Guest post by Dan. Dan is a competitive powerlifter and long-time fitness enthusiast. Over the course of a lifting career of being coached by world champion powerlifters and nationally recognized strength and conditioning coaches, he has developed a philosophy on health and fitness that focuses on practicality, functionality, and enjoyment. He most enjoys advising regular guys who simply want to look, feel, and perform better. Learn more from Dan at his website.
In the health and fitness world, muscle gain and fat loss get the spotlight. We often overlook the role of our body’s natural posture and alignment in our exercise endeavors. This is a huge mistake. First and foremost, postural flaws are rarely simply aesthetic in nature and are often indicative of functional problems that could lead to injury and keep us from our physical pursuits. Additionally, and I’m willing to bet this is of more concern to the readers here at PostMasculine, a jacked up posture can ruin your body language and overshadow the efforts you are putting into your diet and fitness in order to become more attractive to the opposite sex. In this post, I’d like to cover the most common postural flaws that I see in the average guy who spends too much time sitting in front of a screen of some sort and has not been structuring his workouts to counter all that time on his computer or in front of the TV. I’ll also give you some simple movements you can do in between the sets of your workout to help fix these issues.
Issue #1: The Crane Neck
The Problem: If you walk through a doorway and your chin enters long before the rest of you does, you’ve got a Crane Neck. Guys with Crane Neck always look confused and lost. Crane neck often occurs in guys who spend an inordinate amount of time staring at a computer or television screen. Your head should be in alignment with the rest of your body, meaning that the base of your skull should be in a straight line with your upper spine, not sticking forwards.
The Fix: You can do a movement known as Quadruped Chin Tucks to help strengthen the muscles in the rear of your neck to pull your skull back into it’s proper position. In between sets of a lower-body weight lifting exercise, get on all fours and look straight down at the ground. Let gravity pull your head downwards and then use the muscles in the rear of your neck to retract your head back. Hold that position for a count of 5, slowly let your head return to the down position and then repeat, doing 5-6 reps.
Issue #2: The Rounded Shoulders
The Problem: This is the typical meat-head posture. Too much benching and anterior shoulder work has left countless gym rats with shoulders that round forward and throw their arms out in front of the body. Functionally, this closes the space in the AC joint of the shoulder and leads to impingement and shoulder pain. Physically, it just makes you look like a douche.
The Fix: The first movement we can do to help with Rounded Shoulders is called the Scapular Pushup. This move can be done in between sets of any exercise. To do it, assume the starting position of a regular pushup. Keeping your elbows locked, push through the ground and move your shoulders forward so that the movement of your shoulder blades (the scapula) causes your body to rise. Return slowly to the starting position, letting your shoulder blades return to their natural position and then repeat, doing 8-10 reps.
The next movement we want to do is Band Pullaparts. I like to pair these in between my pushing exercises, like bench presses or pushups, but they can be done in between lower-body lifts as well. This will require the elastic resistance bands that are found in most gyms, but if you do not have access to those, you can do this movement using a cable machine instead. Using an elastic band, take a grip approximately shoulder width apart and hold the band straight in front of you, elbows straight, palms facing down, and arms perpendicular to the floor. Now simply pull the band apart by moving your arms back into the T-position. Your elbows should stay straight and your hands should move in a semi-circular pattern. Use only your rear deltoids to pull the band apart. Return to the starting position and repeat, doing 10-12 reps.
Issue #3: The Sway Back
The Problem: The Sway Back occurs from an issue known as Anterior Pelvic Tilt. Essentially this means that the top of the pelvis is tilted forwards, which leads to an ass-out, chest first posture which makes you look very stiff and unrelaxed. This also gives the impression of a beer belly, even in people who are quite lean.
The Fix: The primary culprit in creating the Sway Back is glute muscles that are not functioning properly. Sitting on our glutes places them in a stretched position for long periods of time, can cause us to not use them efficiently. To fix this problem, a simple movement called the Supine Bridge can help us more consciously activate our glute muscles and bring them back to life. The Supine Bridge can be done in between sets of almost any exercise but I personally like to do them in between sets of squats or deadlifts as it helps me bring my glutes into play more effectively while doing those exercises. To do a Supine Bridge, lay on your back with your knees bent and feet pulled in, as you would while doing a traditional sit-up. Your hands and arms will go flat at your sides. Now, using your glutes, raise your hips until your upper legs are in a straight line with your torso. It is important that you do not let your hamstrings extend the hip and that knee movement is minimized. This will keep the focus on your glutes. At the top, it should feel like you are squeezing your butt cheeks together. Return to the starting position and then repeat, doing 8-10 reps.
Putting it All Together
If you can do three sets of each of these exercises two or three times each week, you should be well on your way to clearing up any of the glaring posture problems that have women mistaking you for Quasi Modo. The effort required to do these in between sets when you would normally just be sitting around is very minimal and the payoff is huge.
However, being conscious of these things in your day-to-day life will pay equal, if not higher, dividends. So consciously keep your head back, don’t let your shoulders fall forward, and walk using your glutes. Position yourself at your desk or TV so that you can keep your back straight and your head back. Stand up and take frequent breaks if you work long durations at a desk. Keep your TV or monitor at eye level if at all possible. Make sure that the workout programs you are on are well-designed and evenly balanced or have someone design a quality program for you. The more you can pin point the areas of your day-to-day life that are contributing to any problems you have, the faster and more effective the fixes above will become.