It has always been a pet peeve of mine to see young and obviously very fit and muscular people at the gym with horrible posture. Often, I want to walk up to them, dig my thumbs into their shoulder blade area, and pull back on their shoulders causing them to stand taller.
Perhaps this is not the best approach as I may end up with a black eye. The approach I should probably take is to introduce myself to them, let them know that I am a fitness trainer, and ask if they would be open to some training advice. At that point, I would probably also ask them if they have any shoulder, back, or neck issues. This way I can rule out a pre-existing condition.
As we age and work telecommuting in front of computers, we tend to slouch more and round our shoulders and backs. Another huge contributor to poor posture is neck and cervical stress due to our use of smart phones. This neck stress causes irritation and unusual wear on the joint linings, which is the beginning of arthritis.
Rounded shoulders or slouchy posture also can occur due to guys (yes; men do this more than women) overtraining their pecs causing a contraction in the muscle thus forcing the pecs together and shoulders to round forward. Pecs are such a big vanity muscle, men spend more time training them vs. training the back muscles which would lead to better posture.
One of my favorite suggestions as a trainer is to have people perform a push/pull workout to balance out the muscles and improve posture. The push/pull method alternates a push movement (chest press) followed immediately by a pull movement (seated cable row for the back).
A push workout may also be followed by a pull workout the next day if one wants to really focus on one muscle group for that day. Personally, I like to shake it up and do single body-part exercises some days and push/pull workouts on other days to prevent boredom.
Incorrect posture is often characterized by the following:
• Kypholordosis—tight pectoral muscles and a stiff thoracic spine
• Rounded Shoulders
• Weak abdominal muscles
• Upper or lower back pain
• Weak glutes
I would like to share with you two of my favorite tips/exercises to improve posture.
Wall Posture Check: Begin by going to the protruding corner where two walls meet. Stand with your head, shoulder blades, and buttocks against the edge of a wall. Your heels should come away from the wall about two to three inches. Your spine has a natural curvature which will allow you to place a hand between your lower back and the wall.
To improve your core strength (which assists in good posture) engage your buttocks and abdominals which will decrease the space between your lower back and the wall. I like to “inchworm” up the wall by slowly raising my head, upper vertebrae, and tail bone up the wall until I am on my tiptoes. Keep your shoulder blades engaged as well. Once you are high on your tiptoes, slowly slide your body down the wall.
Neck Isometrics: The neck muscles are responsible for supporting your head all day long! The upper vertebrae would be so stressed without the help of these important stabilizer muscles. The following exercises are important to keep the head moving in multiple directions. You will want to do these isometrics in all directions.
1. Place both palms on the forehead and push the forehead against the palms and the palms against the forehead for a two-second count.
2. Place the fingertips on the back of the head. Push the head against the fingertips and the fingertips against the head for a two-second count.
3. Place one palm on the side of the head and push the head into the palm and the palm into the head for a two-second count. Repeat on the other side.
Once all angles are completed, do another two sets of each for a total of three sets. Please make sure that your head is in alignment and not moving at all during these exercises.
Probably one of the best reminders that you need to do postural corrective moves is seeing people with really bad posture. So when you’re at the grocery store or out on the boardwalk, take a minute to observe how many people are jutting their necks forward and down while looking at their phones. Take the time to correct your posture to ensure that you stand tall and proud! ▼
Jon Adler Kaplan is a health coach and fitness trainer both virtually and at Rise Fitness and Adventure. Email Jon with any fitness questions at email@example.com.