Home Blog Strategies for Correcting Bad Posture – Part 4

Strategies for Correcting Bad Posture – Part 4

Written on December 9, 2010 at 3:20 am, by Eric Cressey

This wraps up a four part series on key points to consider and techniques to utilize for correcting bad posture.  In case you missed them, check out the previous three installments of this series:

Strategies for Correcting Bad Posture – Part 1
Strategies for Correcting Bad Posture – Part 2
Strategies for Correcting Bad Posture – Part 3

We’ll pick this up with tips 13-16.

13. Look further down the kinetic chain.

I spent much of the last installment discussing the role of the thoracic spine and glenohumeral joint in distorting upper body posture.  However, the truth is that it goes much further down than this, in many cases, and isn’t quite as predictable.  As the picture below shows, a posteriorly rotated pelvis (swayback posture – third from left)) can kick off a nasty thoracic kyphosis, but an excessively lordotic posture (second from left) can do the exact same thing; it really just comes down to where folks compensate.

In the swayback posture, we see more flexion-based back pain (in addition to the classic upper body injuries/conditions), whereas the lordotic posture kicks off extension-based back pain.  Stretching the hip flexors a ton will help the lordotic folks, but usually have minimal effect for the swayback folks.  So, you really have to assess the hips individually and contemplate how they impact what goes on further up.

Likewise, you can look even further down the chain.  Overpronation at the foot and ankle kicks on excessive tibial and femoral internal rotation, which encourages more anterior pelvic tilt – which goes hand-in-hand with a lordotic posture.  Further up, we may compensate for this lordosis by getting more kyphotic to reposition our center of mass and remain “functional” and looking straight ahead.

14. Get ergonomic…conservatively.

While some ergonomic adjustments to your work station can be extremely valuable, simple modifications often yield the quickest and most profound results.  I’ve known folks who have gotten symptomatic relief by going to a standing or kneeling desk to get away from extended periods of time in hip flexion – and by getting the computer screen up to eye level.

Likewise, I always remind people that the best posture is the one that is constantly changing.  So, regardless of how “correct’ your posture may be, it should always be a transient thing.

15. Use 1-arm pressing and pulling variations.

This recommendation will be appreciated by those of you who have checked out my new product, Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better.

If you’re doing the program, chance are that you’ve noticed that there are quite a few unilateral upper body strength exercises – often one in each upper body training session.  The reason is pretty simple; you train thoracic rotation and scapular protraction/retraction on each and every rep.

If we are doing thoracic mobility work and lower trap/serratus anterior activation drills in our warm-ups, this is a perfect opportunity to create stability within that new ROM and solidify the neural patterns we’ve hoping to establish (and get an added core training benefit). You simply can’t get this with bilateral exercise, particularly in a supine (bench presses) or prone (chest-supported rows) position.

16. Add range of motion – not just load – to your weight training program.

This note is one that anyone with a decent power of observation could make.  Walk in to any gym, and notice the people with the absolute worse posture as they go through their workout routines.  What do they do?

They move as little as possible on every single rep.  They squat high, don’t go anywhere near the chest on bench presses, or just make up “strength exercises” that amount to violent spasms.  And that’s just the ignorant folks.

Among advanced lifters, you’ll see a lot of folks with terrible shoulder mobility and posture sticking with board presses and floor presses (which are certainly justified in limited volumes at specific training times), and doing rows with crazy heavy weights that force them to substitute forward head posture in place of anything even remotely close to scapular retraction.

In short, these folks keep working to add load, when they really should be maintaining or even lowering the load while adding range of motion to their weight training programs.

Wrap-up

Hopefully, this series brought to light some concepts that you can put into action right away.  Down the road, I may “reincarnate” this series as I think up some more strategies – or based on reader feedback.  Are there other areas you’d like covered?  If so, post in the comments section and there may be a Part 5 afterall!

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  • Hi Eric,

    On unilateral exercises, do you think that sprinters can get enough quad work from only unilateral exercises like lunge variations and pistols [while focusing on posterior chain w/ bilateral]?

  • Afternoon Eric,

    I’d be interested to read your thoughts on the John’s question, especially as I read an article over the Summer by Margot Wells, a UK speed coach and wife of Alan Wells – the gold medal winner at the 100m in the 1980 Olympics. She wrote that, in her opinion, all sprinters should only work with bodyweight and there’s no need for them to weight train. I raised my eyebrows at this, though like to keep an open mind.
    All the best and thanks for your great work.
    Cris

  • Eric

    @John… It all depends on so many factors, as you probably already know… Many great sprinters, like Ben Johnson for instance, under Charlie Francis’ guidance, have been known to rely almost exclusively on heavy squats and their variants, and in some instances deadlifts (I’m thinking Barry Ross style training…). But in other cases, for instance Michael Johnson, lunges and their variants were used almost exclusively. All depends 🙂

  • Paddy

    Great Series! Thanks Eric.

    Where do you start when there is dysfunction throughout the kinetic chain? You touch on overpronation. Is there any way to know what kicked off the bad posture and should you aim to fix this first or start at the end (possibly symptoms??) and work backwards?

  • Mark

    Hi Eric, Thought provoking as usual. Working my way through Maximum Strength at the moment and loving it! I feel better, a lot of little aches are gone and I can feel myself getting stronger. One question though – I’m struggling to keep the bar in the right place on front squats. Could I be leaning too far forward? Am I in fact one of the guys you mention at the end of the article – I should reduce the weight and get the technique right? Any tips you have on the front squat would be great. Thanks for the common sense – it’s not so common!
    Cheers
    PS, I fear that I might have fallen in love with deadlifting too!

  • I think I’ve seen about 5 or so thorough papers on sprinting mechanics, and all seem to conclude the hamstrings are “most important” (may or may not be correct). I was simply thinking along the lines of using deadlift variations over squat for my “heavy” movements (and getting quad work from single leg). I would think, however, that quad strength/power is most important (landing phase) while hamstrings (and other hip muscles) need mobility (forward leg swing). When I sprint though, it seems as though only my glutes actually get “pumped.” It’s tricky…

  • I think I’ve seen about 5 or so thorough papers on sprinting mechanics, and all seem to conclude the hamstrings are “most important” (may or may not be correct). I was simply thinking along the lines of using deadlift variations over squat for my “heavy” movements (and getting quad work from single leg).

    From purely looking at sprinting “frame-by-frame,” I’d guess that quad strength/power is most important while the hips need mobility: the quads would seem to be the dominant muscle when landing & “push off” (similar position to a jerk); the hip is already extended pretty far when the foot is on the ground, making me think a max strength increase would have little effect in that unusual range of motion.

    However, when I sprint (60-100m), it seems as though only my glutes (hamstrings a little bit) actually get “pumped.” Also, my gut feeling tells me hip extension strength/power is the limiting factor…it’s tricky I suppose…

  • Now this is what I am guilty of, a bad posture!

  • Mike P.

    Eric,

    Awesome articles. I love the Chart in #13. The Military posture is me to a T. I would like to learn more on what I could do for the extreme tightness in the hams, calves and back. Any chance that’s upcoming?

    Also, I’d really like to get the Show And Go program. Any chance you’ll be having a Christmas Sale…..”Hint, Hint”

  • Roger Jones

    I’m with Mike. P, on both counts!

  • Eric

    In a nutshell, your programs have changed my life. I am not an athlete, not anything special. Just a normal guy, 9-5. However, I am no longer a normal guy. Max strength and Show and Go got me serious. Thanks for everything, and for making me strong. Awesome.

  • Erik petersen

    Eric, Would you recommend that all trainer’s start with the Access and Correct information or is it ok to just start with something like Maximum Strength or Show and Go? Also, do you have any ideas to give on getting referrals from rehab physicians?

  • Erik petersen

    One more question. Is there any benefit to doing regular straight-bar dead-lifts versus trap-bar lifts other than if you are planning on competing in power lifting? It makes sense to me to keep the load as close to center line to reduce forces going through the back, especially for people like me who have a grade 1 spondylolistheses.

  • Thomas S

    eric i would love to see a part 5! these articles have been extremely helpful for me.

  • Ernie O’Malley

    Hey Eric,

    what would “stretching the hip flexors a ton” mean?
    I think I remember that MR once talked about 20min daily? Would that mean 10min left, 10min right in the same position?

    Thanks 🙂

  • Ernie O\’Malley

    Hey Eric,

    what would \"stretching the hip flexors a ton\" mean?
    I think I remember that MR once talked about 20min daily? Would that mean 10min left, 10min right in the same position?

    Thanks 🙂

  • Eric

    @John… You will probably like this article. Will let you in on some little facts that should help you design the appropriate program for improving sprinting-specific strength…http://www.nacactfca.org/sprinting.pdf

    Little-be-known, the quad is pretty much unimportant on push-off. And, you’ll discover how amazingly important adductor magnus is!!!!

  • Eirc,

    Ha, that was one of the papers/articles to which I was referring. The one thing about it is they hypothesize, “the velocity of a sprinter, running at full speed, is directly related to the velocity of the swing back of the legs.” It kind of makes me think increasing max hamstring/adductor strength would have little effect because the “swing back” is against no resistance, while the vertical “push” is, despite the range of motion of the quads being small–maybe that’s why they don’t get “pumped.” Anyway, I don’t want to be a Guinea pig and only front squat for 6 months.

  • Darfy

    Hey eric,

    Could you please she more light on Sway Back vs Anterior Tilt postures. Looking at yours and Mike\’s articles i was always sure i was in Anterior pelvic tilt and still am pretty sure. But looking at the Assess and Correct Pdf, it talks about Sway back and the lengthened/shortnened muscles and now this blog and have confused myself a little. I show all the signs of Anterior Pelvic tilt but also feel like i have terribly tight glutes and external hip rotators. I do realise this can be due to inhibition and the force couples at the hip being imbalanced. But it would be great to learn some more differences between the two. I still need to watch my Assess and Correct DVD.
    Thanks for all the great info.

    Darfy.

  • Jay

    Hi, anything from you on posture is Gold! i have posture problems. i have forward head, kyphosis, lordosis, weak and loose lower adominals, tight chest, tight lower body and i am unable to sleep on my back. i have to sleep on my stomach. What should i doing to correct all these and feel good about myself. Thanks Eric!

  • Jan Keller

    Hi Eric,

    I have loved these installments on Posture.
    I have always been told and read that if a person presents with an exaggerated anterior pelvic tilt, you should focus on stretching the anterior hip muscles ie, hip-flexors, psaos, rectus femoris etc…. and NOT the hamstrings. But if that same person had insanely tight hamstrings would you still stretch these?
    I would love to hear your thoughts.

    Keep up the great work!!


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