An underrated element of appearance is your posture, most of the attention about getting into shape is focused on losing fat or gaining muscle. However, we are hard wired to interpret posture as it allows us to gauge an initial evaluation of how the other person is acting (in historical times this was to work out if they were about to attack us).
Creating a better posture falls into its own special category. While it may be helped in a normal fitness drive there is a good chance it will not.
Your posture is the most comfortable position for your body to take under gravity. It is created in response to how you sit and stand as well as from the effects of repeated movements and the compensations that occur following injuries and pains.
Almost everyone has adapted their posture to be optimal for sitting down because we do that for the majority of our time. The main ways to change your postural position are:
Stretching & Release Techniques – As a result of holding prolonged postures or exercising certain muscle groups you will become stiffer in particular areas of the body and have lower muscle integrity (stiffness, tension, knots etc). These combine to keep your muscle short. To get around this you can use traditional stretching or releases techniques such as massage, fascial release, foam rollers and advanced stretching methods.
The KEY to this area is knowing which muscles to stretch to improve posture. Not all stiff, tight or sore muscles need to be released. Only the short, tight muscles are distorting posture. Unfortunately, posture is really complicated. Any simplified generalisation of posture is probably not actually true for your body or the protocol is contradicting itself. This is because every joint can move in two directions which means you do not know if a muscle is tight or the joint is out of position.
For example, because we all sit down for most of the day, the vast majority of the population’s pelvis tilts down (the front is lower than the back). This means your hamstrings are in a stretched position because the joint has moved upwards stretching them. Yet the vast majority of posture rehab programmes have people stretching their hamstrings a lot more than their thighs.
Strengthening – When a muscle or area of the body is tight then another will be weak. Postural correction needs you to strengthen certain muscle regions. Part of this problem is often not strengthening the muscle per se but getting it to become activated in the first place. A distorted posture switches some muscles off and vice versa, sleeping muscles allow for posture distortions to occur. You will therefore need to awaken and then strengthen over time the weaker muscles on your body. In posture terms this does not mean strengthening all muscles, just the weak ones! Most programmes end up strengthening already strong muscles and not activating the weak ones.
Retraining Neuro-muscular patterns – It is often necessary to retrain your brain to remember to use your new postural alignment. This is especially true when looking to maintain certain postural changes during movement.
Countering Daily Postural Imbalances – Very often you will need to instigate a quick routine to counter long term postural stresses, e.g. if you are going to sit down for 12 hours every day then you may need a 5 minute stretch routine to do before, during or after such a long sitting period.
Using Professionals – Very often you will need to use a professional in some form to look to improve your posture. If you are a typical posture case then a basic anti sitting posture routine could work. However, posture is hard, especially if you are injured or have numerous pains on the body.
When it comes to fat loss the same process works for everyone, for gaining muscle it is a similar process for everyone based on their training level and muscle mass. With posture, it is almost total personalised to you.
A very basic way to look at posture is through structured programmes like in pilates and yoga. However, this often will not be enough to give you the changes you want and you may need personalised approach and professional help if struggling on your own.
Photo – Some photos of different postures, posture assessments and techniques.
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