We hear it in the military. We hear it in dance. We hear it when we’re learning to eat at the adult table for Thanksgiving! “Sit up straight!” “Shoulders back!” “Chin up!” “Chest out!”
What does it mean to have “proper posture?”
As technology becomes ever prevalent in our lives, we musn’t be blind to the effects it causes on our bodies. How has technology changed our bodies you ask?
As we ride around in our cars and sit in front of our computers for hours on end and even as we text message, our body’s structure literally “mutates” over time! In the average lifespan, one can count on driving for a total of 5.5 years, spending 6 years sitting in front of a computer and don’t even get me starting with text messaging! Imagine what our great great grandparents must be thinking now! As we maintain this improper posture through out our lives, we begin to see what is called a “protracted shoulder girdle.” This happens when the Anterior Deltoids or front delts, shorten over time. *If we’re not constantly stretching (which most don’t), expect this posture deviation to ultimately occur.* As these muscles pull on our frame, the Posterior Deltoids or rear delts, slowly weaken and lengthen until you have that permanent “slunch.”
Quote: “If you have to constantly remind yourself to sit up straight and to pull your shoulders back, your muscles aren’t doing it for you!”
So how do we reverse these bad posture effects or prevent them altogether?
First, I always start with a basic warm-up before we stretch or begin vigorous exercise. *Remember when we were in grade school and the gym teachers used to have us stretch before we did anything!?* A warm-up can be as simple as going for a brisk walk for 10 minutes or doing 3-5 minutes of jumping jacks.
Now that we’re warmed up let’s begin our first stretch! Let’s start with an Anterior Deltoid, Front Shoulder Stretch. We begin by coming down to our hands and knees. *Use a mat or a folded towel if you have any pain or discomfort in the knees.* With a balance ball to the side of the shoulder being stretched, place your arm at a 90 degree angle and place your elbow in the center of the ball. Keep your shoulders square and back tucked in. Lower your torso until you feel the tension in your shoulder and upper chest. Hold for 12-15 seconds and repeat. Do this for both shoulders. *This movement can also be performed standing against a stable surface.* Repeat as needed, daily, to lengthen the front delts.
Now that we’ve stretched these muscles back in position, we need others to hold them in place. So next, we must strengthen the Posterior Deltoids or rear delts and the Rhomboids (the muscles between the shoulder blades.) Begin by remaining in the same position as our front shoulder stretch. Keeping one hand firmly on the ground, raise the opposite arm straight up and out to the side being sure to squeeze the shoulder blade when the arm is parallel to the floor. *Be sure to keep the shoulders square throughout movement.* Being that the rear delts are small muscles, it doesn’t take much to work it. A good sized book or milk jug filled with water will do the trick if dumbbells are not present. Anywhere between 12-16 repetitions, no more then 3-5 total sets should be sufficient for these smaller muscles.
Finally, the Rhomboids which are located between the Scapula(shoulder blades) and under the Trapezius muscles should also be strengthened in order to fully pull the shoulders back in place. After we’ve worked the smaller Posterior Deltoids or rear delts, stand up, place your feet just outside of shoulder width for support and balance, bend slightly at the knees to offset unnecessary pressure in the knee joint. Bend over at the waist being sure to keep your lower back tucked in while keeping your shoulders back. Using weight that is about 4x’s the amount you used on your rear delts, let your arms fall forward and together, pull your elbows in to your sides while squeezing your shoulder blades together. Because the Rhomboids are a larger muscle and you’ve got the help of the biceps throughout this exercise (compound joint movement), lower your repetitions and really emphasize proper form. 6-12 repetitions with 3-5 total sets should do the trick for these larger muscles!
“Putting these 3 techniques into practice, will turn you from slouch… *puts finger on burning hot shoulder* to OUCH!”