing releases the pressure on your organs and gets rid of the need to sit ‘properly’ in the first place.
Our evolutionary programming is still telling our bodies constantly move. Biologically we are hunter and gatherers, our anatomy doesn’t want to be sedentary. It is unnatural for us to sit for prolonged periods of times, remember this.
Standing desks are a great replacement to sitting.
Born To Squat
The full squat is our natural seating position. Yes, believe it or not, there were no office chairs in the jungle. Hamstrings against the calves and flat heels are how we would sit when we ate, worked, and rested.
If you look at children under the age of 4-5 you will see they instinctually sit into a full squat.
Squatting while using the toilet is a common practice in most of the Asian countries, even today. For some reason as adults in Western society, we have adopted the practice of squishing our internal organs as we defecate.
Using the full deep squat as a replacement, where possible and socially acceptable can be a great way not only to practice posture but to establish the instinctual connection your body has to your innate kinetic motor functions.
Balance Your Body
Muscle imbalances are a common cause of bad posture.
Especially with guys who are persistent with their efforts to increase their bench press, the ratio of pushing to pulling is skewed far beyond what it should be. 2:1 pull to push is what you must aim for.
Adequate scapular retraction is what is needed for your body to align the spine correctly and this is the most common issue (kyphosis). There are certain muscles responsible for the retraction to occur and stay in place.
The lower and upper trapezius and rhomboids, found in the middle to upper portion of your back are what keep your shoulders retracted.
When you do too much pushing the trapezius and rhomboids become too weak to sufficiently retract the shoulders and thus you end up with the classic kyphosis syndrome that you see everywhere.
To prevent, remember to keep a balanced training program to prevent the nuisance of muscular imbalances.
With muscular imbalances, it can become rather difficult to progress in the gym as quickly as your body has potential to.
Sometimes exercises and self-remedy are not enough. You may have a problem with your back and posture that needs professional in-person attention.
If this doesn’t apply to you read on, but otherwise, listen up. Understand that issues with the back can develop into very chronic and serious ones that in some cases can ruin your life.
Be aware of your body, try out exercises and give it time, but be responsible and aware of the severity of your symptoms.
List Of Other Posture Correcting Exercises
- Cable Face Pull
- Seated Bent Over DB Fly
- Snatch-Grip Deadlift
- Barbell bent over row
- Overhead Squat (advanced)
- Upward facing dog
- Wall Squat
Take Away Message
There are hundreds of exercises that you will find geared towards fixing your posture and improving your back health. Some are better than others and I have listed the ones I have found worked best for my clients and myself.
The point is, know the importance of posture and take steps towards improving it every single day.
- When you are meditating, walking, sitting, talking, be aware and consciously retract your shoulders back.
- Stretch your entire body, especially your chest, glutes, hamstrings and lower back.
- Try to avoid sitting at all costs, we are meant to be moving all day
- Keep a 2:1 ratio of pulling to pushing exercises and use a routine that will have your body grow in balance and symmetry.
- Try squatting as a way of sitting when you have the opportunity to.
- Know when the issue is serious and go to a physiotherapist, sometimes professional intervention is necessary.
Having good posture is going to make you feel better, you’ll be more confident and you will honestly enjoy life more as you lessen the plight of constant back pain and aches.
I highly recommend you read the book “The New Rules of Posture”