“Good posture does more than help you look strong, confident and healthy. Good posture helps you move, fight gravity and remain young in body and mind.” – unknown
Your mother always told you to “stand up straight”, “put your shoulders back”, and “have good posture.” The truth is, the overwhelming part of a person’s day in 2014 is spent at a desk, sitting with their arms extended forward to a computer and, focused on everything but their posture…until something starts to hurt. Spending the majority of your time in one position, any position, requires your muscles to fight against gravity all day and never be taken through their full excursion, never allowing them to be stretched or strengthened.
So how does working at a computer make your shoulders slump forward? The appearance of rounded shoulders is actually a series of weak and tight muscles. The muscles between your shoulder blades that stabilize them in an “upright posture” become weak and elongated, allowing the muscles in the front of your shoulders to tighten, becoming inflexible and continuing to pull your shoulder blades forward and down. Stretching a few key muscles throughout the day can help reduce the anterior force put on your shoulder blade and begin reversing the position of your shoulder blade to live closer to their rightful home on your mid-back. (Yes, your shoulder is connected to your mid-back. For any further kinetic chain questions please refer to the children’s song “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”)
The latissmus dorsi and pectoralis major and minor, are just a few of the muscles that attach to the anterior portion of the shoulder; when tight, pulling your shoulders anterior and down, forming a rounded appearance. As well as, the possibility of subacromial impingment, rotator cuff pathology, and creating pain and muscular trigger points in your mid-back and neck. So take a few minutes, every few hours, to stand up and take care of your posture, your mother will be proud and your body will thank you.
Everyone can find a doorway in your office, so here is a series of doorway stretches to address the previously mentioned culprits.
Start with your shoulder and elbow flexed to a 90 degree angle, with your elbow resting against a doorway. Your body should be parallel with the doorway.
Next, move your body forward by taking a step and lunging into your front foot, your arm and shoulder will be stopped from advancing forward by the doorway or pillar. This should result in a glorious stretch in the anterior of your shoulder and into your chest. Play around with the depth of stretch and rotation to feel the best stretch for you.
To further stretch the pec, raise your arm further up the doorway or pillar with the same set-up as before.
The last level of the 3-level pec stretch is to extend your arm lower down the pillar. This stretch will also stretch your bicep, along with your pec.
To achieve a stretch rotate your hips, chest and shoulders away from the pillar at approximately a 45 degree angle, as you take a step and lunge away from the pillar.
Start by standing facing the doorway or pillar and extending your arm in order to grab onto the edge or molding.
Next, take a step back allowing your chest and head to fall toward the floor and your arm to extend up by your ear, being stopped by your grip on the doorway. Your weight should be back through your hips, feeling a stretch along the side of your body that is hanging onto the door.
Further the stretch by looking under your arm that is holding onto the doorway and slightly reaching under your armpit with your other arm.
The next exercise is less of a stretch and more to start to facilitate the movement of your shoulder blade along your mid-back. Start standing with your shoulder next to a pillar with your arm bent and and resting on the pillar.
Next step forward, allowing your chest to follow and your arm to move posteriorly with your shoulder blade moving along your back. Continue to step forward and back, passively allowing arm movement. Do not press against the pillar with your arm, just allow it to rest there as the rest of your body does the work.
Now that you are feeling limber and loose through your chest and shoulders, try to maintain that posture by activating the muscles between your shoulder blades in order to stabilize their posterior position. Think about pulling your right shoulder blade down and back to put it in your left pocket. Now, do the same thing to your left shoulder blade, pull it back and down as if you are putting it in your right pocket. Make a reminder for yourself in your workspace by putting a sticker somewhere you look often, every time you see the sticker, put your shoulder blades in your back pockets.
In no time flat, you will be sitting, and standing with better posture. And your mom will surely put you at the top of her favorites list, once she sees you have finally started to take her advice.