Your clients can aim to correct poor posture with an exercise regimen. Posture generally dictates the design of my training programs. It is absolutely crucial to train in perfect posture since the body adapts the posture you train in when performing similar movements outside of the gym. For instance, if your client rounds her back and pokes her head forward when performing an overhead press in the gym, guess what's going to happen when she tries to place that heavy dish on a high shelf? In the past, girls were told to practice walking while balancing a book on their heads. You can apply the same line of thinking to the gym by getting your female clients to balance a bean bag (you can easily make one by filling a sac with popcorn kernels and sewing it shut) on their heads while working out. This will force them to maintain an erect posture.
In order to influence the postural muscles with exercise, your clients should hold static (isometric) contractions. I recommend starting with five second holds in the contracted position and working up to 10 seconds over a period of time. Your clients should perform 10 to 12 repetitions per exercise and progress by adding one second to each repetition every week. When they can comfortably complete a set for a full two minutes (12 reps x 10 seconds per rep = 120 seconds), then it is time to make the exercise more difficult (i.e., add more weight where applicable, extend the arms or legs out further or move on to a different exercise). Stretches should be held for a minimum of 15 seconds. Clients should remember to breathe while stretching (you won't believe how many people forget to do this), and do not bounce or jerk! Here is a list of strengthening and stretching exercises for you and your clients to perform on a daily basis.
Figure 6 - Pelvic Tilts
Figure 7 - Prone Cobra
Figure 8 - Abdominal Vacuum
Figure 9 - Cervical Retraction
Figure 10 - Split Squat
Figure 11 - Split Squat 2
Figure 12 - Bent-Over Lateral Raise 1
Figure 13 - Bent-Over Lateral Raise 2
Figure 14 - Seated Arm External Rotation 1
Figure 15 - Seated Arm External Rotation 2
Figure 17 -Chest Stretch
Figure 18 - Wrist Stretch
Figure 19 - Calf Stretch
Figure 20 - Abdominal Stretch
Figure 21 - Hip Flexor Stretch
Figure 22 - Hamstring Stretch
Your clients don't need a high-powered vacuum cleaner and a small incision to look thin. By just improving their posture, your clients will instantly look thinner (of course, proper nutrition and exercise may help a little too!) Drawing the belly button in is a quick way to flatten your stomach and appear more thin. This is an exercise that can be practiced several times a day anywhere. When performing this exercise, keep your abdominals tight for as long as you can. Over time, you will be able to hold that contraction for longer periods of time. Some people even go so far as tying a string around their midsection (along the beltline) to aid awareness. However, there are some drawbacks to this. Drawing in the navel (and subsequently activating your internal girdle called the transversus abdominus) could make breathing/respiration difficult, especially if you are exercising where the need for oxygen is much higher. Also, in order to truly increase intra-abdominal pressure, you must take in a deep breath and hold it while bracing the abdominals. Along with a neutral spine, this is necessary when lifting heavy loads. For these reasons, I often recommend keeping the abdominals "tight" (neither pushed out nor pulled in) to promote good posture and to help protect the spine.
Here are some other tips to help you and your clients with improved posture:
Figure 23 - Exercise Equipment
- Setting your car's rear view mirror higher forces you to sit tall when driving. Also, pretend your shoulders are pinned to the seat.
- Alternate sides when carrying your luggage or briefcase. Use two strap bags when possible.
- Learn to use a headset or hand's free speaker when talking on the phone (again, alternate sides if this option is not available to you).
- Lay lengthwise on a foam noodle (the ones children use to float in the water) for 15 to 20 minutes a day to help reduce a hunchback posture.
- Sit on a Swiss Ball as often as possible (i.e., when watching TV, working on your computer, talking on the phone, etc.) to improve balance/stability and posture.
From left to right are the following:
- Rocker board
- Exercise mat
- Swiss ball
- Foam noodle
- Wobble board
- Aerobic step
We spend the majority of our lives seated. It has been postulated that up to 40 percent of our lives are spent sitting whether we are working, eating, driving, watching TV or on the toilet. Why not take advantage of this common position and use it to influence our bodies and health positively? Unfortunately, it is common in today's society to relax the trunk musculature and slouch when sitting. What people don't realize is that there is a strong association between neck posture and back posture. As soon as the head starts reaching forward even slightly, posture begins to collapse, leading to scapular protraction (rounded shoulders), faulty head and neck posture, improper trunk stabilization and improper respiration. If you experience back pain, neck pain or even carpal tunnel syndrome, you should seriously evaluate your workstation and sitting posture.
I propose that we all practice active sitting. Not only should we concentrate on our posture when seated, but we should also focus on activating our core musculature. Since most chairs today have a backrest, we tend to get lazy when we sit and let our bodies disintegrate into the chair (what I term "passive sitting"). Whereas, if we sit up straight and maintain a tight core, we can accomplish active sitting. As a matter of fact, I have most people sit on Swiss ball at work or at home. Since the Swiss ball has no backrest and is unstable, your core muscles are constantly active. Not only will the ball promote good posture, but it will also give your back and abdominals a great workout while you're working! The trick is to build up your tolerance on the ball. Sit on the ball for as long as you can and when you grow tired, you can return to your chair. As your endurance improves, you will be able to sit on the ball for longer periods of time. If your clients are unable to bring a large, inflated ball to their work environments, have them consider purchasing a product called a SitFit, which is an inflated disc that will fit over their seat and provide similar benefits. Let's promote optimal health and a great set of "abs" by practicing active sitting on a daily basis.
Note: Posture is important to parents as well. They should constantly observe their children and remind them to straighten up and sit tall when necessary. Most posture-related problems adults experience stem from early childhood. It has been suggested that little girls tend to stand with their tummies out because it is considered a "cute" posture. As mentioned earlier in this article, a forward tilt of the pelvis can lead to hip, knee and back problems. Also, since good posture is a sign of being well brought up, many kids rebel by slouching and taking a casual approach to posture. So, encourage your adult clients to enforce good posture in their children.
We know that smiling is a cue to openness and receptivity, but did you know that posture and body language can also describe a lot about you? Posture sends powerful psychological signals. The following list of postures and movements will give you an idea of what kind of message you are sending to others:
- Forward lean = attentiveness
- Drawing back or turning away = negative, refusing
- Expansion = proud, conceited, arrogant
- Forward leaning trunk, bowed head, drooping shoulders, and sunken chest = depressed, downcast, dejected
- Slumping = apology
- Standing on one leg = pushover
- Standing evenly on both legs = forcefulness
- Head tilt and shoulder shrug = shy, submissive
- Jittery movements = fear
- Looking away = insecurity, dishonesty
"I raised my body erect again as one should walk, though my thoughts remained bowed down and shrunken." - Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy, Canto XII10
There are many social ramifications associated with posture. Postures frequently express attitudes, feelings and moods. Body language influences many situations. Did you know that you stand a better chance of obtaining a new job if you display good posture during the interview? Proper posture commands power and respect. It exudes confidence and high self esteem. A study has actually found that good, confident posture is as important as body build when judging attractiveness. Posture plays such a crucial role to models and athletes as well and could be the difference between winning and losing. It's no secret that posture is associated with beauty and grace. So, don't just strive for good posture... strive for great posture!
In general, there is a relationship between posture and health, and your clients can instantly enhance their appearance, not just health, by improving their posture.
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