Almost everyone could use some improvement in their posture. Poor posture can arise from sitting for long periods at a desk, or working the chest too much in comparison to your back. Proper posture will keep your back safe from injury. When the spine is compressed from not keeping your back tall, it causes tension in your back muscles and puts your spine out of alignment. This can lead to many health issues.
Specifically, poor posture can result in Upper Crossed Syndrome and Lower Crossed Syndrome. These are very common dysfunctions and result in poor movement biomechanics and often pain. Having these postural syndromes also makes proper form difficult in the gym.
Upper Crossed Syndrome is commonly recognized through forward head carriage and rounded shoulders. This is caused by facilitated/short/tight pectorals, upper trapezius, levator scapulae, latissimus dorsi, scalenes, sternocleidomastoids. In other words, tight and overused chest, upper back, and neck muscles. The inhibited/long/weak muscles would then be the middle and lower trapezius, rhomboids, serratus anterior, and the rotator cuff complex. In order to improve the muscle pattern, the tight muscles need to be stretched and mobilized, and the weak muscles need to be strengthened.
Lower Crossed Syndrome can been noticed with an anterior pelvic tilt and lumbar lordosis (large curve in the spine). Often, this is due to facilitated/short/tight quadratus lumborum, spinal erectors, psoas/iliacus (ilopsoas), rectus femoris, piriformis, TFL/IT band, hamstrings, short hip adductors, soleus,and tibialis posterior (hips, quads, hamstrings, calves, back). The inhibited/long/weak muscles are the recutus abdominus, obliques, gluteus minimus/medius/maximus, vastus lateralis and medialis, tibialis anterior, and peroneals (abs, glutes). Again, the tight muscles need to be stretched and mobilized through stretches and foam rolling, and the weak muscles need to be strengthened through exercises.
Here are some general suggestions to help improve your posture:
- Sit and stand tall all throughout your day. Your shoulders should be back, and your head should be in line with your spine.
- When you workout, always do at least two back exercises for every chest exercise. Some people may need to do even more back exercises in comparison to chest exercises. Strong back muscles help pull the shoulders back so that they are not rounded forward.
- Do rows, any type. To ensure you start off with proper form, first elevate, retract, and then depress your shoulders.
- Stretch your chest out.
Contraindicated Exercises for Upper/Lower Crossed Syndrome (Do Not Do):
- Overhead Pressing
- Bench Presses
- Upright Rows
- Loaded Squats (until you can squat without weights properly)
Stretches/Mobilization for Upper Crossed Syndrome:
- Upper Trapezius Stretch
- Pectoralis Major Stretch
- Pectoralis Minor Stretch
- Latissimus Dorsi Stretch
- Levator Scapulae
- Latissimus Dorsi Foam Rolling
- Spine Foam Rolling
- Chest Rolling with Ball
- Shoulder Traction with Band
Strengthening for Upper Crossed Syndrome:
Stretches/Mobilization for Lower Crossed Syndrome:
- Hip Flexor Stretch
- Quadratus Lumborum Stretch
- Hip Adductor Stretch
- Glutes Stretch
- Cat/Camel Stretch
- Hip Flexor Foam Roller Mobilization
- Quad Foam Roller Mobilization
- IT Band Foam Roller Mobilization
- Calf Mobilization with Ball
- Glutes Mobilization with Ball
Strengthening for Lower Crossed Syndrome:
Other Excellent Resources: