No, that’s not meant to be a mediocre insults. The vast majority of us have terrible posture, and it is hurting us in more ways than we think. The trouble isn’t just that slumped shoulders make you look shorter, heavier and unconfident. Over time, your poor posture takes a tremendous toll on your spine, shoulders, hips, and knees. In fact, it can cause a domino effect of health problems, such as joint pain, reduced flexibility, and weakened or shortened muscles, all which limit the ability to burn fat and build strength.
But worry not, because all of these problems can be adjusted. Bad posture is learned, not natural. Over time, our bodies adjust to the poor posture by shortening, or tightening one muscle group, while the opposing muscle group grows weaker. We can correct these issues by stretching out the tightened muscles, and exercising the weakened ones. Are you ready to straighten yourself out?
Analyze and Adjust Your Alignment Ailments
Pain in the Neck
No, I don’t mean your annoying neighbor. This pain is often caused by holding your chin too close to your chest. When your head is too far forward, gravity strikes, and puts a strain on the muscles in the back of your neck. You can avoid this problem by keeping your head held high. I mean this literally, not figuratively. Although holding your head high will make you exude more confidence.
To help fix this issue, you should try doing head nod stretches. Nod your head forward until your chin touches your chest (or comes close to it). Hold this position for 5 seconds, while you stretch the muscles in the back of your neck. Perform this stretch ten times daily. While stretching the muscles on one side of the body helps ease the pain, the problem won’t be corrected without exercising the muscles on the other side of your body. To strengthen the muscles in the front of your neck, lie face up on the floor. Then lift your head just off the floor. Hold this position for 5 seconds. 3 sets of 12 reps each day will make the pain go away!
This is often caused by tightening of the trapezius. This is the muscle that runs from your neck, across the tops of your shoulders, then back down to the middle of your spine. Together, your trapezii form a large diamond shape on your upper back. This problem is often caused by carrying your shoulders too high, in a bit of a “shrugging” posture. To fix this, roll your shoulders back, like you’re shrugging off a jacket, and let them settle in. This will push your chest forward, correcting many posture problems. To stretch the trapezii out, and make holding a correct posture easier, try the upper trapezoid stretch. Place one arm behind your back while tilting your head away. Place your other hand on you’re the shoulder you are looking away from, and apply pressure. Stretch each side 3 times, for 30 second sets.
The muscles opposite your trapezii are called the serratus anterior. They run from your upper ribs to your shoulder blades, along the your sides and outer back. To exercise these, sit up straight and tall in a chair with your palms down on the seat. Try to keep your arms straight and elbows extended. Push down on the chair until your hips lift off the seat and your torso rises. Hold this position for 5 seconds. You’ll need to do about 3 sets of 12 reps a day.
Rounded shoulders can cause pain in the neck, back and shoulders the trifecta). Also known as hunched shoulders or “computer posture”, this tightens the pectoral muscles. Much like carrying your shoulders too high, this pain can be eliminated by rolling them back, and keeping your chest forward.
The stretch you should be doing is the doorway stretch. Place both arms against a doorjamb as though you’re giving it two high-fives (a high-ten?), with your elbow bent at a 90 degree angle. Step through the doorway until you feel your chest and shoulders stretching. Hold the position for 30 seconds. To this 4 times daily.
The opposite muscles are those trapezii again, but this time it’s the lower portion that you need to strengthen. Lie on the floor on your stomach and assume the high-ten position. Raise both arms by squeezing your shoulder blades together. Hold this for 5 seconds. Perform 3 sets of 12 reps per day.
Like rounded shoulders, hunching causes a trifecta of pain. You will need to stretch out your upper back by lying face up, with foam roller or rounded cushion placed at your mid back. Put your hands behind your head like you are about to do crunches, then arch your upper back over the roller 5 times. To strengthen your weakened back muscles, lie face down, arms at your sides, palms down. Lift your chest and hands slightly off the floor, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Make sure not to lift your chin. Hold the position for 5 seconds. Do 12 reps per set, 2 or 3 sets per day.
Lower back pain is often caused by a pelvic tilt. This posture also pushes your stomach forward, making you look overweight, even if you don’t have much belly fat. Tightened hip flexors are the cause, and the front hip stretch can loosen them up. Kneel down on one knee, then tighten the butt muscles on the side where your knee is on the floor until you feel your front hip stretching. Reach upward with the arm on the kneeling side, and stretch in the other direction. Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat 3 times.
You will also need to strengthen your glutes, or butt muscles. The glute bridge is an exercise performed by lying on your back with your feet on the ground, knees bent at about 90 degrees. Squeeze your glutes push your hips up until your body is straight from knees to shoulders. Hold this position for 5 seconds. Do 3 sets of 12 reps daily.
Pigeon toes can cause pain in your knees, hips and lower back. They’re caused by tightness in the tensor fasciae latae , or outer thigh. To stretch them out, while standing, cross one leg behind the other, and lean away from the rear leg side for 30 seconds. Repeat 3 times for each leg. You will also need to strengthen your gluteus medius and maximus. Lie on one side, heels together and knees bent 90 degrees. Raise your top knee upward and hold for 5 seconds. Perform 3 sets of 12 reps on each side.
Duck feet can cause pain in the hips and lower back, and are caused by limited flexibility in the hip muscles. The stretch is done from your hands and knees by placing one foot behind the opposite knee. Keeping your spine arched, shift your weight backward while bending at the hips. When you feel the stretch, hold for 30 seconds. Repeat 3 times per side. The muscles you need to strengthen are your obliques and hip flexors. Get in the pushup position with your feet on a large exercise ball. Keeping your back straight, pull your knees under your torso as your roll the exercise ball toward your body with your feet. Roll back to the starting position. That’s one rep. Do 12 reps 2 or 3 times a day.
Remember that all “learned” posture problems can be corrected by stretching and strengthening. You stretch the tightened muscle group that is pulling you into your poor posture, and you strengthen the opposing muscle group, so that it pulls you into proper posture. Before you know it, good posture will feel natural, your pain will be a distant memory and you’ll look taller, thinner, healthier and more confident. It’s a win-win-win-win-win.