9. It’s not just the strength exercises you perform; it’s how you perform them. Often, people think that they just need to pick a bunch of “posture correction” exercises and they’ll magically be fixed. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple, as making corrections takes time, patience, consistency, and perfect technique. As an example, check out the following video of what some bad rows often look like in someone with a short pec minor, which pulls the coracoid process down and makes it tough to posteriorly tilt and retract the scapula. The first substitution pattern you’ll see (first three reps) is forward head posture replacing scapular retraction, and the second one (reps 4-6) is humeral (hyper)extension replacing scapular retraction.
Ideally, the chin/neck/head should remain in neutral and the scapula should retract and depress in sync with humeral movement.
Of course, these problems don’t just occur with rowing motions; they may be seen with everything from deadlifts, to push-ups, to chin-ups. So, be cognizant of how you’re doing these strength exercises; you may just be making bad posture worse!
10. Get regular soft tissue work. I don’t care whether it’s a focal modality like Active Release, a mid-range modality like Graston Technique, or a more diffuse approach like general massage; just make sure that you get some sort of soft tissue work! A foam roller is a good start and something that you can use between more targeted treatments with a qualified professional. A lot of people really think that they are “breaking up scar tissue” with these modalities, and they certainly might be, but the truth is that I think more of the benefits come from altering fluid balance in the tissues, stimulating the autonomic nervous system, and “turning on” the sensory receptors in the fascia.
11. Recognize that lower body postural improvements will be a lot more stubborn than upper body postural improvements. Most of this series has been dedicated to improving upper body postural distortions (forward head posture and kyphosis). The truth is that they are always intimately linked (as the next installment will show) – however, in the upper body, bad posture “comes around” a bit sooner. Why?
We don’t walk on our hands (well, at least not the majority of the time).
Joking aside, though, the fact that we bear weight on our lower body and core means that it’s going to take a ton of time to see changes in anterior pelvic tilt and overpronation, as we’re talking about fundamentally changing the people have walked for decades by attempting to reposition their center of gravity. That’s not easy.
So why, then, do a lot of people get relief with “corrective exercises” aimed at bad posture? Very simply, they’re creating better stability in the range of motion they already have; an example would be strengthening the anterior core (with prone bridges, rollouts, etc.) in someone who has a big anterior pelvic tilt and lordosis. You’re only realigning the pelvis and spine temporarily, but you’re giving them enough time and stability near their end range to give them some transient changes. The same would be true of targeted mobility and soft tissue work; it acutely changes ROM and tissue density to make movement easier.
Long-term success, of course, comes when you are consistent with these initiatives and don’t allow yourself to fall into bad posture habits in your daily life. In fact, I have actually joked that we could probably improve posture the quickest if we just had people lie down between training sessions!
12. Add “fillers” to your weight training program. Mobility drills aimed at correcting bad posture are often viewed as boring, and in today’s busy world, they are often the first thing removed when people need to get in and out of the gym quickly. To keep folks from skipping these important exercises, I recommend they include them as “fillers.” Maybe you do a set each of ankle and thoracic spine mobility drills between each set of deadlifts (or any strength exercise, for that matter) – because you’d be resting for a couple of minutes and doing nothing, anyway. These little additions go a long way in the big picture as long as you’re consistent with them.
I’ll be back next week with Part 4 of the Correcting Bad Posture series.
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