Tag Archives: posture

My Favorite Posture Improving Exercises

Having good posture is a kiss from the gods. There’s nothing more satisfying than moving properly due to proper alignment and posture.

As a software engineer, however, I feel like I’m in a constant battle to keep my work from destroying my posture. I spend a decent amount of time in the gym and I’ve discovered a few exercises that have a profound affect on my posture. While ones that target the lumbar area directly are great, paying specific attention to the glutes, hamstrings, upper back and shoulders really solidifies that “(wo)man of steel” posture.

Let me be clear. These are not physical therapy exercises and are not meant for bird-chest, butt-out posture errors. Additionally I recognize that most of these exercises are probably intimidating to most. I encourage you to get past that if you’re not familiar with them and find a trainer or coach who can help you learn one of them to start. The difference it will make on your posture and fitness will be well worth it.

These first two are more advanced but they are my favorite so I’m listing them first. They may be intimidating but these two exercises alone can turn a broken corpse into an Olympic track runner (well, almost).

Snatch grip deadlifts.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=87hjft6OBiU]

If you need to find your snatch grip, watch this video. Deadlifts are good for posture, but personally I find Snatch grip deadlifts to be more so. After I finish a few sets of these I feel like a god picked me up and stretched me out head to toe.

Front Squats

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UoikaYjLRNk]

Front squats are superior to back squats when we’re talking about posture because they encourage thoracic extension. That’s your ability to extend your spine in the rib cage area, which is critical to good posture.

All Levels

Farmer Carries

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E0i6N7Ozi7c]

My favorite thing about these is the light-as-a-feather feeling you get right after dropping the weights. Use as much weight as you can and walk as far as you can. Use your deadlift form when picking up and setting down.

Wide Grip Rows

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84YWsyauAPU]

This is a general back exercise. It targets your erectors which must hold you in proper form during the motion and your deltoids, rhomboids and shoulders during the motion.

Face Pulls

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQS-tXL1CLg]

Isolating the shoulder part of the Wide Grip Rows, these face pulls are great for targeting oft-ignored areas: rear deltoids and rhomboids directly. If you have tightness through your back you’ll probably end up arching your lumbar area when you contract (as the guy in the video does). This is not ideal but it will happen. Work to keep your lumbar strong yet relaxed while pulling from your shoulders.

A note about good form

All of these exercises need to be done with the most perfect form you can muster. Achieving and respecting that proper form is exactly what yields better posture. For the advanced movements you really want to start with low weights, get some feedback on your form and give yourself time to learn and groove1 the motor pattern.

Please comment if you try any of these exercises. I’d love to hear if they work for you the way they work for me.

  1. “Grooving” is the term for instilling muscle memory

Enough with the Damn Pushups

Every year when spring rolls around you read countless posts from men (mostly) sharing their new goals to get in shape with pushups. If it’s not a new mobile app it’s a facebook page, hashtag or some other mislead effort to get people “in shape” with pushups.

So, what’s wrong with that?

There are, perhaps, a few problems with trying to get in shape with pushups, the least of which is you will likely get sick of doing the same movement over and over and over again and won’t succeed in getting in shape with pushups.

The second and more significant problem is you are only training part of your body. This will certainly lead to internally rotated shoulders and bad posture. See the not-so-sexy posture the guy has in the image above? Yeah, that. As the muscles of the upper chest out-perform the rear shoulder and upper back muscles. Moreover, as these muscle groups get out of balance, you put yourself at greater risk of throwing your back out. For a culture that is already being destroyed by sitting, the last thing we need to be doing is furthering this imbalance.

Anterior vs Posterior Muscles

Your body has two groups of muscles, or chains, that move your body with great efficiency and power. The anterior chain comprises all the muscles in the front of your body (left-hand side of the image to the right). The posterior chain is composed of all the muscles in the back of your body (right-hand side of the image to the right). Your goal is to keep these chains balanced. This will give you that sexy posture you’ve always wanted, alleviate the aches and pains caused by sitting and prevent more serious injuries in the future.

What to do instead?

Pushups are fine (particularly when proper form is respected) but balance them out with something that strengthens your posterior chain. Try a few of these bodyweight exercises to achieve that balance:

Plyometric Lunges

Hyperextensions

Bridges

Hamstring Curls

Note: Engage the glutes by pushing your butt up (perhaps higher than he does in the video).

Crab Walks

Eccentric Hamstring Curls

These are my personal favorite. Make sure you have some really solid padding under your knees.