Fitness attributes – posture part 3

This is the next in my series on each of the aspects in the What do you need to do to be fit? post and is the third part about posture, parts one & two can be found here & here.

In the first two parts I talked about why posture is important, what good posture looks like and reviewed some of the great books I have used to work on my own posture. In this post I’ll look at three things you can do to help fix some of the more common postural issues.

1) Wear minimal, flat shoes, go barefoot were possible
This is the single most important thing you can do to help your posture. These crude stick men drawings show what a modest heel will do to the bodies angle. 

Stick_men

Obviously, people don’t walk around leaning forward like that. Your body changes it’s alignment to remain upright and this will make good posture difficult. If you try and fix your posture while still wearing heels you are unlikely to succeed.

There are now companies that produce heel-less shoes with minimal soles that are suitable for work and the choice for casual wear is endless. It’s pretty easy to do, they might not be the height of fashion but so be it – this stuff’s more important in the long run.

While you are at it you may as well go barefoot when ever you can. Shoes don’t get much more minimal than that.

2) Straighten your back
This is primarily for people with an upper back and shoulders that slump forward. If you work at a computer all day it’s likely to be you to some degree. There should still be an S curve in your spine, but probably a bit less than you have. Take a look in the mirror and make an honest assessment of where you’re at.

There are likely to be two things going on: a tight chest and weak upper back.

  • Chest stretches – there are some good ones here. If you work at a desk it would be worth scattering these stretches throughout the day.
  • Upper back strengthening – the main muscles to focus on are the rhomboids and lower traps. They bring the shoulder blades back and down, which in turn will help create an upright upper body posture. Good exercises include band pull aparts, dumbbell bent over lateral rows and pull up/dip shrugs. Locust pose can also help.

Additionally, Dr Barker’s book has a great exercise for promoting a straighter back that I’ve seen great benefit from, it’s worth a look.

I would also recommend looking at Esther Gokhale’s stuff to learn how to hold yourself more upright when sitting and standing, if you’ve been practicing slumping for 20+ years you’ll probably need to practice upright a bit as well.

3) Strengthen the glutes
The glutes play a large role in good posture as they both stabilise the body when standing and also rotate the pelvis into its proper position. Unfortunately, they become weakened by excessive sitting and stop doing their job. At the same time the hip flexors at the front of the pelvis get tight, further inhibiting the glutes and also pulling the pelvis out of alignment.

Again, there are two things to be doing:

  • Stretch hip flexorsthese ones from K Starr are great, a basic lunge stretch would be fine though. These can also be done throughout the day.
  • Strengthen the glutes – I think there are three stages to strengthening the glutes and increasing awareness of the muscle:
    1. In isolation – both glute bridges and hip thrusts will strengthen the glutes in isolation. The most important thing here is to really feel the muscle working to build awareness.
    2. Integrated in a gym setting – exercises like lunges, step ups and squats use the glutes in conjunction with the rest of the lower body. Remember how they felt in isolation and get them going in these exercises as well.
    3. Integrated in real life – the last stage is to use them in daily life. When standing give them a pinch to check they are working. Gokhale’s book has a great style of walking that engages them strongly. Also stairs are good, concentrate on extending the hip not the knee and you should feel exertion round the back rather than the quads

Personally, I need to continue working on all of these aspects. I spend a lot of each day sitting and that won’t change any time soon, as a result I need to work to counteract this.

That’s it for posture stuff….

PS – if you have any postural issues that involved twisting of the torso, or something effecting one side more than the other – check out Pete Egoscue’s book.

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