Everyone has their ‘thing’ they do when they want to veg completely out.
Some of you watch American Horror Story. I don’t know how you sleep at night. Some of you watch eleventy hours of home remodelling shows. (Remember, it never goes as well in real life as it goes on tv.)
For me, from time-to-time, zoning out to Netflix is the perfect thing. In particular, I have re-watched a show I caught a few episodes of when I was younger, ‘Gilmore Girls’. (Judge away people. Judge. Away.)
Now, there’s one guy on the show that particularly bugs me. Not because he’s playing a douchey character, though.
Nope, this guy bugs me because his skull enters a scene about a second before his body does.
Have a look for yourself. I’ve added some lines to show where his spine sits and where his silly head is drifting to.
Not once when he is on camera does that guy stack his head on top of his spine. His head consistently travels in front of his body. I want to put my hand on his forehead and politely shove his head back about 6 inches.
His posture is sub-par. And sub-par posture makes sub-par everything.
Now while there is no such thing as ‘perfect posture’, there is definitely ‘better posture’.
And because posture isn’t a static thing that never changes (you’re not a statue after all), you want to ensure that as you move around, you’re using great body positions and supportive stances.
Want to know if your stance and body positions are above or below par? Read on…
First things first. It’s important that you know that your spine is the center of your mass.
Whether standing or sitting, a ‘better posture’ to assume is having your head stacked over your spine. You see, the weight of the head increases the farther in front of your spine it sits. And that’s bad news for the structure of your body – from your vertebrae, to your discs, to the rest of your skeleton.
Dr. Kenneth Hanstraj, chief of spine surgery at New York Spine Surgery & Rehabilitation Medicine, showed just how much your head getting tilted off its center axis of your spine increases the weight of your noggin.
“Putting a 15 degree tilt in the angle of you head to your spine, [to pull your head slightly forward & down to look at a computer screen for example], puts 27 pounds of pressure on your spine.”
(Reading this on your mobile right now? Take a check of where your head is in relation to your spine.)
But it gets even more serious.
This load increases the more you bend your head in front of your spine, with “a 60 degree tilt, putting 60 pounds of pressure on your cervical spine.” Like how this kid is holding his head to text in class.
Your discs, vertebrae, nerves, and muscles will appreciate gravity pushing straight down on top of your head, instead of pushing you into a stooped posture like a shepherd’s crook.
Ok, so head on top of spine. Now what?
Move With Better Posture
To assume that good posture is just something to think about when standing up straight is to completely ignore the reality of the world you live in. There’s more to it than that.
If you’re in “good” posture when you stand stock-still, what then, are you in when you’re not standing stock-still?
For the reality of the situation, think back on your last 24 hours. How much time did you spend standing up straight doing nothing else besides standing? More than likely, the answer is ‘not very much.’
You sit (or stand at our stand-up work desks) for most of your day.
Outside of that time, when you’re moving about, how is your posture? Are you moving with strong body positioning and good support for your joints?
You want to be strong in your posture not only when sitting stock-still at your desk, but also when you’re going through the activities of your daily life.
Postural strength, then, needs to include not just the strength to hold your skeleton upright and aligned, but also to maintain the variety of other positions you’ll find yourself in during your day.
You’re going to find yourself in sub-par positions during your day. So you’d be well-served to train for them in a controlled, conscious environment, such as during a workout, where you are thinking about the way you move.
This way, when you find yourself in the uncontrolled, unconscious environment of daily life and sub-optimal positioning checks you, your body position doesn’t wreck you.
This isn’t to say that you should train with dangerous body position when in the gym in order to be IronMan in regular life. It means that training in a variety of body positions isn’t a bad idea if you want to move well in life.
Coordinate, Don’t Compensate.
When you ask your body to move a certain way, your brain is going to respond the best way it can, even if the way it does so isn’t ideal for long-term care of the body’s tissues & structures.
For example, the obliques link up across your body to help you stabilize and generate power.
This linking of muscles is critical for walking, running & twisting activities because it stabilizes the trunk and helps you generate force as you push off each leg to move forward.
Here’s a simple example for understanding the anterior oblique sling: when you go to throw a baseball or your dog’s toy, you always plant with one foot and throw with the opposite hand.
Whether it is a weak set of obliques, a weak pair of glutes or a weak upper back, having weak, poorly communicating muscles and a nervous system is no good.
A common compensation many runners are familiar with is when the IT Band develops pain because part of the hip complex musculature is weak.
The brain senses stability is needed and since it’s not coming from the muscles that are meant to provide it in the hip (mostly we can look at glute medius & minimus as the culprits here, but not always), the brain will go elsewhere to get it. Enter an over-dependence on the IT Band to do that work. And in time, a painful IT Band is the result.
Compensations can happen anywhere in the body that the muscles don’t do their job of producing strength & stability and your brain goes elsewhere to get it.
You can avoid this by building coordinate strength & mobility.
You’re Not James Bond. Change Your Drink Order.
James Bond was nothing if not consistent with his drink order. Your posture is not Bond’s drink order. You must change it up regularly.
Especially since we develop our posture from what we do repeatedly.
If you find this hard to believe, here’s a story from my own work with high school athletes.
A few weeks after school had started up in August, all of my high school athletes started coming in with a slight torque in their torso and a lean to the right. There movement was being compensated, and underpowered, as a result.
The culprit? The old high school desk.
Why? Because the writing table is attached to the chair. On the right side. And this is what my athletes had been leaning on for 6-7 hours per day for the last few weeks.
Now leaning on a desk isn’t inherently bad. It’s when it’s the only position you’re in that trouble arises.
And this is what caused my athletes to lose power, and develop compensations.
To develop better posture, you must become conscious of how you usually sit and start to implement alternative stances.
If you had the option of sitting on the floor, I’d encourage you to sit cross-legged and in a variety of other postures on the floor. However, in today’s working environments that is often frowned upon… making it possible, but socially awkward.
So here’s what to do instead.
If you always cross your right leg over your left, reverse it. Then sit with your feet flat on the floor for as long as you can tolerate it. Prop your ankle up on your opposite knee. Do the opposite. Sit forward in your chair. Sit back in your chair.
If you can get away with it, turn your chair sideways and kneel on it. And if you really feel like getting adventurous, squat in your chair. It can be done. See? 😉
Other Good Things For Your Posture
While not complete, here’s an action plan that will take you from a chin meet neck posture to an upright and upstanding individual.
Use Your Eyes – Not Your Head – To Direct Your Focus
Did you realize that you don’t have to pull your head forward to see things? Your eyes can do that for you! Many people forget that & as a result turn into ol’ Turtle McGee from Gilmore Girls, drawing their head forward to see things instead of letting their eyes do it for them.
Pull your head back. (or get reading glasses…and then pull your head back.)
Stop Sleeping On Your Stomach
First, sleeping on your stomach changes the natural curve of your spine. Secondly, sleeping all night with your head facing 90 degrees to the right or left puts strain on your soft tissue, nerves, discs, and bones of your cervical spine. This is no good.
It might feel strange to change a life-long habit at first, but you’ll notice the lack of strain in your spine before long.
Fix Your Car Seat!
Bucket seats are a pain in the ass, quite literally. The standard seats in your car today make it so that you tuck your butt under making a rounded low back and bum. This tip of the pelvis backward puts strain on the lower back muscles, hamstrings, psoas, and even up the chain in your thoracic and cervical spine!
So here’s how to deal with it:
- Get in the car, lean forward, and scoot that tush as far back to the corner where the bottom of the seat meets the back of the seat. You’ll stick your butt out to do so, tipping your pelvis forward slightly.
- Reset your seat back so that you’re sitting more upright.
- Adjust the location of the chair so you can reach your pedals and steering wheel comfortably.
- Be sure to adjust your rear-view mirror too. And don’t forget your seat belt!
Start Playing With Your Movement Capacity Using These Mini-Games
This might sound a bit strange… but work with me here. Try these mini-games to ‘flip’ your movement patterns, and play with your movement capacity.
For example, can you…
- Get from the living room to the kitchen while keeping your chest parallel to the floor?
- Do a yoga crow pose during your the ads of your favourite show, giving you a movement from your couch?
- Carry all of the things in one trip and one trip only? (Its also really fun to carry one bag on one side, farmer-carry style, and maintain an upright and stacked torso all the way to wherever you’re going.)
Yes, these might look silly. That didn’t stop most of you from doing RIDICULOUS things when you were in college getting up to all kinds of shenanigans. Get going. Be silly.
How You Approach Your Posture Is How You Approach Everything
It’s not too late to improve your posture.
Better posture could be the ticket you need to cut that neck pain out, to feel more clear-headed, make your shoulder stop hurting, and even put low back pain to bed once and for all.
Doing the work to improve how you move and how you stand will make you feel more at-ease when you do have to sit for extended periods
Improving how you move will make it easier to move without fear of tweaking or pulling or straining your soft tissue and joints.
It will make it so you can expand your repertoire of ‘ways you can move’ which means you have more ways you can move that don’t hurt you.
Now, if you want to improve your posture, and your mobility, but you’re not sure exactly what you need to do, you should check out this free video I made.
It’s focused on helping you learn and understand your body, and how it links together through the Six Pillars…watch the full video HERE.[feature_box style=”8″ only_advanced=”There%20are%20no%20title%20options%20for%20the%20choosen%20style” alignment=”center”]
If you found this post on eight essentials for improving your posture helpful, you may also enjoy this online-webinar on
Thoracic Spine Development.
The online-webinar is like attending a seminar of mine, but in the comfort of your own home.
It’s a next-step for you if you want to continue the learning process, and get coaching I provide my clients.