I find myself smiling when talking to people about the importance of posture. I can still see my grandmother getting onto young Carl about slouching in my chair. Man, if she only knew that I would grow up to harp on people about their posture, she’d be proud.
In adulthood, I’ve become more aware of muscle imbalances and how they directly relate to poor posture. Issues with numbness in my fingertips and pain in my left arm plagued me and my quality of life. As a Brazilian jiu-jitsu and kickboxing student, I came to fear a possible neck injury and the repercussions of such.
Lucky for me, I was blessed to have a physical therapist as a friend. He put me through an evaluation, and then he began to hammer away at those imbalances and poor standing posture. In my case, years of too many forward “push” type movements, combined with glory benching in the gym, had created an imbalance between my pectoral muscle on the front and my rotator cuff in the shoulder alongside weaker back muscles.
All of this led to an impingement intruding on a nerve giving me the weakness and numbness—hey, at least it wasn’t my neck. After this discovery, I knew I needed to make a change and I started doing some of the exercises you will read about today. I was eventually pain free and actually became stronger!
There are so many easy posture-improving exercises anyone can incorporate into their weekly routine. Simple tricks to keep the pain away or reduce it, and be a healthier you. Let’s discuss…
I reached out to Scott Rusin, MPT CSCS—a physical therapist and owner of iPerformance Center physical therapy clinics located in Destin and Pensacola—about a few of the most effective corrective exercises we can do to improve some of the more common imbalances at home or in the gym.
The first one that came to mind was the glute bridge. To perform a glute bridge, lay flat on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Keeping your feet hip width apart, lift your hips into the air and squeeze your butt as you hold at the top for a second. Do not hyperextend your spine by going too high, and remember to keep your feet flat on the floor.
Start off with a couple of sets of 20, working your way up to 50 uninterrupted. You can eventually progress to single leg or weighted variations. Athletes in particular, look into the weighted hip thrust variations for big strength gains. The benefits of building up your glutes are wide ranging from improved posture and battling against lower back pain to looking better in jeans and being a better dancer. My point is, build up your butt!
Also great for posture are hip abduction exercises. These play a huge role in building up the smaller muscles associated with the lower back/glute area. The glute medius, minimus and the tensor fascia lata are all key in improving posture and stability when standing, moving, or during athletic movements. Weakness in these muscles can lead to lack of hip stability, lower back, knee pain, ankle pain and injury.
The resisted side step is a fantastic way to strengthen these muscles quickly. With a resistance band loop placed around your calf, stand with your knees slightly bent with your feet hip width apart. Start side stepping with your toes and hips still pointed forward, keeping tension in the band as you bring your standing leg towards the moving one. Don’t try to take big steps. Have a band that provides tension all the way through the step, so that you feel resistance even with small steps. Take about 15 to 20 steps to the side and then return the opposite way.
Do this for a couple sets. As you progress in your strength, you can add a tighter band and more steps. This exercise is a killer. You should feel this on the rear sides of your hip line and in your glutes. Side effect—it also makes you look better in pants as well as a better squatter in the gym.
Last but not least, lets address Bilateral External Rotation. This exercise helps tremendously with strengthening the upper back, rear deltoids and the infamous rotator cuff. Dysfunction in these muscle groups can lead to neck pain, back pain, shoulder pain and even numbness in the arm in my case. These areas are the victims of people staring at their phones, laptops, tablets and computer screens all day. We all sit there with shoulders rounded forward, judging whatever pics our friends posted on Facebook.
Let’s get that addressed ASAP with Bilateral External Rotation! Grab an elastic band in both hands with your palms facing up and elbows against your sides. Keeping your elbows at your sides, pull the band apart by rotating your hands outward against the tension of the band. As you are rotating your hands out, squeeze your shoulder blades together on the backside. Shoot for two sets of 20, progressing to 50 uninterrupted.
Additional note: To see some visuals of any of these exercises, visit posturebyiperformance.com.
I hope this helps some of the aches and pains and emphasizes the importance of strengthening those neglected areas. If you have any questions about this or any other health and exercise inquiries, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I look forward to helping everyone here at Beachcomber. Let’s go kick some butt!
Carl “Redbeard” Simpson is a fitness junkie, certified personal trainer and nutritionist, and dedicated martial arts practitioner. He is committed to helping people be the best version of themselves. “Move better – be better – Redbeard Fitness!”