Posture

OK, you are asking what on earth posture has to do with bodybuilding and health – well everything!  The quickest way to improve your physique is with good posture!  Just by improving your posture you can look better immediately, check out the photos below and see for yourself.  In addition to the visual improvement, good posture can go a long way in helping to prevent back and neck pain.

Some posture problems you can fix by yourself with a bit of work and others will require the help of your doctor, here is one way to tell the difference. Stand in front of the mirror and try to correct the posture problem, can you correct the posture by just flexing and ‘contorting’ yourself till it looks right? If so, with some work you can learn to hold that posture 16hrs a day, here is how you can learn to hold the proper posture. If you cant seem to correct the posture even looking in the mirror, then you should talk to your doctor.

Here are some very common posture problems and the negative effects that they have on health and appearance:

Shoulder PostureRolled, hunched shoulders.     You can just hear the drill sergeant yelling at them “SHOULDERS BACK, CHEST OUT!!!!”   This bad posture makes you shoulders look narrower, makes you shorter, and makes your chest look smaller – how many bodybuilders strive for this?  Notice how much further the chest sticks out with proper posture than with the rolled shoulders.  Have a friend measure your height standing normally, then again while focusing on having the shoulders back and pretending there is a  rope attached to the top of your head pulling it up to the ceiling – you will probably find you are 1/2″ taller at least!   Look around at the gym and you will see several folks with rolled shoulders – notice how it makes them look.

The best way to correct this is to ask your best friend or spouse to correct you, its probably a good idea to agree on a subtle signal so that it can be done subtly.

A muscular imbalance can also cause this problem, make sure you have a well balanced training program.  If you are just doing bench press and biceps curls then you are asking for a contorted, out of balance body.

Pelvic PosturePelvic tilt.  Check out the bad posture picture on the right – the stomach and butt are pushed out as far as they will go – not a pretty site, huh?  Notice that this posture forces the pelvis to twist forward as indicated by the green line along the waist band of the pants.  This is really bad because it forces the spine into a curve making it weaker and more prone to injury.

Now check out the photo on the left showing good posture, an amazing difference!  The photos are of the same person (me) taken 20 seconds apart.  Which way do you want the candid photo of you taken at the beach???  It takes some practice to hold this good posture, practice when you are waiting in lines.  Try and hold your stomach in and make the belly button go all the way back to your spine, you will have to flex your abs to do this.  At the same time, pivot your hips forward and try to tuck your butt underneath your belly button.  Are we contorted enough yet?  With a few months practice, this will become more natural.  You might want to ask your best friend or spouse to give you reminders when you lapse back into your old posture.  I had a problem where I could only stand or walk for 30 minutes or so before my lower back really started to hurt.  My doctor suggested I try the above posture correction and the problem went away!

It doesn’t get easier than this, change your posture and you instantly improve your physique!

Abdominal PostureAbdominals.  Here is a trick that not only makes you look amazing but supports your lower back as well – constantly keep you abs flexed.  I can hear your disbelief now, no I’m not crazy.   I got this tip from Bob Paris’ book “Built” in the early 90′s and it has helped me ever since.  The abs do a marvelous job of supporting and protecting the lower back, if you let them.  Suffering from chronic lower back pain I was searching for a non-surgical solution to my problem when I read Bob’s book.  Here’s what you do, when you are walking or moving, keep your abs flexed – its not as hard as it sounds.  With a few months of practice and reminders from a friend/spouse it can become automatic.  At first, practice standing in front of the mirror with the abs flexed and make sure to incorporate the pelvic tilt correction above as well – look at yourself sideways in the mirror both relaxed and with corrected posture and ask yourself which way you want the candid picture of you taken at the beach.

Learning to hold proper posture

Learning to hold the proper posture is a progression that can take months. When you master one step, move on to the next.

  1. First step is teaching the body what the proper posture feels like. Start in front of a mirror. Looking in the mirror, hold the proper posture for one minute. Relax a bit and do it again – do about 5 repetitions. Do this every day, several times a day, until you can hit the posture immediately and hold it.
  2. Second step is being able to hit the proper posture pose without the mirror. For this we still use the mirror. Close your eyes, then hit what you think the proper posture pose is and then open your eyes. How does it look? If it looks bad, correct it and hold it for a minute. Relax and do it again – do about 5 repetitions. Do this every day, several times a day until you can hit the posture pose perfectly every time.
  3. Third step is learning to hold that posture under various circumstances, you are a pro at doing it while standing so now try it while walking. Try it while sitting. Again, practice this every day, a few times a day
  4. Final step is to incorporate it into your everyday life. Depending on what your posture problem is, there are various tricks you can use to remind yourself. One option is to set an alarm to go off every 30 minutes. When it goes off, are you holding the good posture form? If not, do it now! Even better is if you can find some way to provide a bit of discomfort if you forget and slip back to your old, bad posture. For example, if you are trying to hold your abs flexed all the time then try putting a binder clip inside your pants so that when you relax and the belly starts to push against the pant waistline, you feel an uncomfortable poke from the binder clip.