We spend most of our days hunched over a desk on a computer, or even more so, on our cell phones. Over time, our muscles adapt to this posture. We end up with imbalances. Some muscles are lengthened and others are shortened. If we don’t keep track of these imbalances, then over time, we get issues such as low back pain, shoulder pains, etc. If you are a lifter, you are potentially putting yourself at more risk because you are now taking this bad posture, and presumably putting it under a heavy load, which amplifies the risk of injury while also grooving the bad form.
There are several ways you can stay ahead of the game and keep your posture in check. Here are three simple ways you can go about that.
1. Increase range of motion in muscles that are shortened
For a rounded upper back, your chest ends up shortening, pulling your shoulders forward. When it’s shortened all the time, you may find you have trouble optimizing your workouts for it. For others, they might find they can never feel it in their back workouts. By bringing attention to loosening up the chest, it’ll start the process of opening up the thoracic spine to have the required range of motion to later on hit the back muscles and external rotators that allow you the posture you need. One good exercise for this would be a chest stretch. Get into a chest stretch against a squat rack and pull away from the rack. Spend three seconds passively stretching muscle and three seconds actively contracting it.
2. Focus on the muscles that keep the shoulder blades back
Once you’ve opened up the tight muscles, now you can focus on pulling the shoulder blades into the correct position. A good exercise for this is a scapular shrug followed by a row. Using a band, focus on keeping shoulders down and back while keeping the arms straight first. Imagine pulling the shoulder blades together or as if a hand was in between them and you had to hold onto it. Once you are able to cue this properly, then transition into the full row, now engaging the arms and driving the elbows back. Make sure to keep the shoulder blades engaged.
Working on external rotators will also help pull the shoulder blades back, and keep the chest tall. Using bands and a supinated grip, you can try band pull aparts to help engage those external rotators.
If you focus on doing this 10-15 minutes everyday, you should notice dramatic changes. You are recruiting your nervous system to properly fire muscles in a totally different way than it is used to. It’s going to be very stubborn at first because of bad muscle memory with improper posture due to all the years of you being hunched over. Just like when athletes practice for their sport to get better, you will have to do this for posture exercises so that it can become ingrained and second nature to keep a more upright stance.
Routine: Use a band or very light weight on the cables
Chest Stretch – 5 reps each side (5 seconds passive, 5 seconds actively contracting)
Scapular Shrug into Row – (pinching shoulder blades together)
10-12 reps for the scapular shrug
10-12 reps for banded row
Band Pull Aparts – 12 reps with a supinated grip
Straight Arm Pulldown – (focusing on bringing the shoulder blades down and back)
10-12 reps – make sure to pull down and back while keeping the chest tall, and trying to touch the elbows behind your back
I can’t stress the importance of keeping your posture in check. If you are a weight lifter then I’m sure you want to maximize your gains. Focusing on mobility work and corrective exercises will help you on your journey to optimizing each gym session as well as carry over to everyday life.
If you want a more in depth look at more exercises and for different problem areas of the body, check out the MAPS Prime Pro program.