Locusts? Frogs falling from the sky? No, the plague taking the world by storm today is the disease of…TERRIBLE POSTURE!
It’s not difficult to name the one deficiency that affects 99% of the clients I work with. Poor, weak, sad-looking, just all sorts of bad posture. I see it in all ages, genders, and fitness levels (and the mirror, sadly). For most it is not a congenital issue, although that does occur from time to time. For MOST, it is a side-effect of our daily lives spent driving, at a desk, browsing on our phone…ya know, solving the world’s problems and such.
And it can sneak up on us, since it doesn’t happen overnight. I was recently discussing this with a fellow-trainer, and she shared with me a story of a client who was a long-time previous dancer who was lamenting the decline in her posture once she began a desk job. Some professionals - such as surgeons - are particularly prone to it, but even some hobbies can lead to a more hunched-over back back…puzzle posture anyone?
The clinical term for this phenomenon is postural kyphosis. Kyphosis describes the effect that poor posture has on the upper back, or more specifically, your thoracic spine. Our spine has a natural curve to it, however a chronically slouched posture can actually change that natural curve and cause a whole slew of domino-effect problems in your neck, head, and limbs.
The good thing is that this is reversible for most clients. I have seen several sources say it is reversible by fixing your posture…ummm, no kidding. But what does that entail other than the old tried and true “Shoulders down and back?” If it was really that easy, I doubt anyone would choose to resemble the lovely gentlemen on the right side of the above picture.
So in reality, to get long-lasting results, it is a two step process. Just two! We can handle two steps right? The first is to increase mobility through our upper back and trunk with the use of more passive movement. Once you have unlocked the muscles and joints, you can teach your body new postural habits through targeted muscle training.
In this post I will focus on the mobility aspect of posture recovery. There are many, many, MANY mobility exercises out there aimed to improve posture, so I will choose my top three that I pretty much want to see every client do. OK maybe four…like I said, there are so many!!!
Yes, I just aged myself drastically by using the world’s first meme.
T-spine extension with foam roller
The first mobility move is the most simple, and all you need is a foam roller. The idea is to increase mobility in the thoracic spine by moving it into extension. Since we spend so much time with our t-spine in flexion, we need to reverse train the spinal joints. Added bonus, this move tends to feel amazing.
Kneeling T-spine extension with dowel
This can actually be done without a dowel, however I like the physical cue aspect of holding the dowel. The key is to start with a posterior pelvic tilt, which puts the lumbar spine in flexion. This is helpful in targeting the t-spine with the extension, rather than absorbing that extension in the lumbar spine. This move is also effective in stretching tight lats and triceps, and again, just feels damn good.
Seated Thoracic Rotation for Rib Mobility
This one is always the most eye-opening to clients, as they see how quickly you can improve mobility with the right exercise. Rib mobility is a very underrated element in posture correction, but through unlocking your ribs, you create room in your ribcage for proper breathing (something else I will write on in a later post). This in turn releases tension through your upper back/traps/neck.
So this one is kinda toeing the line on being included in my next post regarding more active muscle activation, but the use of the wall makes it more of a passive type of stretch for the upper back. However, you will definitely feel your abdominals firing to stay balanced. I love this one as it works on t-spine extension while the body is moving, which translates a little better to real-life. It is also easy to progress by simply moving closer to the wall as you gain more flexibility in your upper back.
The truth is, anyone can do these at almost any time, since they don’t require a ton of equipment. But if you need some help building these habits, and want an expert eye on you to coach you through the moves, shoot me a message through the link below.