Posture isn’t a big deal until it is.

There are a ton of experts much more knowledgeable than me who will tell you poor posture is NOT a big deal and they’re right. But improving your posture or keeping up good posture is one of those low-hanging fruit things that will keep up good health and make it less likely you’ll hurt yourself doing something silly.

Like with most things, there is plenty of middle ground and that’s where I’m going to spend some time. So, sit up straight and pay attention if you would like better posture, stronger lifts, and a more resilient body.

But first a word from our sponsor….I mean me.

My Deal With Posture

Being a tall lanky kid, I was embarrassed by my height because it meant I stood out from the crowd. And most kids don’t want to stand out, they want to blend in, and I was no different. This is why I spent most of my childhood and early adulthood with rounded shoulders and a forward head posture.

Because of this, I have a permanent concave chest where my chest should be, and my ribcage is all out of whack. When I started lifting with this posture, it played a role in my chronic shoulder pain and herniating three disks in my lower back. This is something I’ll live with for the rest of my life.

Now there will be people that argue my posture had nothing to do with anything I explained above. And they might be right, this might have happened without my poor posture. But the other side of the coin, my posture didn’t do me any favors. This is why improving and keeping up good posture is an important part of my and my clients’ training.

Here I’ll go into what posture is, common postural deviations, what poor posture can cause,  the benefits of training it, and strength exercises you can put into your training to improve posture and be strong.

But What Is Good Posture?

Note- There are many definitions, this is just one. 

Good posture involves your body’s ability to stand, walk, sit, and lie as to place the least strain on muscles and ligaments while you’re moving or performing weight-bearing activities. But your posture is position-dependent.

The posture of a soldier and one of a boxer are different. Your body will adapt and compensate for this position overtime to make it easier on yourself. This is a major reason why there is a poor link between posture and chronic pain.

But if you cannot get back to anatomical position, you probably have a postural deviation.

Common Postural Deviations

Note- There is some crossover here

Forward Head & Rounded Shoulders

This is also known as text neck or ihunch. When your head moves forward, your center of gravity shifts, and to compensate for this, your upper body drifts backward too. And to compensate for this upper body shift, your hips tilt forward. 

Sway Back

We all have a natural inward curve in the lower back. With swayback, this curvature is exaggerated. The pelvis tilts forward, weakening your hip flexors and tightening your hamstrings.

This is common among pregnant women, and people who carry most of their weight on their front. But this tendency can also be caused by work and habitual conditions.

Upper Crossed Syndrome

The upper crossed syndrome is a result of posterior muscles of the neck and shoulders, becoming overactive and strained like text neck. Plus, the muscles in the chest become shortened and tight. (rounded shoulders). This causes weak muscles in the front of the neck and the upper back. None of this is good.

Lower Crossed Syndrome

The lower crossed syndrome is characterized by overly-tight hip flexors and superficial muscles of the lower back combined with weak glutes and abdominals. Hip flexors get tight due to spending time seated with the thighs flexed at the hip. This causes the hip flexors to shorten and tighten.

Then superficial muscles of the lower back get tight because we spend so much time working down in front of ourselves. Last but not the least, the glutes become weakened and stretched as a net result of the above. And none of this is great.

How Poor Posture Can Affect Health

The fact that it doesn’t look great, there are a few health side effects from having a less-than-ideal posture.

Posture Alters Breathing

There are several muscles responsible for breathing, but the main ones are the diaphragm and the intercostals (muscles between the ribs).  A person who has less than ideal posture won’t be able to optimally use the diaphragm. Instead of using the diaphragm, the body will compensate with accessory muscles like the pec minors, the upper traps, and neck muscles for respiration.

This is not great and here is the reason why.

.A study from the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation tested to see how different sitting and standing postures affected lung capacity and expiratory flow.

They tested the participants in four different postures: standing, slumped, “normal,” and neutral with added lower back support. Not surprisingly, the slumped group demonstrated significantly lower breathing function than the other three groups (2).

Posture May Cause Headaches

This study from 2006 found a correlation between forward head posture and tension headaches. Participants who had forward head posture were more likely to suffer from chronic tension-type headaches than did the people whose heads were closer to their center of mass (1).

Poor Posture Affects Digestion.

When someone has a forward head posture the esophagus is pushed forward, making the food’s journey to the stomach a little more difficult.

The vagus nerve (located just behind the jaw on either side of your body)  and your digestive system walk hand in hand. Forward head posture may affect the function of the vagus nerve, which may result in difficulty swallowing or acid reflux. Plus, the position of your torso compresses your internal organs, slowing down the entire digestive process.

Posture Influences Your Self-esteem

Let’s face facts the mind and body are closely linked and not two separate things. Your body influences your mind and vice-versa. Some research has shown your posture can either positively or negatively influence your mood and self-esteem depending on your standing posture.

One study showed people who stood in a “confident” posture by pushing their chest out and standing upright actually felt more confident than they did when they stood in a “doubtful” slouched posture (3).

Benefits of Posture Strength Training

This isn’t like rehab or going to physical therapy. These exercises here will improve your strength and posture without the need for your mother yelling at you to stand up straight. Here are three important benefits that come from posture strength training.

Stronger Lifts

By training the muscles you need to strengthen for your posture, you’ll be mainly training your upper back and core. While training these muscle groups to be stronger and more stable, you’re helping to ensure a carryover effect into your big lifts.

Reduced Back Pain

As previously mentioned, the link between posture and pain is weak. But by incorporating exercises to improve posture and strength your lower back will be kinder to you, and you may suffer from less pain.

Better Mobility

When your joints are in a better position and the muscles around them are not shortened or weakened, you’re more likely to have better movement and mobility. This can also help decrease stiffness and potentially pain when you’re lifting or going about activities of daily living.

My Favorite Posture Strength Exercises

There are many exercises that will improve your strength and posture at the same time. The following are some of my favorites that are simple to do while giving you more bang for your posture buck.

Kettlebell Rack Walk

Kettlebells are not just for swinging because holding the bells in the rack position correctly takes a fair amount of upper back and anterior core strength. This will only help to improve your posture, strength, and conditioning. Walking with the kettlebells racked only adds to the excitement.

Suitcase Carries

 We can favor one side over the other when we carry bags over our shoulders or stuff in our hands. This may result in tilting our body over to one side to overcompensate and over time this may cause problems. Carrying a dumbbell/kettlebell unilaterally will help iron those strength imbalances between your oblique muscles, grip strength, and help you stand up straighter and breathe better.

 Pullover With Deadbug

Flexing your arms behind you while extending your legs in front of you puts a high demand on your core and upper back muscles. And because you’re on the floor, you’ll receive feedback on whether you’re doing this correctly.  The pullover with deadbug will counter lumbar extension (when reaching overhead) plus help stretch the lats while preventing the rounded-shoulder look.

 TRX Rows

The beauty of the TRX is you can increase or decrease the intensity simply by adjusting the foot position closer or further away from the anchor point. This directly trains the upper back muscles that a so important for better shoulder position and health.  

Eccentric Effort KB/DB Romanian Deadlifts

 Getting engagement and tension back into postural lengthened muscles of the shoulders, upper back will improve and move these muscles back into a better position. The Romanian deadlift can aid in this postural alignment greatly.

Half Kneeling Single Arm Cable Row

This exercise addresses two key components of posture and that is hip and shoulder position. By starting in a half-kneeling position, you’re able to put yourself in a stacked hip-rib cage-shoulder position, which creates a better position at the hips. By doing the row you are forced to lock in that hip position while strengthening the muscles of the upper back and shoulder.

 Band Tall Kneeling Pull-Apart

Changing your body position by getting in the tall kneeling position, trains your core and hip stability while training your upper back and shoulder muscles. This is all fantastic for better posture. Upper back endurance and strength control the position of your head. Plus, a Tall kneeling position gives you instant feedback on your posture when you’re performing the pull apart


The TRX Y is a great exercise for correcting poor posture, rounded shoulder look, and for strengthening the muscles surrounding the shoulder, particularly the upper back which is a problem with rounded shoulders.  The beauty of the TRX is you’ll adjust the intensity by changing your foot position, making it accessible from the beginner to advanced exerciser.

Goblet Squats

Your glutes are what keep you upright and walking and need some love and attention. The problem with squatting when posture is an issue is hip mobility and keeping the spine in neutral. The goblet squat helps this by loading your body anteriorly, engaging the upper back, and making it easier to get into a better squat position. It could be the only squat you will ever need.

A Sample Strength Program

This is an A + B program performed three times per week. Alternate between the A and B program for four to six weeks. Start at the lower end of the rep range and then go up to the higher end when you get stronger. Then go up in weight and start at the lower end again. Repeat as necessary.

These are supersets. Do 1A and 1B for the recommended sets before moving on to the next superset. If you have any questions about this program, contact me here.

Program A

1A. Goblet Squats 12-15 reps

1B. Suitcase carry 40 yards on each side (25-50% of your B.W)

2-3 supersets resting 1-2 min between them

2A. Half-Kneeling Cable Row 12-15 reps per side

2B. Hip Extension Variation 8-12 reps

2-3 supersets resting 1-2 min between them

3A. TRX Y 8-15 reps

3B. Bicep/Triceps Variation 12-15 reps

2-3 supersets resting 1-2 min between them

Program B

1A. Goblet Squats 6-8 reps

1B.Dumbbell Floor Press 8-15 reps

2-3 supersets resting 1-2 min between them

2A.Hip Extension Variation 8-12 reps

2B. Pullover Deadbug  6 reps on both sides

2-3 supersets resting 1-2 min between them

3A. Kettlebell Rack Walk 40 yards

3B. Tall Kneeling Pull Apart 12-15 reps

2-3 supersets resting 1-2 min between them


1.  Fernández-de-las-Peñas, C., Alonso-Blanco, C., Cuadrado, M. L., Gerwin, R. D., & Pareja, J. A. (2006). Trigger points in the suboccipital muscles and forward head posture in tension-type headache. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, 46( 3), 454-460.

2.   Lin, F., Parthasarathy, S., Taylor, S. J., Pucci, D., Hendrix, R. W., & Makhsous, M. (2006). Effect of different sitting postures on lung capacity, expiratory flow, and lumbar lordosis. Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation, 87 (4), 504-509.

3.  Peper, E., & Lin, I. M. (2012). Increase or decrease depression: How body postures influence your energy level. Biofeedback, 40 (3), 125-130.


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