Exercise Recommendations for Faulty Posture

EXERCISES TO IMPROVE POSTURE

Our bodies are more than capable of carrying out the everyday activities required by our modern lifestyles – that’s if, of course, you maintain the right balance. You possibly already know that if you take good care of your body it will return the favor. Taking some time out to do exercises that improve your posture is one way of taking care of your body. Your physique will return the favor by performing optimally with every activity you do.

You may also want to correct your posture for other reasons. Perhaps you’re modeler and you want to look, walk feel the part. Or your doctor has recommended that you do so to help you recover from a life-threatening disease, such as arthritis or edema. Regardless of your reasons. You owe it to yourself to make sure you’re utilizing your body optimally.

Before we get started with the exercises. It might be worthwhile to get some background information on posture. Otherwise, just skip ahead to the exercises using the table of contents below. 

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WHAT IS POSTURE?

Simply defined, posture refers to the position of the human body and its alignment in space [1]. Good or “Ideal posture”, as I shall refer to it thenceforth is the state of muscular and skeletal balance which protects the supporting structures of the body against injury and progressive deformities [1]. This is irrespective of the altitude in which these structures are working or resting. It is what most people might loosely refer to as “natural posture” where everything is in its natural place and not stressed in any way.

Perhaps that is too simple of a description. Knowing what faulty posture is will simplify things up a little bit more.

WHAT IS FAULTY POSTURE?

Any position that you may assume that increases stress on your joints creates an imbalance on your muscles and puts tension on your ligaments is faulty posture. This, as you can imagine will have devastating results on your health in the long run. Causing you constant back pain and possibly permanent postural deformity. This may not seem like a big deal at first and you may well think you are getting away with it but trust me, those micro injuries add up quickly.

The sooner you act on assessing your posture and correcting it—if necessary the better. The more you wait, on the other hand, the more damage you cause on your muscles, bones, joints, and ligaments. 

HOW TO ASSESS FAULTY POSTURE

It is possible to assess your own posture if you have the necessary tools. Of course, your best bet is to consult a professional. 

If you want to assess your own posture at home. Simply use a full body mirror or take a few full body pictures – then do the science as described herewith. Keep an eye out for what ‘seems to be out of balance and not in its natural place’.

Put on tight fitting clothes so you can see your alignment properly or do this naked if possible. Ideally, you should close your eyes when the assessment is being done so that you do not consciously put yourself into the right alignment. If you’re doing this yourself, close your eyes, take a few steps forward and stop, then open your eyes to look at your reflection in the mirror. If you have a second person to take pictures during the assessment that’s even better.

Here Is What to Look Out For

Note that there is no single best posture for all individuals [2]. Each person must use their body to their best potential. The “Ideal Posture” is the one that suits one’s own condition and the condition of the environment [3]. Put simply, ideal posture aligns all your body parts and limbs to work together more efficiently without strain. Now doesn’t that sound good?

A good way to ensure that you are working efficiently is to tell yourself “at the back of your mind” or out loud if you wish, that “If it is starting to feel uncomfortable. It’s time to move”. Doesn’t matter whether you’re seating, lying down or standing upright.

Following are common faulty postures and exercise recommendations for:

  • Uneven shoulders
  • Forward head
  • Anterior pelvic tilt
  • Pigeon Toes and Duck feet and
  • Swayback

Our exercise recommendations are based on strengthening underactive muscles. To help you understand this method, try to imagine that your abdominal muscles are strong and your back muscles are weak. What do you think your posture would be like?

You are likely, unconsciously leaning forward because your back muscles are underactive. The discomforts or rather a pain results from other muscles in your body trying to align you back into ideal posture. In other words, those muscles are overworked!

To fix these problems you need to train your underactive muscles so that everything is in balance and no muscles are being overworked.

UNEVEN SHOULDERS EXERCISE RECOMMENDATIONS

If one of your shoulders is higher than the other then you have an elevated shoulder. The underactive muscles here are the ones under your chest [4]. The Serratus anterior (muscle running from upper ribs to the shoulder blade under your pecs) on the elevated side is possibly not developed enough.

To fix uneven shoulders sit upright in a chair with your hands next to your hips, palms down on the seat and arms straight [3]. Without moving your arms, push down on the chair until your hips lift up off the seat and your torso rises [3]. Hold for five seconds. That’s one repetition; the recommendation is that you do two or three sets of 12 reps daily and increase the count with notable progress. Remember this is not competition. It’s training!

FORWARD HEAD EXERCISE RECOMMENDATIONS

From the side view, you might notice that you have a forward head. The underactive muscles here are at the back of your neck: the upper trapezius and levator scapula. You can do a Neck self-myofascial release, chin to chest, sternocleidomastoid stretch to fix this. This is because if you have a forward neck, your neck flexors might be weak.

With your palms up, reach your arms as far back as possible while turning your head to look to one side [2].

ANTERIOR PELVIC TILT EXERCISE RECOMMENDATIONS

Also from the side view, you might spot that your hip is tilted forward. This is the common cause of Lumbar Lordosis.

In this case, there is a lack of support through the transverse abs and usually, the lower 2 lumbar vertebrae are unstable which is why the body tightens up the psoas & iliacus. There is often unstable hip joints due to stretched joint capsules as well [5].

To fix this Weatherall, 2015 suggests that you kneel on your left knee, with your right foot on the floor in front of you, knee bent and press forward until you feel the stretch in your left hip [3]. Tighten your butt muscles on your left side until you feel the front of your hip stretching comfortably. Reach upward with your left arm and stretch to the right side. Hold for a count of 30 seconds. That’s one repetition, do three on each side.

PIGEON TOES AND DUCK FEET EXERCISE RECOMMENDATIONS

Pigeon toes result when your toes are turned inward toward the midline of the body. In this case, the Gluteus muscles (medius and minimus) are underactive.

Duck feet are when the toes are turned out away from the midline of the body.

To fix either Pigeon toes or Duck feet you can practice walking with your feet pointing forward as they would naturally. This may feel awkward at first but over time the muscles will adapt to the right position. Muscle memory will then take over and this will gradually happen naturally over time.

Pigeon toes and Duck feet can also be caused by bone diseases like arthritis. If this is the case, only do this exercise only if it is not painful. You might also want to consult with a physician to assess if this can be foxed.

SWAY BACK EXERCISE RECOMMENDATIONS

This is when the hips are pressed forward forming a hollow back. Not to be confused with the anterior pelvic tilt (lordosis). Swayback and lordosis appear similar, owing to the concave curve in the back area but these two are different [3]. In Swayback posture the low lumbar area is actually flattened and the concave curve of the spine is much higher [3].

The overactive muscles in swayback are the hamstring muscles, the gluteus maximus and medius, erector spinae, and quadratus lumborum.

Various stretching techniques like the world’s greatest stretch, runner’s stretch, seated glute stretch, lying crossover, hamstring stretch, hamstring self-myofascial release (foam rolling) can help fix this problem [2].

This is but a simple guide to postural assessment. There are other more thorough means of assessing posture which can be done by physicians, trainers and exercise scientists.

IN CLOSING

There are other recommendations for faulty posture but the Sports and Exercise Dev SA way is to start with exercises before we explore other option. You can do these exercises three times a week for one month and go through the assessment again to track your progress.  

Most faulty postural deformities can be avoided by simply seating, walking, and standing right. In other words, maintaining balance. If you do weightlifting you should also make sure you do not overload one muscle group while under exercising another. For example, it’s a bad idea to do ten reps of biceps curls with the right arm and only eight with the left. This will lead to one arm getting developed over the other.

Congratulations, you have just increased your body’s efficiency and health. Please Share this article to help others. Subscribe by filling in your email address below to get notified on future content on Sports and Exercise. We have a lot of those here.

Lastly, we only listed exercises for five postural deformities. Can you add to our list? Do you know of any postural deformities that we did not list on this article that you think is important? Please share them in the comment section below. I am sure our readers would appreciate your input. Until next time. Keep moving.  

Works Cited
[1] J. Johnson, “What is posture?,” 9 September 2015. [Online].
[2] L. S. Kendall, “Posture Power: How To Correct Your Body’s Alignment,” 9 September 2015. [Online]. Available: Bodybuilding.com.
[3] W. Vic, “Correcting faulty posture,” 14 September 2015. [Online].
[4] “Posture Analysis,” 9 September 2015. [Online]. Available: ManageBackPain.com.
[5] H. A. BURT, “Effects of Faulty Posture,” Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, pp. 11-18, 1949.
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Thando W. Dlamini, BA

Sport Development and Exercise Science Practitioner

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