How to Fix Bad Posture

By Andrew Serrano

Posture. Does it matter?

There’s a lot of disagreement about whether posture matters or not and whether it influences pain. Through my personal experience and training clients for over ten years, my opinion is that it does matter. Just from a physics perspective, if we are trying to create a structure that can sustain as much force as possible, there is going to be a particular position with all the parts involved that can support more than all the other variations can. Of course, there is individual variability, and the nature of the human body makes it impossible to define what good posture even is. But, I don’t agree with the statement that posture just doesn’t matter.  The basis of good posture and overall good movement, is core activation. This article is going to focus the upper thorax so if you haven’t read my article on breathing and bracing you read that first here.

When we think of bad posture the stereotypical picture would be – shoulders rounded forward, head out in front of the torso, and arms rotated inward – think caveman. This combination has been labeled upper cross syndrome previously.  If you’ve been in the training world for some time, or ever looked for advice on how to correct ‘bad posture’ it’s likely you’ve come across the advice ‘pull more than you push.’  And the recommendation of a 2:1 or 3:1 pull to push ratio is commonly given to try to ‘balance’ the body out.  While this advice is good, without some knowledge of anatomy, it can be easily misapplied and exacerbate some of the issues you may run into with a rounded forward posture, also called kyphosis in clinical terms.

I often see lifters take this advice and immediately start hammering rows and chin ups. More pull than push right? Well, it depends.

What this random application doesn’t consider is that the lats are internal rotators, and they’re pretty damn big and strong. If we’re trying to rotate the shoulders back more, strengthening the lats with massive lat movements like rows, pulldowns, and chin-ups doesn’t make sense. Instead, DECREASING tone here would be of more benefit to this issue. And still, it’s slightly more complicated than making your back stronger. Here are some steps you can take to fix your bad posture.

Step 1 – Inhibit Hypertonic Muscles

Assuming you have core control down, and you’re able to get your spine in a decent starting position. We then move outward from the spine and start attacking the shoulder musculature. Hypertonic is just fancy for tight. In this case, we’re trying to reduce resting tension in the chest, lats, upper traps and biceps. There can be others, but we’re going to keep this simple and go after the biggest culprits. The following are my most often used ‘go tos’ for this stuff.

Step 2 – Strengthen the ‘right’ back muscles

As mentioned before, strengthening the lats with typical pulling movements is going to feed into the problem here. The muscles that should be increased are the external rotators and scapular retractors and depressors – the muscles that pull your shoulders down and back. Specifically, we are after the mid and lower trap, rhomboids, teres minor, and infraspinatus as well as the spinal erectors.

Step 3 – Pay Attention

A common mistake I see, is people think that just by strengthening the right muscles they will automatically fall into good posture. Not true – getting ‘balanced’ out will make it easier to achieve good positions, but you still have to do it yourself. You need to be mindful of how you are moving at all times. As Brian harps on in Gift of Injury and 10/20/Life – be an athlete 24/7. It may seem tedious at first, but holding good positioning whether you’re taking a one rep max or sitting at your desk for five hours instead of only paying attention when you train – will pay massive dividends.

Every rep counts!

To read more from Andrew and to follow his training, click HERE.  To read more about the links between position, strength and longevity, check out Dr. Stuart McGill’s books in the PRS store.  

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Andrew Serrano

Andrew Serrano

Andrew Serrano is a full time trainer, holds a B.S. in exercise science and has worked in almost every facet of the training industry. He is currently competing as a 198lb raw lifter, his meet PRs are 589/391/601. His training is guided by the 10/20/Life philosophy with a focus on sustainable injury free progression.
Andrew Serrano

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