lower-back-injuries-calisthenics-beginner-training

How To Improve Your Posture For More Strength & Health

You want it more than anything.

It’s in your waking thoughts. You daydream about it.

And it wakes you up when you sleep.

 

Still, you are afraid to express it, but deep down a crystal clear voice has been yelling in your mind:

“I am going to be stronger than all of you!”

At the background you can’t help but hear the voices of your friends and family, telling that you need to grow up and realise that ‘the time to dream’ has passed.

 

I hate to admit it, but it’s true – you have been with your head in the clouds for so long that you actually aren’t getting the right things done.

I mean your lower back is weak and it only seems to get worse.

You tell yourself it’s because you are getting too old.

Except, you aren’t. You just haven’t been working on your weakest link enough.

This is how you can make EVERYTHING else stronger.

 

 

How To Make Everything Else Stronger

 

It all starts with your posture throughout the day.

Your body adapts to what you do the most.

Essentially it’s a fingerprint of your daily activities.

 

Look at someone who trains regularly versus someone who lives a sedentary life.

Their bodies tell a story.

All your body wants, is to make you better at what you do habitually so it can save time and energy.

With all the negative consequences as a result. Even though it means well.

Want to know why?

 

If I would ask you: “How do you spend most of your time?”

And you would take a critical look.

You would realise that most of us are in a constant chair posture.

Even after you stand up, your muscles still have the ‘memory’ and tension of sitting as a residue.

 

Most of your time -at least for 97% of people out there- is spent in a ‘sitting’ position.

Guess what happens when you stand up?

You suck at standing, because all you work on is sitting.

We aren’t the ‘walking apes’ anymore, we are the ‘sitting apes’.

 

We sit in our cars.

We sit on the toilet.

We sit when we train on machines.

Walking or moving is the small energy expense that happens between sitting stations.

And as a result our posture deteriorates and we develop back issues.

 

It’s not because you are old, it’s because you’ve been sitting most of your life.

So your spine becomes weak and as a result the rest of your body too.

Sitting in itself isn’t bad, but doing too much of it in a single position is.

 

It turns you into a statue.

Plenty of old people with hunched over backs are the proof of that.

Thankfully, the same body that adapts to ‘improper’ posture can also be shaped back into proper posture again.

But before we do so, we’ll have to take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly.

 

 

Good, Bad And Ugly Posture

 

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Which posture picture would you say looks like a young person and which one like an old person?

Generally there is an easy reasoning behind your answer.

The older people are, the more time they’ve been able to spend in a bad posture and the more visually that posture will be expressed.

 

The differences in posture are caused by overactivity in certain muscle groups and inactivity in others.

In the first two pictures you can clearly see how a constant sitting position translates to a bad standing position.

Of course I’m exaggerating here, but just to make sure you get the point.

The third picture shows a neutral posture.

Essentially there are 3 major posture correcting areas: The pelvis, the spine, the abs.

 

When we look at the pelvis, the most common issue is either an overly posterior tilted pelvic floor as a result of tight adductors and weak glutes.

With regard to the spine, we often see winging shoulder blades and an inability to pull the shoulder blades together.

In the abdomen, the lack of activation leads to a sagging posture and bad breathing patterns.

 

While there is much more to say about this, being aware of these pillars will already allow you to improve your posture tremendously.

I don’t want to get into too much detail, but knowing these few ‘concepts’ will allow you to develop more postural efficiencies as you do more research.

And will make your overall training results better and less injury prone.

 

In the good posture we see a slight activation of the glutes, transverse abdomens and neutral positioning of the shoulders.

Visually this results in a neutral spinal position.

This is a more effective posture, because it prevents injury of the central nervous system, which resides partially within the spine.

You can live without fingers, arms or legs, but not without a spine.

Spinal injuries usually lead to significant loss of life and movement quality.

 

More, an inability to properly use your spine, results in compensatory patterns in other joints.

Such as the shoulders, knees, hips etc.

Lastly, the ability to both ‘rigidify/stiffen’ and ‘segment/move’ the spine into different positions allows you to generate more force.

Your spine is basically the chassis for the hips and shoulders which are the two major joints we use to do all of our activities.

 

Summarized, the inability to use your spine properly creates a cascading effect ranging from less strength, bad breathing patterns, inefficient compensation to higher injury probability and many more other things.

The Chinese often say: “You are as old as your spine”.

Time to stop being too old for your own good.

Let me show you how you can start improving your spine.

 

 

5 Exercises To Start Restoring Proper Posture

 

There are a few easy exercises which you can start applying on a daily basis to improve the strength of certain muscle groups, which in combination with proper activation will give some corrections.

Keep in mind that these exercises are very basic and not exhaustive by any means.

They can be done in a cycle or as a supplement to your training if you are having postural issues.

And if you aren’t having postural issues they can strengthen the good posture which is already there in not so familiar positions.

 

 

1. Spinal Waves In The Saggital Plane

 

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Main goal: Organizing the spine and developing the ability to segment different sections.

Additional goal: Warming up the spine, rehabilitation for loss of movement and releasing tension.

 

1) Start with your feet at hip width.

2) Initiate a rolling motion by moving your body forward in the following sequence: head, chin, chest, belly, hips, knees.

3) Start by moving each segment forward individually and try to glue the entire movement together in a waving pattern.

4) If you are unable to do this initially, use a wall as a point of reference. Touch the wall with each part of the giving sequence.

5) Once you are capable of initiating from the head, you can start initiating from the feet. Basically turning the movement around.

6) There are two other planes in which you can move your spine in addition to this, try to find it out for yourself.

 Click here for a video demonstration of the spinal waves and the other exercises.

 

Aim for 10-20 repetitions in different directions. This can be done every morning or after a long session of sitting to reset the spine.

 

 

2. Crawling

 

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Main goal: Organizing the spine and developing the ability to stabilize the spine in different positions.

Additional goal: Developing the ability to coordinate different limbs and building a foundation for more complex crawling motions.

 

1) Start by adopting a crawling position with your knees from the ground.

2) Keep your feet at about or slightly beyond hip with.

3) Make sure you make small steps and keep your knees at about a 90 degree angle.

4) Adopt a counter lateral pattern. Left hand, right foot. Right hand, left foot.

5) In every step you take make sure you roll your hand from the left lower corner to the index finger.

6) Move in all directions while keeping the spine neutral. You can test your neutrality by placing a small object like a stick or bottle on the lower part of your spine while moving forward. If it falls off you know there is still plenty of room for improvement.

7) Once this becomes easy pause one second every time you transition and keep 1 foot and 1 hand on the ground and the other hand and foot in the air, while stabilizing.

Aim for 5 sets of 60 seconds.

 

Note: Make sure you warm up your wrists prior to doing this drill.

 

 

3. Active pidgeon

 

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Main goal: Opening up the hips by releasing the adductors and psoas muscles

Additional goal: Improving lower gate movements

 

1) In a forward lunge with the front leg placed slightly diagonally beyond the back leg.

2) Keep your front knee at about a 90 degree angle and straighten your back knee.

3) Place both hands on opposite sides of your ankle.

4) Start shifting your weight through your knee to the outside while keeping tension until you find your maximum range.

5) Move the knee back to the starting position by actively pushing the front foot away from the ground and assist with your hands.

6) Make sure all motion is initiated and coming from the hips, the front knee should maintain about a 90 degree angle.

 

Aim for 5 sets of 10 repetitions and in the final repetition hold it for 10 seconds.

 

 

4. Scapulae Push Ups

 

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Main goal: Developing a connection with the shoulders to properly retract and protract shoulders in order to adopt a neutral position.

Additional goal: Building strength for the planche, front lever, back lever and more.

 

1) Start by adopting a plank position.

2) Make sure you contract your glutes and abs to keep your spine in a neutral position.

3) Keep your elbows completely locked. Meaning rotating your arms externally while keeping your hands flat on the ground.

4) Push yourself up from the shoulders only, until your shoulder blades disappear completely.

5) Slowly lower yourself while keeping your elbows locked and make sure your shoulder blades touch.

 

Aim for 5 sets of 12 repetitions.

 

Note: Make sure you warm up your wrists prior to doing this drill.

 

 

5. Passive And Dynamic Hanging

 

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Main goal: Decompressing the spine to release tension and increasing shoulder health.

Additional goal: Developing grip strength.

 

1) Grab the bar with an overhand grip

2) Completely relax your shoulders and core

3) Keep your ears between your arms

4) Feet should be cleared from the ground

5) Hold it for 10-60 seconds and pull yourself up as you let go of the bar, to prevent the skin on your hands from ripping.

6) If you feel comfortable with a passive hang add some dynamic movement.

Make sure you read How To Cure And Prevent Shoulder Injuries to learn more about the importance of hanging.

 

Aim for 60 seconds of hanging.

 

 

How often do you need to do this?

You have never really mastered these drills, just like breathing you need to keep doing it.

The more time you spend in a ‘bad posture’ the more time you’ll need to spend on correcting that posture.

It’s up to you to find the deficiencies in your body and to use these drills to your advantage.

 

Don’t underestimate the importance of good posture.

It’s the first and easiest thing you can start doing to improve the quality of your life.

And to progress into badass skills without constantly suffering from back pain or issues.

Better start moving your spine if you have been reading this while sitting down ;).

How about some waves?

 

 

It’s Time To Work On Your Posture

 

Take a moment and ask yourself:

“How good is my posture really?”

Because you know what…

I’m tired of hearing people talk about having back issues, giving up on the journey and getting themselves into an even worse physical health.

 

Stop sitting around.

If you are truly confident about what you want, then decide.

Which path will you choose? The ouch-my-back-hurts-I’m-going-to-sit-down one or the let’s-do-a-few-more-of-those-crazy-moves one?

It’s not going to get better, unless you work on it.

*Sound of pots and pans*

Wake up.

 

Have you opened your eyes to the time that’s still left? Great.

It means your spine doesn’t need to resemble that of an ancient statue yet.

Let’s start sitting less and moving more.

I’ve got your back.

 

Beast mode ON!

 

 

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9 thoughts on “How To Improve Your Posture For More Strength & Health

  1. Again great post Rich! I am working a lot on exercies for my spine. Its boring i must say but its helps me a lot too feel better and stronger. I do many exercies now for about 12 weeks and i can say my back and shoulder + hips isseus decrease for about 60%. So i never stop doing this! Greetings Lowie

  2. This guide is just what i needed. Got lots of back pain from sitting too much.

    Also your link to “How To Cure And Prevent Shoulder Injuries” is broken.

  3. Hey Rich,
    You are amazing beyond anyone I know! Without you I would still only be doing one pull-up, Thank you.
    I’m on week 2 of Bar Brother’s System, but I’m unable to do the amount of reps of each upper body workout (pull-up, chin-ups, wide pull-ups…). I’m doing a bet with some friends to not lose motivation and finish the 12 week program, but it’s too hard to do. I want to get stronger and better, but I’m not strong enough to do the workouts listed. What should I do?

    1. Hey Michael,

      First of all thanks for your warm message. I try my best ;).

      Doing a bet can be a good thing, but a good thing can turn out being a bad thing. With regard to training and your body keep in mind that:

      1) Time is on your side
      2) You need plenty of time

      If you need more time to complete the 12 week system, take more time. We all have a different starting point. Some bodies respond better than others and some bodies start off stronger than others. Don’t be in a hurry to win a bet and end up getting injured. I understand you want to win that bet, but believe me staying injury free will win you more in the end.

      Here is what you can do:

      1) Stick to the workouts and give 100%
      2) Get plenty of rest, sleep well and eat plenty
      3) Patience.
      4) Patience.
      5) Patience.

      Did I already mention patience ;)? And of course don’t give up, whether you lose or win that bet shouldn’t affect your willingness to keep going.

      Beast mode ON!

        1. Dear Michael

          As per Rich, patience is definitely key!

          However, I had the same problem as you when I started the 12 week program – not being able to complete as many reps and sets as laid out in the program. What I did was two fold:

          1) I did week 1 and week 2 as best I could for 4 weeks (in other words I repeated both)
          2) I started again at week 1, this time doing week 1 and 2 exactly as stated in the program and then continuing with week 3 all the way to week 12. Sometimes I only completed 80% of the reps, but I trust that the next time around, I’ll be physically capable of 100% adherence.

          Patience is key. 🙂

          Good luck man!

          And Rich – keep up the good work!

          Kind regards
          Jacques

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