The Forgotten Importance of Posture
Often people think that fixing their posture is simply a matter of pulling their shoulders back and standing up straight. Unfortunately, it is not that simple. Pulling the shoulders back is a conscious decision. Most of the time, when people are sitting and standing in a slumped-over posture, they aren’t conscious of their body positioning.
If you want better posture, your goal should be to train your body so that the brain and muscles always maintain a healthy and pain-free posture – even when you’re not consciously thinking about it.
You shouldn’t have to consciously remind yourself to pull your shoulders back and stand up straight. Strong, well-aligned muscles should naturally hold your body in a proper, neutral posture. So when you’re designing your next gym routine, keep in mind these five “healthy posture” tips. These five tips will help teach your body how to maintain good posture without thinking about it first.
Five Healthy Posture Tips
- Strengthen the muscles of the upper back by performing rowing motions in the gym, for example.
- Stretch out the chest muscles by using a doorframe to stretch out your chest.
- Train the core muscles so that the pelvis maintains a neutral alignment.
- Include exercises that improve your balance. Excellent balance will allow you to move without having to looking at your feet. Constantly looking down can have negative effects on your posture.
- Strengthen the neck muscles to help alleviate “forward head syndrome”. See the exercise examples below.
In my opinion, the most frequently ignored element of posture is #5 – strengthening the neck muscles.
Forward Head Syndrome
A rounded posture is often accompanied with what we in the fitness world call a “forward head”. This is where the person’s head is in front of the rest of their body. Most of the time, a forward head is accompanied by a rounded upper back. It looks like you’re leading your movement with your head instead of your legs. A client of mine once described it as “turtle headed”.
I’m telling you this for a reason: if you have a rounded posture, merely strengthening your upper back muscles while ignoring the neck will not fix your posture problem. This is because the head weighs 10 to 15 pounds, and the forward position of the head increases the strain on the muscles of the upper back and neck. Try these exercises to help with a rounded posture and forward head syndrome.
1. Head Hover
Lie on your stomach with your arms by your side and your forehead resting on the floor. Try to start with your head straight (not tilted to one side or the other). Imagine you’re wearing a mask and the imaginary mask is between your face and the floor. This is your starting position.
To perform the exercise, lift your head off the floor and imagine you’re pulling your face away from the mask. Keep your eyes looking down and the crown of your head reaching forward. Keep your chest, arms and lower body on the floor. This exercise is simply about working your neck. Repeat 10 times.
2. Robot Arms
Lie on your stomach with your forehead resting on a rolled up towel so that your mouth isn’t covered and you have room to breathe. Bend your arms to a 90-degree angle and bring them up to shoulder height so your elbows make a horizontal line with your shoulders. Imagine there’s a walnut in between your shoulder blades. This is your starting position. Lift your arms off of the ground. Initiate the lift from the muscles around your shoulder blades and crush the imaginary walnut. Repeat 10 times.
Once you’ve mastered the two exercises above, try one of these two variations.
3. Robot Arms and Head Hover combo
This exercise combines the head hover with the robot arm exercise. Start on your stomach and perform the head hover described in exercise one. Then, while holding your head up, perform one repetition of the robot arms. Lower your arms and head back to the ground. This is one rep. Repeat 10 times.
4. Head Hover with Band
This is an advanced version of the “head hover” exercise. Make sure you’ve mastered the original before you try this version. You’ll need a theraband for this exercise.
Lie on your stomach with your forehead resting on the floor and the theraband resting on the back of your head. Hold each end of the theraband with your hands. Have slight resistance on the band, but not so much that your neck will have to strain as you do the exercise.
Start with your head straight, not tilted to one side or the other. Imagine you’re wearing a mask and the imaginary mask is between your face and the floor. Imagine you’re pulling your face away from the mask and push the back of your head into the band, lifting your head off of the floor.
Note – keep your eyes looking down and the crown of your head reaching forward. Keep your chest, arms and lower body on the floor. This exercise is simply about working your neck. Repeat 10 times.