So far in the series I've shared with you some of my working concepts around ideal posture and how we drift away from it to varying degrees.
Now it's time to look at how we can take posture towards something more ideal.
As I'm writing this for a general audience, only you will be able to gauge how applicable it is for you.
Key indicators that this could be useful for you are rounded forward shoulders, a protruding belly and a very arched lower back (that's upper and lower crossed syndromes for those who love some jargon). The following will help you stand taller given progressive repeat exposure over a significant period of time (you will feel better after each session but regular revisiting will help you keep your gains).
I'm about to lay down a movement for you that you can use to upgrade your posture. Notice that I said “movement” and NOT “exercise”, the major distinction being that the intention of an exercise is to reinforce and strengthen a movement where as I am asking you to move in a new way here. Strength is not a concern.
Lie on the floor with your knees bent and feet on the floor around shoulder width apart. Put your straight arms in an overhead position as easily as you can. Your arms may rest on the floor near your ears, they may be wider, they may not touch the floor easily – all of the above will be fine as long as you are comfortable.
Very slowly use your abdominal muscles to press your lower back a little into the floor a few times, returning to your starting position after every press. Notice as you press your arms may lift a little. Allow them.
Very slowly press your arms into the floor a few times, returning to your starting position after every press. Notice as you press your arms down your back may arch a little. Allow it.
Slowly, many times press your lower back and your arms towards the floor a little simultaneously, having each part move the same magnitude at the same rate. Note that the size of this combi-movement will almost certainly be smaller than the first two movements you did. This is expected. Do this many, many times very gently keeping the rate and magnitude slight.
After repeating and taking breaks as much as you can without tiring, perform one last movement holding the end position with an isometric contraction of the relevant muscles (the abdomen and those between and underneath the shoulder blades). You may shake a little - this is fine. On different days, alter the duration and intensity of your hold of that end position. Some days, a gentle 60 second contraction will suffice; others, an intense 10 second contraction will do.
Notice after standing how you feel throughout your body.
After a few weeks of doing these movements you can graduate to doing them:
Laid on an inclined surface. This will reduce the aid you receive from gravity to perform the movements.
Sat on a chair, further reducing the aid of gravity and also removing the helpful kinaesthetic feedback from your back.
Laid face down on an incline, increasing the demands on the muscles responsible for rounding the back and lifting the arms overhead.
Laid face down on a flat surface, further increasing the demands on the muscles involved.
As getting the movement quality good is of primary importance, the progressions I list here are best gone through very slowly. When working more demanding versions of the movement, it is always worth using the less demanding versions to prepare.
If you fit the profile of rounded shoulders and hyperextended lumbar spine that I mentioned at the start of this piece, you can play around with these variations of this movement for many years to come and still reap postural improvement benefits.
In my final piece of this series, I will go into an alternative and complimentary process for improving a less than ideal posture.
Before I sign off it's worth reminding you that posture doesn't improve by reading about postural improvement methods. Get started now.
Float Sting – Sports Injury Rehab and Performance, Harley Street, London W1
P.S. details of a superb event I'm running in London tomorrow that will be great for anybody interested in improving your posture!