I was embarrassed of my height  while I was growing up. As a result, I slouched over and had crappy posture. My mother and my teachers were always telling me to “sit up straight” but I never listened.

It’s easy to tune them out right?

However, this problem carried over into my adulthood.  Here I am, a personal trainer, teaching proper exercise technique and getting my clients in great shape, but I was missing a key ingredient, good posture.

Good posture being……..

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Are you good or evil?

Training with poor posture led to many physical therapy visits which entailed doing unmentionable things to stability balls, lifting pink dumbbells, breathing into balloons and getting wrapped up with resistance bands.

Oh, good times.

Don’t get me wrong; this was all beneficial, even though at times I wanted to do this. But what I longed for was to hold heavy weight in my hands and to get after it.

Now, we’ve all heard that as a society we sit too much and hunch over our computers and smart phones a ton.  In addition to that, some gym goers (not me of course) spend an inordinate amount time working on their mirror muscles like biceps curls in the squat rack.

Also, if you’re working in the strength and conditioning field or you’re a workout fiend, you’ve heard that you must pull (rows, chin up and lat pulldowns) two to three more times than you push.

This is advice almost all of us should still follow because every gym has a guy that skips leg or back day, and it’s not a pretty site.

In addition, skipping body parts for the sake of vanity is a recipe for injury. And some people will laugh behind your back at your ape-like appearance and those skinny calf muscles.

Nobody likes to be laughed at, except this guy.

hulk-3

However, before it gets to that pink dumbbell stage, or if you just want to improve your posture and get strong simultaneously , start inserting the following exercises into your routine.

They may be simple, but they’re not easy. However, your posture will benefit.

 1. OVERHEAD BARBELL CARRY

 

Thought I’d start off with the hardest exercise first. There are many forms of overhead carries, but this one scared the bejesus out of me the most.  One false step and the barbell, you and the floor become one.

Just a little fear in your training can be motivating experience.  Maybe this explains barbell squats on a stability ball?

Why it’s good for posture

Overhead carries work on strengthening the upper back muscles such as the Upper Trapezius and Rhomboids, essential for healthy shoulder function and to avoid looking like an ape. Your mid-section is also stabilizing like crazy to avoid you biting the floor.

A person can never have enough upper back and core strength, in my humble opinion.

Programming considerations

This is a taxing movement, so program these near the beginning of your training, just after your big strength movement for the day.

Pairing the overhead walk in a superset with an upper body movement works best.  For example:

1A. Bent over barbell row, chin up or bench press variations.

1B. Overhead barbell carry- 20 steps forward, then 20 steps back.

 

Form considerations

 Setting up in the squat rack is ideal but clean and pressing a barbell overhead works too.

Get a wider than shoulder width grip on the bar, get your biceps by your ears, keep your lower ribcage down and avoid hyperextending your low back.

Take small, slow deliberate steps. Trust me on that one J

 

2. SUITCASE CARRIES

 Suitcase carries (holding weight on one side of your body) have been popularized by strength guru Dan John, so if they’re good enough for Dan, they’re good enough for you and me.  Enough said.

 

Why it’s good for posture

A lot us favor one side over the other when we carry bags over our shoulders or stuff in our hands. This can result in tilting our body over to one side to overcompensate. Over time this may cause problems.

Carrying a heavy dumbbell/kettle bell unilaterally can help iron those strength imbalances between your oblique muscles and grip strength.

Did I mention that core strength is important for posture and lifting heavy weight from the floor? Now I have.

Programming considerations

 You’re only limited by your imagination on inserting suitcase carries into your programming. However, when you’re doing carries as part of your main training, pair them with a movement that doesn’t demand a lot of grip strength.

For example:

1A. Bench press variation

1B. Suitcase carry- heavy 20 steps one hand then 20 steps in the opposite hand.

 

Or:

1A. Squat or hip thrust

1B. Suitcase carry- heavy 20 steps one hand then 20 steps in the opposite hand.

 

 

They can also be used as a finisher after your main training. Try this short but brutal circuit:

1A. One-handed kettle bell swings – 10 reps

1B. Suit case carry (in the same hand 20 steps)

 

 

Swap hands and repeat on the other side. Do one round every minute on the minute. If one round takes you 40 seconds, rest 20 seconds before you start your next round.

Do five to ten rounds or until your grip gives out. Good times.

Form considerations

 The age old cues “shoulders down and back” or “chest up” work well here. Checking your form in a mirror will help if you having trouble knowing if you’re overcompensating or not.

 

3. PULLOVER WITH DEADBUG

Strange name, but a very effective exercise. This was first introduced to me by French strength coach extraordinaire Anthony Deximer, who paired this with overhead squats.

Let’s just say we weren’t best buddies afterwards.

 

Why it’s good for posture

 We’ve all seen those guys doing dumbbell pullovers, hoisting those huge dumbbells while excessively arching their low back combined with their lower ribs protruding.

Hello, back problems.

The pullover with deadbug will counter lumbar extension (when reaching overhead) plus help stretch the lats while preventing the dreaded rounded-shoulder look.

This also doubles as a killer core stability drill, essential for moving big weights safely.

Programming considerations

Pairing this exercise in a superset when neutral spine and core stability is essential. For example:

1A. Overhead, back, front or goblet squat.

1B. Pullover with deadbug – 12 reps (six on each leg)

 

 

Or if it’s chest and arms day, pairing this exercise with any bench or any over press variation works as well.  For example:

1A. Dumbbell bench press or Push press

1B. Pullover with deadbug – 12 reps (six on each leg)

 

 

These are just a couple of examples. I’ll leave it up to you to get creative with your pairings.

Form considerations

 Keeping your lower ribs down and avoiding lumbar hyperextension is the point of this exercise, so do both. Performing at a slow, controlled tempo will help.

Keep your chin tucked (or form a double chin) to help maintain a neutral spine. Breathe out as you lower weight and leg towards the floor and breathe in to your belly as you reverse the movement.

Wrapping up

These moves will help improve your posture and provide assistance to you in getting bigger, stronger and more awesome.

Together, we can make posture sexy again.

(I’m bringing posture back, the other boys don’t know how to act.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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