Next time you’re out in public take some time to observe how other people carry themselves. Most will have their head pushed forward, shoulders slightly slouched, and look like they’re barely making it through the day.
Is this an attractive look? Of course not. We’ve become so used to seeing people with poor postures that it’s become completely normal in our society!
The posture of the average person nowadays makes them look weak and unhealthy if we’re being completely honest here. These are not the kinds of things you want popping into people’s minds when they think about you. Since we’re all about helping you look your best, if you know that this applies to you, you should take steps to improve your posture.
What Does Good Posture Look Like?
- The spine and head are held upright.
- The back is relatively straight except for two slight curves in the lumbar and thoracic sections of the spine (explained further below) Together they should resemble an S-shape.
- While standing, the feet are shoulder-width apart and pointed forward.
- The shoulders are squared and pushed back ever so slightly so the chest is puffed out. At the same time, the stomach is kept in.
- The hips and pelvis are in a neutral position, neither pushed forward nor back.
- And finally, the body’s weight is kept on the balls of the feet, not the heels.
Does this sound like you? If not we need to get to work!
3 Most Common Posture Problems
#1: Forward Head
Your head is supposed to rest at the top of your spine and it shouldn’t be extended forward past the chest. You should be able to draw an imaginary line straight from your ears down to your shoulders, hips, and ankles.
To test your posture, stand with your back against a wall. Your butt, shoulders, and the back of your head should be touching the wall. If it feels more comfortable not having your head touch the wall, then you know you have bad posture.
Most people will find that their jaw kind of disappears within their neck when they hold this position so some people keep a forward head posture to increase their jaw’s definition. This isn’t much of an improvement though because forward head itself looks bad so you’re trading one negative for the other.
This is also a big problem for taller people because they have a tendency to slouch or lower their head when talking to others. Interacting in a world you seem to have outgrew can be tough but don’t compromise your posture for others convenience (okay at least not all the time). Be proud of your height and do your spine a favor by standing up straight.
From observation, forward heads seem to go hand in hand with computer use. When you’re in a chair in front of a computer, you naturally extend your head towards the screen while your shoulders curve forward to type. Work on keeping your head up and slightly back. If you need a reminder set one on your phone or leave a sticky note near your screen. Overall, less time spent sitting indoors in front of a computer and more time leading an active lifestyle will also do you good.
Forward heads are usually accompanied by slouched shoulders. Your shoulders should be squared, not caving inwards. An easy exercise to correct this issue is to stand up straight and touch your shoulders with your fingertips. Then squeeze both shoulders blades back at the same and either hold each rep for a few seconds or do one after the other.This will train you to keep them back instead of in a rounded position.
Besides all the advice we gave above for forward head, try minimizing the amount of time you spend with your arms and hands stretched out in front of you. That might sound weird but by keeping your arms and hands at your sides you train the shoulders to be held back and in their proper position.
Kyphosis is what gives someone the hunchback of Notre Dame look. With kyphosis your chest is sunken in when it should be pushed out.
A good stretch to treat kyphosis is the superman pose. You lay down with your stomach on the floor and your face on a pillow or something soft. Stretch your arms out to form a T or Y-shape with your body. Then, raise your arms as high as you can while you keep your shoulders down.
These two positions will stretch the various muscles in your back and you’ll want to hold each for 30-60 seconds at a time. The longer you can hold it the better. In order to build up the muscular endurance needed to hold correct posture for longer periods of time you’ll need to focus on working these muscles.
Weight training can also help with kyphosis (as well as slouched shoulders and forward head) More on that further below.
#3 Lumbar Lordosis
Remember that a slight curve in the lumbar region of the spine is natural. It’s only when it’s overly exaggerated that it’s a problem. This pose is popular with women especially when they’re trying to look sexy and are posing for a photo.
Doing the pose if fine in these types of situations but you don’t want to make lumbar lordosis the natural state of your posture. It places excessive pressure on the lower end of the spine which can get increasingly painful as you get older.
To help fix lumbar lordosis, you’ll need to stretch your hip flexors and spend less time sitting down (notice a pattern here?) Yoga techniques like the cat-cow and child’s pose can help fix lordosis. See the pictures below.
For the child’s pose, you start in a kneeling position and then drop your butt towards your heels as the rest of your body stretches forward. Your arms should rest on the floor and your stomach on your knees. In the cat-cow pose you simply go on all fours and arch your back downwards and back up again to stretch out your spine.
While we’re on the topic, practicing yoga is very effective at correcting postural problems due to the nature of its stretches and the tension relief it provides. Below you’ll find some positions to get your brain turning. Anything that stretches your spine out and/or makes the use of your shoulders is good enough to at least try.
With yoga it’s important to start slow and do easier variations of each pose until you improve your flexibility. Straining to hold a position and hurting yourself is not the way to do it.
Yoga Poses For Better Posture
What you’re too manly for yoga? We hear you guys. Weightlifting (and even calisthenics) also work because when you strengthen your muscles you’re able to give your entire spine and bone structure more support which makes keeping good posture that much more easier.
While training, the most important thing you have to keep in mind is to not to neglect your back muscles in favor of the mirror muscles. Just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they’re not there or others can’t.
Developing a muscular imbalance actually encourages poor posture because then your back muscles won’t be strong enough to support your body or prevent you from leaning forward (which still gives you the slumped shoulders, forward head look).
Elliott Hulse over at Strength Camp (we’re big fans!) made a handy video vlog of him doing a workout specifically designed to improve his posture. Pay special attention to the first 4 minutes where he talks about what he does if you can’t watch the whole video. He leaves a number of great tips throughout so when you have the time we strongly encourage you watch the whole thing.
Wrapping up, we hope you learned something today about improving your posture. Applying consistent effort day by day will ensure you break your old habits and once it becomes second nature you won’t even have to think about it anymore. This is one of the easiest ways to start looking better now. If you have any other tips of your own or questions let us know!