As you might have heard from some of the gloomy news reports and articles floating around on the web, a lot of people have pretty poor posture these days. Stooped shoulders, forward heads, associated back pain, and all the rest.
The reasons for this aren’t too hard to figure out. A lot of the population spends a lot of time sitting down, and as a result, certain muscle imbalances — often connected to a weak posterior-chain — naturally occur.
Without further ado, here are a few simple gym exercises you can do to begin improving your posture today (or, you know, whenever you’re next in the gym).
Standard deadlifts are perhaps the king of exercises for working the muscles of the posterior chain — which includes the hamstrings, glutes, spinal erector and trapezius muscles, among others.
When these muscles are weak, various posture issues arise. Spinal lordosis, for example — where the back is unnaturally arched — is linked to imbalanced muscles in the posterior chain.
To perform standard deadlifts:
Load the bar and set it on the ground. Then position your feet about shoulder-width apart, with the bar resting over your mid-foot. Drop down by hinging your hips backwards, grab onto the bar with your hands at about shoulder width, squeeze the bar tightly, and lift it by driving up through your heels.
Throughout the movement, your core should stay engaged, and your back should stay flat, not hyperextended or curved. Check our out deadlift exercise page for different variations of the deadlift.
The kettlebell swing is a classic explosive workout, which trains the muscles of the posterior chain similarly to the deadlift.
To perform a kettlebell swing:
Grab a kettlebell with both hands. Keeping the legs mostly straight, “explode” the weight up in front of you, using a sharp movement of the hips, ending with a tight core as if you were performing a plank. Then, keeping your legs mostly straight and your back flat, allow the weight to swing down between your legs before repeating for the next rep.
When done right, a kettlebell swing is pretty much direct training for “standing up straight”.
Kettlebell swings are a high-intensity exercise, which will work your cardio conditioning dramatically. Perform at slightly lighter weights and higher reps if you’re prone to joint pain when performing heavy deadlifts.
Seated Cable Rows
Not all postural issues are directly related to what’s going on in the muscles of the lower back. Some — such as rounded shoulders — are primarily the result of muscular imbalances in the upper back.
Seated cable rows on a rowing machine are a great way of strengthening some of the relevant muscles, while also promoting blood flow to the joints through the high-rep nature of the exercise.
To perform the exercise:
Position yourself on the seat of the rowing machine, and grab the handle attached to the cable. Push back with your legs while leaning back and “rowing” the cable to your mid-torso at the same time.