Hi guys,  Kris from Custom Fitness here, your personal trainer in Amarillo. Do you know how to keep your posture in check?  I know when you have a full day of being on your feet, trying to stand up straight, the first thing you do when you go home is try and slouch into a comfortable seating position. Slouching will throw our backs, hips, necks, you name it, out of whack.  Today we are looking at that posture and what you can do to keep from causing funny aches and pains by strengthening your posture.  If you have any questions about today’s blog or you’d like to learn more about how posture affects your daily life, give us a call: 806-322-3188.

Fun fact, a lot of people carry more weight in one leg than the other. You’ll notice your hips will shift to the heavier leg if this pertains to you. Your body is doing this to keep you balanced. If you shift too far towards the heavier leg, you’ll end up on the ground. Instead, when you go too far in that direction your body will try and shift the opposite way. Say you carry more weight in your left leg.  To counter this, your hips will sway to the right, your ribs will shift to the left, your shoulders will slide to the right and your neck is somewhere in between. You have just created a Z with your body (the YMCA song always needed a Z person, right?). All in the name of keeping you upright.  Your goal is to have better posture to be able to stand and feel great simultaneously.

When I work with my clients I take a before photo of them.  With women, I notice that most will have one trapezius muscle (between the top of the shoulder and the neck) that is really short (bulk) and the other is long (narrower).  It is a muscular difference from women carrying their purses on the same side regularly (the short side). I encourage you to try carrying it on the other side. At first it will feel really odd. You may feel really off balance, but please don’t fall down.  Notice how that changes how you walk. Your body is in the habit of getting into your regular Z shape when you grab your purse. Now you are challenging it with flipping that shape in the opposite direction. That’s something to consider.

Some people who experience neck pain will start to “stretch” it out by pulling on their heads to one side. Your neck doesn’t actually need that. Try and reset your spinal curve instead. Look straight ahead, pull your jaw/chin backward as far as it will go, and pretend the back of your head is up against a wall. Try and get the bottom of your skull flat with that wall. You will feel a nice deep stretch along the backside of the neck giving the vertebra some extra space.  If you need to use a wall to feel that lengthening sensation, go for it. Alternatively you can allow your head to hang off the side of your bed for 30-40 seconds. When you are ready to come back up, support your head with your hand or roll to your side and push off the bed with your hand.

The ache of the week seems to be an upper back and shoulder issue. I will demonstrate some exercises to help that. As you strengthen you back, hopefully it will pull those shoulders down allowing the neck to relax. Your neck is mostly a subconscious pain.  When you get stressed, your shoulder tighten and a lot of your stress goes to cramping the space in the spine of the neck.  Let me show you some things to help.

You can use weights for this. I don’t have any with me at the moment, but to start off with grab some appropriate dumbbells for your level. Begin with an engaged core then hinge forward from your hips to a 45 degree angle. You are not be going parallel to the ground. Your goal is to be at a level where our spine is extending towards the wall-ceiling joint in front of us. Bring your weights down in front of you. Set your shoulder blades back, you’ll feel a nice sensation at the bottom of the blade on both sides. Take your dumbbells and in a controlled motion pull them back towards your ribs and back in front of you. You are trying to see how close you can squeeze your shoulder blades together.  When you come back, maintain your active core. You’ll notice when you bring your weights back they are not going directly down to the floor. They are instead hanging at the same angle that your body is at; keeping everything in alignment.

Next exercise begin with your feet hip-width apart. Hold a barbell in each of your hands in front of your thighs. Lift the weights above your head, extending your arms out into a Y shape at the top. Keeping your core nice and tight. That Y movement will activate a few more of the smaller postural muscles around the shoulder blades and down the spine. Strengthening these will help the body stabilize itself and strengthen the back.

Being a personal trainer in Amarillo for almost two decades, I am always on the lookout for good posture exercises. One that gets overlooked often is ways to stretch the chest.  Our posture regularly gets thrown off because our chest is too tight meaning our back is too weak. We don’t think about the muscles in our chest as part of our posture, but it is. Think about it. All day long you are typing in front of a computer with your shoulders pulled forward, or you are putting groceries in the car. We never extend the muscles of our chest. We are always bringing everything inward and hunching over our chests.

If you are fitness enthusiast and you are doing a ton of planks or pushups, you too using a lot of chest muscles. If we don’t balance the chest with the back exercises we are going to be in a world of hurt.

To stretch the chest, take your arm and bend it at the elbow to a 90 degree angle where the hand is pointing upward. Place it in the jam of a door, take a slight step forward and feel your chest open. Don’t twist away from the door. Keep your shoulder parallel to the wall in front of you. If you’d like to increase the stretch you can move your elbow upward along the door jam pausing for 20-30 seconds to really feel the chest extend. Do both sides, don’t forget!

Working on your posture will enhance your energy and overall health. When your posture is off your energy will get stuck in your system. I hope that helped. If we can be of help to you, give us a call: 806-322-3188 or e-mail us at  info@customfitness.biz. We are a private personal training studio that customizes nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle modification to meet your needs coming from where you are starting at rather than giving you something that is too much too fast. At Custom Fitness we are YOUR personal trainer in Amarillo, Texas. Have a great week, we’ll talk soon.