How To Improve Your Posture (in 3 steps!)
A lot of people suffer from poor posture, myself included!
I've suffered from bad posture for quite a little while. There are quite a few negative consequences of having bad posture, like morning back pain, an unnatural rock in the hips, and a condition known as Forward Head Posture - where the head is pushed unnaturally forward of its natural position on the shoulders. All three of these things have impacted me personally. In fact, before I knew about cause, I wrote about one of the symptoms to a friend:
When I quit thinking and get in a hurry I have a slightly feminine gait.
What I didn't realize at the time is that this 'feminine gait' was a result of poor posture. People who spend all day hunched over a laptop and the obese are most susceptible to this specific problem. What happens is your upper back curves forward as your shoulders are constantly in a rolled forward direction. When your upper back rolls forward, your lower back rolls out, resulting in your hips being pushed backwards. Women's hips naturally sit backwards, but men's hips should sit forward.
When your hips sit backwards, you develop a feminine type walk with a bit too much swing in your hips. Nothing to be ashamed of, it happens to a lot of men. If you're self conscious about it, just hop on over to the mall and people watch for a bit, and you'll see that most men with poor posture swing their hips as they walk.
This positioning of the hips also results in lower back pain in the morning - something that's compounded by sleeping on your stomach. I love to sleep on my stomach. Partly because I find it comfortable, and partly because when I sleep on my stomach I don't snore as much - which is good for both my wife and I. But sleeping on your stomach really adds to the problem of poor posture.
How To Improve Your Posture Quickly
Poor posture can have a host of other negative consequences on your health and mindset, so it is something that you should fix as quickly as possible. I've said it a few times now: Bad posture has consequences. Not 'side effects'. I say it that way because poor posture isn't some kind of affliction that was brought upon you by some angry gypsy. Bad posture is something you yourself develop, and it's something you can correct - and fairly quickly!
Now you may be the kind of person that gets one of those back things for their chair, or maybe you hop on amazon and look to get some kind of back brace - thinking that will do the trick. It won't. Unfortunately, correcting posture isn't done easily, but it can be done within a month or two. The hardest thing is going to be habit monitoring and changing.
Step 1: Sleep On Your Back
You need to start sleeping on your back. When you sleep, your spine is locked in to a position for six straight hours (+/-), and it begins to adapt the position you sleep in as its "default setting", so to speak. So when you sleep on your back, you put your spine and hips in the position they should be in, and force them to sit there in that position for those six hours - essentially retraining your body on the mechanics of good posture.
Step 2: Shoulders Back!
You're going to want to stand, reach up to the sky and stretch as tall as you can without going on your toes. Really stretch your back. Once you've done that you can correct your posture manually. You do this by rolling your shoulders back until your shoulder blades are touching. Imagine in your mind that you're trying to hold a piece of paper between your shoulder blades.
It should start to feel awkward and uncomfortable. If it is uncomfortable it means your shoulders are up and back, we just want them back. So just relax a little, and lower your shoulders down (but make sure to keep your shoulder blades together). Now you should be able to comfortably move your head horizontally backwards square over your shoulders.
This is proper posture. If you don't believe me, stand against a door, or look at yourself sideways in a mirror. You might find that you need to push your hips forward a little, but for the most part correcting your spine will correct your hips. Now throughout the day make sure you remember your posture and keep it in your mind, correcting it as you think about it. It is a gradual process, so don't beat yourself up over it - just slowly and surely make the change.
Simple Posture Improving Exercise
Step 3: Lift Weights
You need to lift weights. I'm sorry, but lifting weights is the only way to permanently correct your posture. Part of the reason you slouch and hunch at the shoulders is because your back isn't strong enough to hold the weight of your body. So to increase the strength of your back, you're going to need to start working out.
When you hit the gym, do every single machine that has the word 'back' on it. They will likely all be row machines - that's cool. Just do all the rows. You'll probably want to do at least one back workout every time you hit the gym, and then spend a day dedicated to the whole back. Make sure you do more than just row machines, though. Hit up a cable crossover with some rope, put the resistance pretty high up there, and instead of doing triceps pull downs, lean back and pull the rope to either side of your chest - all back right there (Note: You can also drop the bar on the smith machine, heels on the ground, and hang from it at an angle and do a 'reverse push up' type motion to achieve the same thing - it's called an 'inverted row').
Feel free to do dumbbell based back exercises too - just remember to go heavy and slow. Time and pressure builds strength and muscle.
Finally, try and hammer out as many pull ups a day as you can do (pull ups, not chin ups) Your palms should face away from you. When you do chin ups - with your palms facing towards you - you engage the arms as well as the back during the pull. You don't want that. Put your palms away from you to do your pull ups as this almost exclusively engages the back to get your weight up. I, personally, own a Perfect Fitness Multi-Gym Pro and try to do a few pull ups each day along with a few push ups.
The three steps you need to follow in order to improve your posture are:
- Sleep On Your Back
- Keep Your Shoulders Back
If you do the things in this guide - sleep on your back, watch your posture, and start working out - you should see an instant improvement in your posture, confidence, and health. No more morning back pain, less pronounced forward head posture, and an overall better life!
Perfect Fitness Multi-Gym Pro
I personally own one of these and it is one of the best investments I have ever made. Cheaper than a gym membership, just as versatile. Invest in yourself!
© 2016 Remy Sheppard