How to Fix Bad Posture?
I’m going to give super simple tips to improve your posture:
✖️ No need to see a chiropractor
✖️ No need to do a crazy exercise routine
✖️ No need to fix muscle imbalances
Bonus: we’ll fix your back pain. That’s actually an easy one to solve.
But before that, we need to figure out:
What Is Good Posture?
Funny enough, good posture is not associated with the way you look.
Standing upright, chest puffed, head high, shoulders back, and hips aligned with your torso. Those have NOTHING to do with good posture.
Good posture means to be able to maintain a certain position with the least amount of effort, while minimizing the stress imposed by gravity or other external (and internal) forces.
Here’s where things get tricky:
We’re all very different. Some folks are taller with longer limbs, others more stocky. Some have varying limb proportions, others are more balanced. Some are heavier, some are shorter. Some have more mass, others are lighter.
If you know anything about physics you’ll realize what is good posture for one may be sub-optimal for another. Even on the individual level, optimum posture can easily change.
For example, let’s say you have someone who had their leg amputated. That same person’s optimal posture will change drastically before and after the surgery. It will even change based on whether he’s using a crutch or not.
Consider things like the center of gravity, shape, size, and load capacity of certain muscles. Those can have a huge effect on your a body's optimum patterns of movement and energy conservation.
This means there’s no universal good posture. Optimum posture changes based on the person, task performed, and structural components involved.
What Does It Mean to Have Bad Posture?
If you’re a smart dude or a gal, you’ve probably figured it out. It’s a state that puts too much stress on your internal systems (be it structural or energy-managing).
In other words, you’ll likely start experiencing some or all of the following symptoms:
- Pain and/or discomfort
- Decreased physical performance (sub-optimal force production)
- Cognitive abilities may also be negatively affected
- Increased fatigue
Some may manifest immediately. Some may become apparent over time. Even if your posture is “good” you can still experience the symptoms above. But it will take far more time compared to sub-optimal posture.
Our brains know how to make the best use of the available equipment (aka the body). Most of the time you don’t have to worry about poor posture. It’s very unlikely your brain is going to malfunction and fail to correct its mistake.
Even when that happens you have another self-correcting mechanism in place. That’s your nervous system, pain response in particular. Pain and suffering direct your conscious attention to the problem.
For “bad” posture to occur you have to be consciously suppressing and ignoring your body’s pain and discomfort signals. It’s usually because you’ve been “forced” into a sub-optional posture by your environment and lifestyle.
How Bad Things Need to Get Before You Should You See a Specialist?
Let’s make this clear: pain and dysfunction are clear signs something is wrong. But unless you have any symptoms that suggest a potential (or existing) issue, you shouldn’t worry about your standing or sitting posture.
If your posture doesn’t match some arbitrary criteria, BUT you experience no discomfort or pain -> you probably have nothing to worry about.
You can even sit with your butt in the air. If it feels comfortable and you can stand this way for hours – by all means, keep sitting that way.
As a kid, my mom would tell me to stand straight all the time. It felt super uncomfortable. To this day I’m a bit hunched back. I never had any upper back problems. That’s my default state.
Most people can’t maintain what’s considered “perfect posture” (chest puffed and shoulders back). It may require constant and conscious activation of muscles.
Why would you even try to maintain “perfect” posture if it causes you discomfort? That’s obviously not “perfect” or “good”.
Sure your normal posture may not look “pretty”. But if you can function without any pain, why try to fix something that’s not broken?
However, to expand on the previous point:
✔️ If your “normal” posture is associated with some sort of dysfunction or pain you should see a specialist
✔️ If your normal posture is not “pretty’ but functional and pain-free, you can STILL make it look “better” while keeping its functionality
We’ll discuss each point in detail. Let’s first start with:
Can a Chiropractor Correct Bad Posture?
Full disclaimer, I’m not a physician or a chiropractor. But I can give a very simple tip to keep in mind IF you need to work with one.
It’s very hard to diagnose a structural problem visually.
Someone looking at your posture and declaring “you have a problem” probably has no idea what he’s talking about.
As we discussed before, humans come in all shapes and sizes. It may not look “pretty” but this doesn’t mean it’s a problem.
To figure out whether you have a structural problem you’ll likely need to do a few tests. This means either an “internal” view of the problematic structure (e.g. MRI or CAT scan). Or active testing to see how it reacts to certain movements or loads.
Visual assessment is very unreliable and highly inaccurate.
How to Reduce Slouching and Eliminate Pain?
Most of the pain and discomfort associated with posture is usually due to:
✖️ Low activity and poor stimulation of certain structural components
✖️ Over-stimulation of isolated components and compound stress
The Consequences of Low Activity (Sedentary Lifestyle):
If you’re leading a mostly sedentary lifestyle you’re not using your muscles and joints the way you should be. For optimum performance there should be a minimum level of stimulation.
We didn’t evolve to be sitting on a chair for 8+ hours a day. What do you think will happen if you leave your car in the garage for months at a time?
It will likely break faster. Also, the chances of it malfunctioning when you finally try to drive it are much higher.
Certain (bodily) components were designed for movement. As a very basic example, joints don’t get a lot of blood (hence nutrients) in a state of inactivity. This leads to poor recovery and degrading performance. That in turn increases the chance of injury.
The Consequences of Over-Stimulation (Compound Stress)
On the other extreme, sedentary lifestyle puts too much stress on certain structures. Why do you think your lower back hurts? It’s not because sitting on a chair is bad. Sitting on a chair for 8 hrs straight is just too much for the back to handle.
Try extending your arm while holding a book. You can probably maintain that position easily for a couple of minutes. But at some point, your muscles and joints will start hurting and you’ll drop the book.
Note that your spine is much more resilient and can handle a LOT more abusing. But every structure in your body has a certain capacity to handle stress.
Sitting in the same position for hours is a lot of compound stress. This means the same area of your spine has to resist the exact same forces of gravity for hours. When you move you distribute the stress across different areas of the body.
A Simple Trick to Fix Muscle Imbalance and Cure Back Pain
Shortest way I can put it: “exercise more and stay active”. This will resolve the two main issues highlighted above:
- Exercise will strengthen weak links and keep your structural elements in an optimum state
- Being active will help relieve and distribute compound stress
Do you need to do some fancy exercises or posture-correcting routines?
Unless you have a diagnosed dysfunction that requires a specific approach – probably no.
Here are a few basic tips:
- ✔️ Start lifting weights 3 to 4 times a week
- ✔️ Walk at least 1 hr a day
- ✔️ Avoid staying in the same position for more than 40-60 mins.
It's a very basic sum-up, but that's about 80-90% of the solution. Small details like specific mobility drills, correction exercises also help. But those only provide the remaining 10-20%.
In other words, it's WAY more important to be exercising with challenging weights than the type of exercise you chose. A lot of things work, you just have to drag your butt to the gym in the first place.
But if you want something more specific, here's one of Mario's favorite posture-“correction” exercises:
Can a Simple Exercise Routine Reverse Bad Posture?
I know, it doesn’t sound sexy. But by addressing your body’s basic needs you can easily reduce and eliminate pain. The added bonus is your posture will likely also improve visually.
It’s much easier to stand tall and upright when your muscles are not weak, and your joints don’t hurt. The added muscle from lifting weights will also improve your look.
I’m not saying everything can be fixed with exercise. But a vast majority of lifestyle-related physical issues can usually be improved with proper exercise and diet.
Obviously, it takes time, dedication, and hard work. But the process is far less complicated than you might think. You’re just a few steps away from improving the quality of your life
If taking care of your body is a top priority for you, you may be able to help. Tell us what you’re struggling with.
You shouldn't wait before you become dysfunctional and pain is unbearable!
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Until next time,
Fitness Mastery Coach