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Sit Up Straight! Why “shoulders down and back” won’t fix your posture. Pt. 1.

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You look at your parents that have slouched forward more and more over time and think, “I don’t wanna look like that.” (I do this with my dad).  You jump into action: read a few articles, focus on keeping yourself rigid while at your desk at work, do some doorway stretches to “open up the shoulders.”  But nothing really works, right? At least not completely. Or something distracts you.  Your boss decided to switch to aluminum-free deodorant this week, and though you feel bad, you hunch and turn whenever they get too close. Then when they leave, you forget about your posture, and you relax into the position that’s most comfortable.  Life happens. And while posture is important, your brain focuses on other things after maybe 5 minutes.  It might be frustrating, but the good news is that it's just human nature.  You are not broken; you just might be missing the forest for the trees with your approach.

The reason why this fails so often starts with an ill-defined usage of the word posture.  Posture is looked at as a rigid, unchanging position of the body. Being able to sit/stand perfectly for an unlimited amount of time. In church, in school, at work…  

Truth is, posture is dynamic! We don’t realize this, but we are constantly moving. Every time you breathe in or out, your joint angles change, muscles lengthen and shorten.. Your whole body gets bigger as you inhale and smaller as you exhale (the air has to go somewhere).  Therefore, it doesn’t make sense to look at healthy posture as one true position of alignment.  

I don’t believe in good posture or bad posture; we all have unique demands and structures that influence what will be the best approach to keeping proper alignment. The next time you’re out in public, take a look around.  Look at all the variance of posture you see. For the most part, you won’t be able to tell who’s suffering from their day-to-day posture.  Your own trash is another’s treasure to an extent.

It makes zero sense to say everybody should look the same at rest, so we look at how you move!  Do you have full range of motion? Does your ribcage expand/compress when you breathe?  How fluid do you feel when you’re out on the dance floor throwing down to Get Low by Lil Jon and the Eastside Boys?  These are the questions you should be asking yourself, as opposed to whether or not you’d pass a 19th century Poise and Etiquette class run by Madam Featherbottom.  

Alright Austin, this is neat and philosophical. Whatever.. So what do we actually do if we don’t want to start looking like a question mark or if we are constantly stretching our “tight” pecs with little to no relief? 

Okay, okay, fair enough. In part 2, I’ll go over how we approach posture in the gym and give some tips on what you can focus on in your day-to-day life to improve posture and feel physical relief throughout the day.

Coach Austin 

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