Episode 15 – How to improve your posture

Posture is about finding the optimal position for your body in space and time in a given environment. In this article, I wanted to share with you my top four (4) tips on how to improve your posture.

Let’s go through them!

Good posture assists in:

  • Improving performance
  • Injury risk reduction through increased ROM (range of motion), joint stability
  • Increase lung capacity (an upright posture opens up the torso to maximise lung capacity versus slouched posture).
  • Alignment of joints
  • Helps to ensure that the other systems in our body (such as lymphatic system) are in working order and not suppressed or suboptimal.
  • Improve symmetry

 

1. Identify environmental factors

Environment has a big impact on your posture. Whether its your physical environment or daily repeated actions, keep an eye on them. Here are some questions to help eliminate contributing factors:

 

What are your daily actions (what do you spend most your time doing)?

Here’s some common examples to consider:

  • Do you sit in front of a desk all day?
  • Do you carry your bag on the same shoulder?

 

What are your daily exposures (what are you frequently exposed to in your environment)?

Here’s some common examples to consider:

  • If you wear high heels all day?
  • Sports that are one side dominant sports such as golf, tennis, cricket, baseball.

 

2. Identify the posture muscles involved

There are two sides of the postural equation:

  • Tight muscles
  • Loose muscles

 

Tight muscles

The tight muscles continue to hold the posture in place. These muscles are usually recruited because they have more nerves firing those muscles (eg. Hip flexors and upper traps), injury (neural rewiring to reduce pain, poor rehabilitation, etc.), habit formation and repetition or due to your postural environment.

 

Loose muscles

The loose muscles are usually weaker muscles that need to be “fired up.” They are often overstretched, underactive or dominated by the tight muscles from both neural recruitment and repeated use.

 

Knowing the postural muscles

Once you know which muscles are tight and loose, this will help to you to then know what to do on those areas:

  • Tight muscles – loosen them with stretches, myofascial release (such as foam rolling, trigger point, etc.), massage
  • Loose muscles – “tighten” or focus on activating them with isolated activation exercises.

 

 

Let’s have a look at how to improve your posture. Read on below

 

 

3. Loosening tight muscles

The third step is to loosen up tight muscles via techniques such as stretching or foam rolling. This will help the muscle return to its optimal length and tension and thus make them available for activation. Remember:  it is also important to do this at night to reduce your risk of injury.

 

Let’s go through a couple of examples for the hip flexor and chest:

  • Swissball 3D hip flexor stretch – a great exercise to open up the hip flexors, quads and abdominals. Just ease into it.
  • Theraband Chest stretch – a good stretch to open up the chest. The band will help the chest “relax” and open up more.

 

4. Activation exercise

This step is about activating weak, overstretched or underactive muscles. These muscles will want some extra attention to help them “fire” and work as they should.  The activation always happens after the loosening as an overstretched muscle.

 

Let’s discuss a couple of exercises for lower traps (mid back) and gluts:

  • Swissball prone cobra for the lower traps (mid back) – lower traps fire through external rotation of the arms. This movement will help isolate and activate lower traps and help them to dominate or return balance between the upper and lower traps (mid back and upper back) and help lower the scapulae (the shoulder blade). A great exercise to couple with rhomboid isolation exercises.
  • Supine hip extension for gluts (bum muscles) – a good way to fire and recruit the gluts is to do a bend type motion such as, a supine hip extension. If this is difficult try a prone heel raise.

 

5. Take preventative steps

Preventative steps will help to reduce the risk of your posture returning back into its old poor posture shape! What’s the point of doing the loosening and activation exercises if you don’t remove or minimise your exposure to the things that caused the problems in the first place?

 

Let’s discuss some common steps to take today:

 

The traditional office work station

Sitting at a desk? Here’s two quick examples to help enhance that postural situation.

  • Standing work desk
  • Swissball chair
  • Modified chair with a SB or BOSU

All of these options activate your core, recruit gluts and also force you to practice good posture.

 

High Heels?

  • Wear them only if you need to such as, in the main part of event only and then take them off directly after.
  • Wear other shoes to and from the event or office yourself such as flats or joggers.

 

Cyclists, boxers and horseriders

  • Complement your sport with movements that are opposite to the hunched over position such as a row or pull movement to help open up the chest and front deltoids.

 

Summary

Thanks for reading my blog on how to improve posture. These tips will help to improve your posture. Just take one tip and start, then add in another over time and work with it over time. To summarize, here are the top four (4) tips to keep in mind:

  1. Identify environmental factors
  2. Identify the posture muscles involved
  3. Loosening tight muscles
  4. Activation exercise
  5. Take preventative steps

Bibliography

  • Chek, P. (2009) How to Eat, Move and Be Healthy!
  • Cooley, B. (2005) The Genius of Flexibility: The smart way to stretch and strengthen your body. Fireside
  • DiNubile, N. (2011) Framework for the shoulder book: a 6-step plan for preventing injury and ending pain. Rodale Books
  • Erhman, J. Gordon, P. Visich, P. Keteyian, S. (2003) Clinical Exercise Physiology. Human Kinetics Publishers, Inc.
  • Myers, T. (2009) Anatomy Trains: Myofascial Meridians for Manual and Movement Therapists (2nd Ed.). Churchill Livingstone
  • Scientific Publishing, Ltd. (no author) (2006) Scientific Publishing’s Anatomy Chart Book. Scientific Publishing Limited
  • Sherwood, L.(2004) Human Physiology: From Cells to Systems (5th Ed.) Thomson, Brooks/Cole

Chris Everingham lives and breathes health & fitness.

Chris Everingham lives and breathes health & fitness. International Athlete, Elite Performance Manager for the Philippine Volcanoes rugby teams, qualified Dietitian / Nutritionist and qualified educator. Chris Everingham combines more than 10 years of experience and education together to deliver the best strategies to grow your mindset, rewire your habits and transform your life.

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