Three exercises to improve your posture

When I was a kid my Dad was forever grabbing my shoulders and cranking them back in towards my spine. 

“Stand up straight.”

 Yes, I'm leaning back in this picture, but take a look at the strain I'm putting on the muscles in my neck. My neck hurts just looking at this. Also my hair. My hair hurts looking at the 1990's bowl cut. 

Yes, I'm leaning back in this picture, but take a look at the strain I'm putting on the muscles in my neck. My neck hurts just looking at this. Also my hair. My hair hurts looking at the 1990's bowl cut. 

He said this to me multiple times a day for years before actually going so far as to buy me a strap that can best be described as an awkward reverse bra with no cups. Or a torture device. Either or. 

It's true that I didn't stand up straight through most of middle school and well into college, because I lacked self-confidence and suddenly had boobs that I didn't know what to do with. But even some weird late night TV advertised device couldn't account for years of rounding my shoulders and hanging my head forward. My muscles got used to those positions. 

The human head weighs as much as a bowling ball and my body learned to compensate for keeping it so far forward. In fact, as a physical therapist mentioned at a recent appointment for a shoulder injury, my shoulders have been all jacked up for years. So all of the awkward devices and fatherly reminders in the world weren't going to fix what had become a bio-mechanical issue for me.

Many of us have forward head syndrome and some version of forward shoulders. 

Because of my genetic predisposition to the forward shoulders, I perform more pulling than pushing exercises in my workouts. Any type of pulling exercises go a long way in helping develop the muscles in the back to hold my shoulders in a neutral position. 

1. Face Pulls

If you don't have access to a cable machine, you can also use a band. Don't worry about going to heavy with weight. And don't push your head forward to meet the rope. If the overhand grip I use in the video below is uncomfortable, try the underhand grip. 

 

 
 

2. TRX Rows

If you don't 'have access to a suspension trainer, you can also do inverted rows on a smith machine or with a barbell on a squat rack. 

 
 

3. Bent Over Barbell Rows

As with the Face Pulls, avoid shooting your head forward towards the bar when you do this movement. 

 
 

But maybe my Dad was really on to something with all of his nagging. As it turns out, the number one thing you can do to correct your posture is to make a conscious effort to do so throughout the day. I recorded my Dad telling me to stand up straight and turned it into a text tone.

Kidding. But it's not a bad idea really. 

I know, reminding yourself to stand up straight seems oversimplified. And it is. But simple doesn’t always mean easy. 

Much like working out three hours a night doesn’t negate the adverse effects of sitting for eight hours a day, spending an evening in the gym doing pulling exercises doesn’t un-do the harm of hunching over the computer everyday. 

So the best thing you can do for yourself? Set a timer for 20 minutes. And rather than remain sitting at your desk and trying to adjust your posture from a sitting position, stand up, re-position your core and your shoulders, throw in a few exercises or stretches, and assume a neutral posture before sitting down. That’s the best thing you can do for yourself.