Hunching over a computer at a desk was rough enough. Now with work from home, a lot of folks have taken to the couch.
With gyms still closed due to Covid-19, I've put together a simple 4 step plan to maintain healthy posture while living an increasingly horizontal life.
When it comes to correcting posture, or any muscle imbalance, there are 4 important steps. In the training world they are often called Inhibit, Lengthen, Activate, and Strengthen, but I've renamed them to they're a little easier to remember.
I call them The 4 S's: SMR, Stretch, Stimulate, Strengthen.
As we touch on each one I'll use a postural restoration scenario to give youa clear roadmap to better posture.
Self-Myofascial Release (SMR) helps dissolve knots in your muscles. When a muscle is shortened or tightened over a long period of time, knots can form in the muscle fascia. SMR is a way to relieve the tension in the knot.
Often with posture issues, the muscles in the chest are tight and short, pulling your shoulders forward. To relieve chest tension, start by putting a tennis ball between your pec and a wall. Lean into the wall and slowly roll the ball around your pec until you find a bump or tender spot. Keep leaning into the tender spot and take deep, slow breaths.
30-60 seconds of pressure on each knot in your chest should do the trick.
Now that the major knots have been removed it's time to lengthen some chronically short/tight muscles. Static stretching, holding a lengthened position for 30-60 seconds without moving, is the most effective method for temporarily improving the length and tension of a muscle.
Postural issues usually present with tight pecs and lats. The two stretches below should be held for 1 set of 60 seconds per side.
This step is all about activating weak or underactive muscles. Imbalances cause some muscles to have trouble innervating, leaving them under-utilized and weak. With these muscles laying dormant, it is easy for opposing muscles to overpower them and make the imbalance worse.
For you shoulders this usually means you rear deltoids (shoulders) and lower traps (right between the lower tips of you shoulder blades).
To activate these muscles, use this exercise performing 2-3 sets of 3-5 reps each.
Now that the overactive muscles are inhibited and underactive muscles are primed, we can do more substantial strength work.
For the shoulders, this means a horizontal pulling motion to build your upper back. The larger muscles, like your traps and rhomboids, are responsible for pulling your shoulder blades together. Once your back is at least as strong as your chest, you'll see big improvements in your posture.
The best exercise for this kind of back strength is the row. While you're at home, put some books in a backpack and perform a Single-Arm Row. This way your arms will have to work evenly, and you can concentrate on feeling your shoulder blades pinch toward your spine one side at a time.
3-4 sets of 8-12 reps on workdays should do the trick.
THE PROCESS TAKES PATIENCE
I’ll be very honest, some of these steps won’t feel good at first. The best way to handle uncomfortable posture correction is patience.
When you’re a beginner, SMR hurts. Use a moderate pressure and keep at it. If you feel sharp pain, you’re pushing too hard. The fastest way to get through the painful period is by doing short, frequent SMR. 30 seconds 3 times a day will help more than an hour once a week.
Stretching improves slowly and there is no way to rush it. Don’t force yourself into a painful stretch. Find a moderate stretch and breath through it. You’ll get more flexible over time.
The first time you try the STIMULATE exercise, you may not get your arms all the way overhead. That’s totally fine. Get as far as you can through the range of motion without forcing it. You’ll get farther as you get stronger.
If you have any questions or concerns feel free to reach out for answers. If any of these activities cause you significant or lasting pain, talk to your doctor.
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