Reading this 'how to fix your posture at home' article on your phone or laptop right now? You’re probably looking like the following. With your back rounded forward and head protruding outwards. I’d also be willing to bet that you just realized that. You must have also immediately attempted to correct yourself. This brings us to a major problem nowadays. With our excessive phone and computer use, we get stuck into this hunched over posture for hours on end.
Worse still, we don't even realize it. This, over time, causes our joints and soft tissue to adapt to this posture. And, as a result, causes this kyphotic posture to become the norm for us. More specifically though, what this does is it creates a lack of something called thoracic extension in our spine. This is simply our ability to extend our mid-back upright out of this rounded posture. And what often comes hand in hand with this lack of thoracic extension is a forward head posture as well. Think about it. What happens when the back is rounded? And when the eyes gaze straight ahead? That's right, the head is forced to stick forward.
So, how can you tell if you have these postural adaptations? An easy way is simply to relax your body into your natural comfortable posture. Then, take a picture from the side in the mirror. If you look something like the following, then you’ve clicked on the right article.
Now, I have written several past 'how to fix your posture' articles. They all do address this issue. However, I understand that many of you out there just won’t be consistent when presented with a ton of different exercises. I get it. They’re boring. What's more, corrective exercises are not “fun” for most people.
A short note before we begin: as the saying goes, prevention is always better than cure. That's why I design every BWS program carefully to ensure that it will develop your physique in a balanced, well-rounded way - which can help with posture. If you're interested in transforming your physique in the most time-efficient and safe manner:
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So, I'm going to do something different with today's 'how to fix your posture' article. I'll create a routine that shows you how to potentially get the most improvements in your posture with the least amount of effort. The routine will focus specifically on the most common issues I mentioned earlier. Fixing those issues alone can often fix the various problems and postural imbalances we see:
And to do so, there are just 3 moves. When these 3 moves are executed properly and consistently in the right order, can prove immensely helpful when it comes to how to fix your posture.
Before we dive into the actual exercises, it’s important that we first understand the reasoning behind them. So, let’s take a look at the posture we talked about earlier.
The main problem here is that as a result of sitting hunched over, your mid-back has lost some of its ability to extend upright. And as a result of this lack of thoracic mobility, research suggests that certain mid-back muscles, most notably the lower traps, get weakened. And their activation can actually become inhibited. That's because the back is now in a position where the lower traps are placed at a disadvantage. And, thus, become more difficult for you to activate as a result.
This worsens the whole postural problem. Why? Well, because this muscle functions to pull the shoulder-blade down and back, and assists in keeping your posture upright. And unfortunately, given this association between poor thoracic mobility and weak lower traps, this is what makes the lower traps one of the most difficult muscles to learn how to get firing and activating again.
I mean most of you reading are probably thinking to your self “how the f*ck do I activate that”?
So, what’s the solution?
Well, first we’re going to work on mobilizing our mid-back. This will help us temporarily get our body alignment in a position that will better enable us to actually activate the lower traps in the first place. In fact, research has consistently shown that by addressing and mobilizing the thoracic spine first, lower traps activation significantly improves when tested afterward.
Then, after we mobilize the thoracic spine, we’ll work on a lower traps exercise. This will help to work on activating and strengthening them. This is going to be the key to fixing your posture long term; rather than just temporarily from a bit of stretching. When used together, this simple, systematic approach has been shown to significantly improve the postural imbalances we tend to see when sitting
You should be more familiar with the reasoning behind this approach now. So, let’s take a look at what exercises for better posture would be best.
First, we’re going to work on some thoracic mobilization. To do so I’ll present a few options depending on what you may or may not have.
To set up, lay on your back with your knees bent. And place the foam roller around the level of your shoulder blades. Then:
Make sure that as you do the exercise, you aren’t letting your ribs flare up and lower back arch. Instead, we want the motion to come from the mid and upper back. The lower back should always remain neutral.
After you do a few more reps in that position, continue moving the foam roller further down each segment of your back. And repeat until you reach the end of your mid-back region.
Ideally, you want a foam roller for this. If you don't have one, here's the link to the one I'd recommend. Another option though is to place two tennis or lacrosse balls in a sock and use that as a replacement.
What if you don’t have a foam roller or tennis balls handy? An alternative is to:
Again, you should feel this in your mid-back so avoid compensating and arching that lower back.
Next, we want to do the thoracic cat cows. This is one of the best exercises available to fix bad posture. It'll help our body engrain that mindful awareness of how to actually extend at the mid-back.
Here's how to do it:
For these, we want to emphasize the movement to come from the mid/upper back as opposed to just the shoulder blades or the lower back. Just like in the first exercise,
Alright, we’ve successfully mobilized our mid-back with the previous 2 exercises. Meaning we’re now going to temporarily be in a much better position to be able to activate and strengthen our lower traps for long term results.
However, to do so, it’s important that we choose our lower traps exercises carefully. Remember what comes as a result of this hunched over posture? That's right: tight upper traps. And the problem with tight upper traps is that research has shown that they can further weaken the lower traps by essentially taking over whenever we try to train them.
Therefore, to maximize your success when it comes to lower traps training, we need to specifically choose exercises that have been shown to:
Luckily, there’s been plenty of research done on this. And is what we’ll rely on to guide our exercise selection.
To start, we’ll use something called the modified prone cobra. This has been shown to activate the lower traps very well. And also elicits the least activation of the upper traps when compared to several other lower trap movements.
To perform it:
You should feel your lower traps working as you hold each rep. It's almost like a pinching feeling in your mid-back.
Practice this daily. And once you’re able to activate your lower traps quite well here without compensating with your upper traps, we want to then swap your lower traps exercise for more difficult progressions. These progressions can then continue challenging and strengthening the lower traps to a greater degree.
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The first progression will be a similar movement. But with your hands placed behind your head. Lift your chest up, keep your chin tucked, and then reach the arms up towards the ceiling. Again, focus on actively keeping the shoulder blades back and down.
Next, we’ll change the arm position into a W. Keep your thumbs facing the ceiling, and pull your shoulder blades back and down. Think of it like you were pulling your elbows down towards your back pockets.
Last is our most difficult progression. For these, you’ll want to reach out diagonally with your arms such that they make a Y shape with the elbows slightly bent. This will put your arms directly in line with the lower trap fibres. Then, raise your chest up and keep that chin tucked. Raise your arms up with your thumbs facing the ceiling. And hold the top position for 10 seconds.
Think about bringing those shoulder blades back and down to get the lower traps firing. Just like the other exercises.
You can also increase the resistance of any of these progressions by holding onto light weights in each hand. But the main goal of this is to gradually move through these each of these exercises over time as you “master” each progression. What is considered 'mastery' though? Well, it can be defined as your ability to execute the progression with:
So take your time and don’t rush through these.
Now, after you do your lower traps exercise, just stand up and try to put this into practice. While standing, pull your shoulder blades back and down. It's as if you were reaching your hands down towards your feet while squeezing your shoulder blades together. You should feel them working from this alone. Be mindful of this. Do this simple exercise as you stand or sit throughout the day. Doing so can get your brain in the habit of actually using your lower traps to keep you upright rather than slouched over.
So, to summarize the daily routine here’s the action plan:
Spend 10 minutes to cycle through each move in order:
Thoracic Extension (~ 1 minute)
Thoracic Cat Cows (10 reps)
Lower Traps Exercise (10 reps with 5-10 second holds at top position), with progression
Modified Prone Cobra
Behind Head Raise
*Perform this routine 1-3x/day to break up long periods of sitting/standing.
Over time, by consistently devoting at least just 5-10 minutes a day to work through this, you should notice a significant improvement in your ability to activate your lower traps and other important mid-back muscles that have been weakened. This will then enable you to actually use these muscles more when you stand and sit throughout the day.
Not to mention, also in the gym with movements like the pull-up, lat pulldown, and rows that normally should be strengthening these muscles. The result? You’ll be able to see long-lasting visual improvements in your hunched over posture. This can, in turn, create a lot more relief upstream in your upper traps, neck, shoulders. And potentially even downstream in your lower back and other areas.
And for a step-by-step program that shows you exactly how to properly train these often overlooked muscles, and combines it with a weekly weights routine so that you can build lean muscle while improving your posture and various imbalances in the process, then:
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