WHY POSTURE IS IMPORTANT FOR BUILDING MUSCLE
As a physical therapist and strength coach, I believe there’s nothing more important than improving your posture.
Why is correct posture SO important?
Because if you attempt to train with bad postural habits, you’re setting yourself up for a lifetime of issues!
If you lift weights with your body severely out of alignment, all you are doing is strengthening poor posture and dysfunction. This leads to compensation elsewhere in the kinetic chain, and you could also wind up with joint pain, an injury or chronic pain in the back.
It is much smarter to fix your posture first and then strengthen your body to reinforce that new perfect posture.
There are 4 main posture issues I want to discuss today.
And the truth is…
Almost every one of us suffers from at least one of them!
I’m going show you an easy 4 step plan of attack for these common posture mistakes to help give you a nice, tall, upright posture as soon as possible.
And you’ll see just how quickly these new posture corrections are going to improve your muscle gains as well!
THE 4 MOST COMMON POSTURE ISSUES
There are 4 posture issues that are extremely common, and they tend to cause the biggest problems for those of us working to build muscle.
I’m going to use Jesse as my ‘poster child’ for bad posture, since he had almost all of these issues when he first got here.
And, while we’ve all noticed the muscle gains he’s made over the past few years, it’s important to recognize that those would have been impossible had he not first increased his posture awareness and made some important fixes.
Let’s take a look at each of these posture issues one by one.
1.) ROUNDED UPPER BACK – THORACIC KYPHOSIS
In thoracic kyphosis, the thoracic spine (upper back) is rounded forward. This is a common posture problem that can be either genetic or caused by excessive periods of time sitting throughout the day while driving or working hunched over at a desk. This can cause neck strain, upper back strain and other muscle imbalances.
As you can see, you actually can’t lift your arm over your head fully if you’re in this leaning forward position.
So, you can imagine how thoracic kyphosis is going to mess with your ability to properly perform a number of key weightlifting exercises. And if you perform them with this rounded posture, you could actually worsen the thoracic kyphosis which could ultimately cause long term problems.
2.) ROUNDED SHOULDERS
Slumped, round shoulders often go hand in hand with thoracic kyphosis. And you’re begging for shoulder pain if you don’t fix these poor posture habits!
You’ll see how the domino effect starts to come in.
A rounded upper back can cause rounded shoulders. Then as a compensation for that rounding, if you want to look straight ahead you’re going to tilt your neck upward into this craned-forward, maladaptive ‘nerd neck’ position with the head forward.
3.) NERD NECK
This has the effect of overarching your neck and weakening the deep neck flexors. This poor alignment can cause ongoing neck pain, tension headaches and the list goes on.
Now what about the pelvis?
Typically when the upper spine curves into this hunched forward position, people end up with a posterior pelvic tilt in which the pelvis tucks under. Or as I like to refer to it, “ass-not” position. This has the effect of tightening the hamstrings, weakening the lower back and causing lower back pain.
4.) POSTERIOR PELVIC TILT
So as you can see, we have four main posture issues to address and we’re going to do so one by one. It won’t take up much time to perform these once a day, and you’ll start seeing better results with your posture pretty quickly!
HOW TO FIX YOUR POSTURE – 4 BEST CORRECTIVE EXERCISES
Here’s the good news about all this bad posture.
There is something that you can do to correct each of these postural problems that takes very little time each day.
Remember, the postural issues you have were created over the course of your lifetime, so they can’t be fixed overnight. Correcting the effects of bad posture will require consistency with corrective exercises to make a lasting impact.
However, you’ll see that these posture correction exercises will have an immediate effect on the way you feel, including improved mobility in the tightest areas and more freedom of movement throughout your body. With a bit of consistency you’ll be able to make permanent changes toward a healthy posture that will have you feeling stronger and looking much better than you do now.
Let’s take a look at 4 quick and easy posture exercises you can perform to start strengthening your postural muscles today.
First, let’s attack that rounded upper back with this easy broomstick exercise.
1.) THORACIC KYPHOSIS – BROOMSTICK EXERCISE
Starting position is lying face down on the floor with your hands placed wide on a light bar or broomstick. Rotate your upper body and shift weight to one side to get extension through the thoracic spine. We like to pair rotation and extension together, because that’s how the spine naturally works.
Roll toward one direction and plant the bar/stick on the floor, as you open in into thoracic extension and rotation. Rotate until your shoulder blade touches the floor and hang out at the end for a few seconds and then repeat in the opposite direction. Do 5-6 of these in each direction. This exercise should counteract bad sitting posture and help reduce back pain in the upper spine and give a good chest stretch as well.
Now let’s address those rounded shoulders with my favorite exercise, the Face Pull.
2.) ROUNDED SHOULDERS – FACE PULL EXERCISE
As I mentioned earlier, rounded shoulders are often a consequence of that rounded thoracic spine, usually due to poor posture while sitting. With that comes adaptive shortening, especially if the chest muscles are being developed. To combat this, we need to start pulling. A lot!
In this case we want to do face pulls, and we want to do them often.
A face pull is going to help develop the rear shoulder muscles on the backside of your upper body to counteract all that adaptive shortening on the front, by working the posterior deltoids, rhomboids and upper back muscles.
Start position is standing with feet shoulderwidth apart, holding a handle of a cable rope attachment in each hand. Try to push your thumbs back behind the body as you pull, keeping the arms as wide as you can and working to externally rotate them. Take it slow, hanging out for a moment at the end. The key mindset is to do 10 sets of 1 quality rep at a time, instead of 1 set of 10.
Now I’ll show you the best way to correct that nerd neck.
3.) NERD NECK – RESISTED NECK FLEXION
So as you’re already aware, a rounded back and shoulders create a chain reaction that causes weakness in the deep neck flexors at the front of your neck. This in turn creates a forward head position and moves the neck away from its natural curve.
In order to really activate those deep neck flexors, we’re going to perform resisted neck flexion exercises with a tennis ball tucked between your sternum and your chin to engage them.
First place the tennis ball, and then take a 10 lb or a 5 lb plate wrapped in a t-shirt or towel, place the plate on your forehead, and go down just enough to be in a slight extension before flexing back up to neutral.
The whole time make sure you’re engaging those deep neck flexors by keeping that tennis ball between your sternum and your chin.
This is a really small movement and your focus should be on quality repetitions, one at a time.
Finally, we’ll attack that posterior pelvic tilt with a hamstring stretch.
4.) POSTERIOR PELVIC TILT – HAMSTRING STRETCH
For most of us, when our upper body is rounding forward, the pelvis gets tucked underneath. This happens because the hamstring muscles get short and tight, and they start pulling the pelvis down and under. Eventually this can cause lower back pain.
To do this stretch, put your foot up on something so you can dorsally flex your foot by pointing it toward your head. To effectively stretch the hamstring, make sure your knee is straight and perform an anterior pelvic tilt, forcing the butt out as far as you can. Then maintaining the anterior pelvic tilt, reach forward with your arms as much as possible.
There’s not a lot of bending at the waist happening here, because you have yourself in anterior tilt. You should feel an intense stretch in the hamstring. Do these for about 45 seconds at a time.
So there you have your posture plan of attack! If you commit to working on all four of these exercises, you’ll be able to fix those posture problems in your mid back, shoulders, neck and pelvis. Remember that high quality reps are key, and I promise you’ll start seeing results very quickly.
For a complete workout program that helps you to correct imbalances while you build ripped, lean muscle check out the ATHLEAN-X programs.
- It’s important to correct postural issues if you’re working to build muscle, because lifting weights with bad posture will just create imbalances and cause injury over time.
- There are four common postural issues and almost every one of us has at least one of them: rounded upper back, rounded shoulders, nerd neck and posterior pelvic tilt.
- If you commit to consistently practicing the stretching exercises that I’ve given you for each of these issues, you’ll quickly see a difference in your posture that will translate to improved muscle gains over time.
Jeff Cavaliere M.S.P.T, CSCS
Jeff Cavaliere is a Physical Therapist, Strength Coach and creator of the ATHLEAN-X Training Programs and ATHLEAN-Rx Supplements. He has a Masters in Physical Therapy (MSPT) and has worked as Head Physical Therapist for the New York Mets, as well as training many elite professional athletes in Major League Baseball, NFL, MMA and professional wrestling. His programs produce “next level” achievements in muscle size, strength and performance for professional athletes and anyone looking to build a muscular athletic physique.