Posture. You know it’s important but you probably neglect it. We can’t blame you. Posture is often one of the most neglected elements of health and well being.
When was the last time you thought about your posture? Maybe you noticed you were slouching over your desk after a long day’s worth of work or caught a glimpse of your wearied reflection lumbering past a mirror. Or maybe you didn’t even notice yourself instead someone told you to stand up straight.
In those brief moments you probably stretched your spine upwards and rolled your shoulders backwards. And then five minutes later, you likely returned to your hunched over posture from five minutes earlier.
Since you’re reading this article, you’re probably thinking you should invest more into improving your posture. And you’re right. This is one of the best investments you could possibly make because posture is the foundation for healthy body movements and athletic expectancy.
The benefits of good posture:
There’s already a myriad of reasons why you should focus on improving your posture. From a longevity perspective, this includes reducing the long-term wear and tear on your joints and reducing muscle tightness associated with your body working extra hard to keep your body upright and aligned.
Learn more about all the benefits of good posture:
From an athleticism perspective, good posture allows you to generate the necessary amounts of torque for explosive strength movements. Good posture will also prevent injuries through proper kinesiology by using your joints only for their most effective and powerful movements.
From a professional and social standpoint, good posture is known to increase testosterone and reduces cortisol. This translates to increased confidence and lower stress, good for both the workplace before meetings and going on dates.
Listen to Amy Cuddy explain the relationship between posture and your psychology:
The bottoms-up posture check
Now that you know the benefits, here’s a repeatable and battle tested strategy for creating good spinal alignment to perfect your posture. And as you may have guessed it starts from the bottom (at your feet) all the way up (to your neck).
This system focuses identifying 5 cues you should check to ensure your body is in the ideal posture.
Point your feet forward keeping them parallel
Make sure that you’re feet are shoulder width apart and that your feet are parallel as if they were on skis. This is going to be the foundation and base for your posture when you’re standing upright.
Parallel feet are important because this will help with putting your knees and hips in the correct position to support your bodyweight.
A common positional flaw many people have is to rotate their feet slightly in or out. Remember, you’re not a bird so make so don’t stand there pigeon-toed or duck-footed, that is, internally or externally rotated. Parallel is where it’s at.
Flex your glutes to level your hips.
The best way to lock up your hips into a stable position is to flex your glutes hard. Now try to memorize what this position feels like, this is the key position you want to keep your hips in. Level in the front and back.
What you want to avoid here is any pelvic tilt. You should think of your hips as a wine glass that’s filled to the brim with wine. You don’t want to spill any of it out so your hips shouldn’t be tilting forward (anterior pelvic tilt or “APT”) causing you to pour wine out the front. Conversely, you also don’t want to be tilting backwards (posterior pelvic tilt or “PPT”) causing your precious wine to spill out the backside.
The combination of parallel feet and level hips will now set up your lower body to properly carry your spine. This is the start of a solid foundation for a good standing position.
Shrink wrap those abs.
The next step is to tighten your core by flexing and contracting your abs. This will lock your hips and chest into the right position above your feet.
The process of tightening your core shouldn’t feel like you’re sucking in your belly but rather like you’re getting ready for a punch in the stomach and trying to prevent the wind from getting knocked out of you.
Once you’ve locked in your core you can take the gas pedal off your glutes and slightly relax. Your hips should now be firmly set into place giving you proper alignment on 50-60% of your body.
Note that you should constantly be engaging your abs to support your spine at all times. The ideal amount of tension is about 20% of your flexing capacity.
Roll your shoulders backwards into position.
Next put your shoulders into position by letting your hands drop to your sides and then externally rotate your hands so that your palms and elbow crease are facing forward. From here you want to roll your shoulders up and back into position, this will help stabilize the top of your spine.
Most people will jump straight into this step of rolling their shoulders back when they’re pretending to get into good posture. But not you. You’re a boss so you’ll remember to start bottoms up from feet, hips, abs, and shoulders..
Perch your head directly on top of your spine.
Last but not least, you want your head to be positioned directly above your spine. At this point there shouldn’t be a ton of comfortable options for your head given the correct alignment of the rest of your body.
Don’t tilt your head up, lift your chin, or show people your nostrils. Try to keep your head level as if you were balancing an apple on the top of your skull.
Also don’t elongate your neck forward like a giraffe. An easy way to tell if you’re elongating forward, is to put both your hands on your head and pull down, if you feel strain on your neck, you’re likely leaning too far forward and should slide head back without tilting your chin.
So that’s it! The bottoms up posture check which relies on 5 cues starting at your feet and progressing through your glutes, abs, shoulders, and head. Try to practice doing this as often as you can and your body will start to develop muscle memory for what the perfect posture feels like.
The Three Point Trick (AKA how to transform your posture into a habit that will last a lifetime)
So now that you know the bottoms up posture check for properly aligning your spine and fixing your posture, the next step towards improving your posture involves repeatedly practice the the bottoms up posture check until it becomes an ingrained habit for the rest of your life.
The most effective way to start automating the bottoms up posture check is to create some cues that’ll remind you to run through correcting your posture. Feel free to create your own, but for those who are less creative, you can borrow these 3 common cues that’ll remind you to posture up.
Every time you stand up from your chair
Getting up from your chair is the perfect time to posture up, especially at the office. After a long period of sitting it’s good to break your bad sitting posture and set yourself up correctly.
You’ll eventually need to stand up from your chair, whether it’s to shuttle yourself to the cafeteria for lunch, moving between meetings, or even just heading to the bathroom.
If you want to get in more repetitions, you can even make it a point to stand up at least once an hour to work on your posture before sitting back down.
Every time you walk through a doorway
The second common way you can remind yourself to posture up is to run through the sequence whenever you walk through a doorway.
As an added benefit to being a frequently occurring cue, correcting your posture before walking into a new room can also help you appear more confident and charismatic whenever you’re entering a new space. This is especially, great for boosting up energy levels ahead of any work meetings you’ll need to attend.
When you see yourself in a mirror
Let’s face it, most humans love to check themselves out, so why not use it as an opportunity to run through the bottoms up sequence and see what you look like when you’re standing upright.
You’ll also get a great contrasting view of what others see when you slouch versus when you’re standing up straight. You can compare the low-energy, sickly, and frail version of yourself versus a high-energy, charismatic, and powerful version of yourself.
So instead of checking out your waistline and feeling judgemental and critical about yourself. Do the productive thing instead and run through the 5 steps of the bottoms-up posture check to properly align your spine and correct your posture. Instead of reproaching yourself, empower yourself to become better and reinforce those good posture habits.
There’s a long road ahead when it comes to perfecting your posture since it requires undoing decades of subpar postural habits and seemingly unnatural muscular engagement. Fortunately, the path forward is clear and straight.
Drill the 5 step bottoms up posture check into your mind and set yourself up for success by using simple cues to remind you to check your posture. Remember to check your posture every time you stand up, walk through a doorway, or see your own reflection.
Rest assured that with patience, diligence, and consistency; your body will gradually adapt and you’ll recognize changes in the way you look, feel, and move. Fixing your posture is simple, but not easy, however you won’t regret making this investment in yourself.