Can anyone give me tips on how to improve my posture? I tried on some clothes in the changing rooms earlier and realised how poor it is. Even standing as straight as I can does not help that much, is it weak back muscles? Will pull ups help?
I would try working on improving your core strength, self esteem, and actually your entire posterior chain- from your splenius cervicis and posterior deltoids, to your serratus posterior and rhomboids, and on down to your erector spinae. You can improve your core by trying to keep them engaged in daily activities (abs awareness) and various plank and stability exercises. You'll also engage them through things like squats and deadlfits, though I am more skeptical of the utility of squats (for anything) than most people here seem to be. For your posterior chain you can be doing hyperextensions, face pulls with a cable, reverse flyes (with dumbbells or cables), and upright rows. I don't know if you're a boy or a girl but I wouldn't be doing shrugs either way. most people carry a lot of stress in their should area anyways, and so doing shrugs will just over stress and possibly injure your trapezius and splenius muscles. (doing shrugs will also diminish the quality of your appearance, as your shoulder girdle will not appear as wide and you'll obfuscate the V-taper silhouette that's so aesthetically pleasing to to the eye).
Also, I have noticed that a lot of people with poor self esteem have trouble looking people in the eye during discourse, and often hunch over to make it easier to compensate. After years of this, and even after their self esteem has improved, they can have some lasting muscular imbalances. Correcting these will further improve self-esteem, and the aforementioned exercises should definitely help.
Also, if you haven't already, learn human anatomy, which is especially helpful while exercising because it helps you understand the mechanics of the muscle being worked, and focusing on the working muscle is far more important than the amount of weight you are lifting.
I hope that gives you a good idea on where to start.
I found that my posture improved drastically when I started doing yoga.
Try this:Stand tall, visualizing your spine aligned to the crown of your head. Your feet should feel firmly planted on the ground, shoulders gently back and relaxed, chest 'open' and up/ out. You know youve got it right when you inhale deeply and feel your lungs have room to expand completely.
Try this in the mirror first until you see proper alignment, then do it regularly. Remind yourself to stand and sit tall whenever you realize you are slouchibg, which is easy to recognize by how deep or shallow you are breathing, and how much room your lungs have to expand.
I recommend listening to Esther Gokhale: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-yYJ4hEYudE
She has been featured in articles on Marks Daily Apple about proper posture.
I would go see a professional for an initial postural assessment. It's almost impossible for us to do anything particularly useful over the internet. Once they tell you what you need to work on, however, we might be able to offer quite a few exercises to correct strength imbalances.
Work on core and Lower back: Deadlifts, Hyper extensions, planks. Keep telling yourself to stand up straight when walking. Sit on a Swiss Ball at a desk to help posture and engage core.
Do exercises that target the muscles deep in your upper back, like the rhomboids. For example, Bat Wings will strengthen the rhomboids, which are the muscles that pull your scapula apart:
"Pull-aparts" with a strength band are also good, as are face pulls.
If you're already doing deadlifts, you can do snatch grip deadlifts: http://www.liftbigeatbig.com/2012/06/mile-high-traps.html
Overall, I'd say focus on your rhomboids when you're exercising. Every time you do a pressing movement from the chest, balance it out with a movement like the bat wings. During the course of your day, pay attention to your rhomboids and their effect on your posture. If you're slouching, bring your scapula together. As you strengthen these muscles the "default" position should be a tighter, improved posture.
Bad posture comes in many different forms, and since I don't know what kind of 'bad posture' you have, here is a very basic checklist (not including knee/ankle joints) that I usually go through with my personal training clients:
Your 'bad' posture is the only posture you have. It is the best that your habits/perception and structure permit.
Remember the rhyme: "There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile." Your current 'crookedness' will dominate any exercise you do to correct it. General activity like walking and mobility work can help to wake up the hard-wired postural reflexes that make 'good' posture. To make a real difference, you need some re-education to recover the coordination and poise that 5 million years of evolution guarantee we were born with.
The only technique that works directly with these issues is the Alexander Technique. Check out the Society of Teachers of the Alexander Tech. (UK) and AmSat (US) for information and finding a teacher. http://www.stat.org.uk/index.htm http://www.amsatonline.org/
When I was a kid, we practiced walking around with a book balanced on our heads. Off to try that again now. ......
That was a really interesting experiment. Three things I noticed right off in doing this: 1. chin has to be held up, 2. shoulders back 3. my abs automatically tightened up while walking around.
Bonus observations 4 & 5 I can still walk around with a book on my head, and it made my mother, who came out and saw me, laugh hysterically.
Trial 2. Sitting with a book on your head also results in really good posture if you avoid the tendency to bow your back inward.
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