Stand up straight.
I see them all the time. Young women. Walking, jogging, sitting, talking on their phones. All of them slumped over, their shoulders dropped, their necks poking out like chickens. The other day, I was driving down the street and two women were crossing the street in front of me (presumably they had just finished running as they were decked out in the their Under Armour gear and were a little sweaty). I immediately yelled to myself in the car “Stand up!!!” Both were walking with rounded backs, head forward, arms swinging by their sides. These were women in their mid-twenties who already had developed slight humps. It’s not right. It’s not acceptable. And it doesn’t have to happen.
My husband once asked me why so many women stand, walk or sit this way. I really have no clue. But there may be a couple of reasons:
1. Some women slouch to hide either a well endowed chest or a small chest. Perhaps they are self conscious of their size and slouch to hide it.
2. Some women slouch because they are taller than their friends and standing this way makes them appear shorter. I certainly did this when I was in high school and I had my growth spurt. I was taller than all of my friends and it made me feel very self conscious.
3. Some women slouch because of low self esteem. They are not confident in themselves and slouching allows them to hide themselves more. People do not take notice of someone who is not standing tall.
4. Some women may slouch even if they are confident but in certain situations, they may feel that if they do stand tall, they will be taken for being TOO confident or TOO proud and thus ignored or talked about. Any way you look at it, standing tall is just something that some women cannot do, no matter what the reason.
I have spoken about this to many women and talked to them about why I think women slouch. Many have agreed with me on all points. Most importantly though, they have talked about their own struggles with their posture and how much improvement they have made now that they are stronger. They are much more aware of their posture and work to stand or sit better during the day. And I see it too, day in and day out at my gym. The women walk in one way and leave another way. They walk taller and more confidently. Many are reversing their years of roundness. My mother has scoliosis and had a frozen shoulder years back. She has been strength training regularly twice a week since last August and looks and feels considerably different than she did a year ago. She stands taller because she is stronger overall. She works hard in her training to watch her form with every exercise and concentrates on using her back for all exercises. My younger women are also concerned about how they stand and they focus very hard on what I am asking them to do. It is a struggle for some but they try and they work hard. I tell them it won’t happen overnight but it will happen if they are consistent and patient.
So what can you do today to start making improvements to your posture? Here are three exercises that I use with ALL of my clients (men and women). These are very easy to add to your existing program although they are far from “easy.” Many women and men find these exercises extremely challenging and would prefer to squat than do a wall slide. However, if done consistently, over time, they will make big improvements to your posture and allow you to work better. While there are many, many, many exercises out there, try adding just these three to your routine and you will soon find yourself standing taller.
Face Pulls and Band pull aparts: I paired these two because both exercises should be staples in everyone’s program. The face pull is a great exercise for working the low to middle trapezius and the external rotators of the shoulder. And both face pulls and band pull aparts improve shoulder function, posture, and strengthen the upper back, specifically the scapular muscles.
Here is a great video from Diesel Strength and Conditioning showing two different versions of face pulls.
Here is my video demonstration of band pull aparts:
Wall slides: So simple, yet so challenging to many of us. The wall slide will activate your low traps, rhomboid, and shoulder external rotators and stretch your pecs and internal rotators. Most of us will have a difficult time getting into the correct position. It is one of my clients’ most “hated” exercises.
Here is a video of Eric Cressey demonstrating wall slides.
Add these into your training TODAY. Let me know how you do!
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Hello! My sister reposted your article on slouching and I read it. I have serious slouching problems and I’ve been looking for exercises to help improve my posture. So, thanks for sharing the videos. On another note, from the viewpoint of someone who has such terrible posture, this article comes across as fairly mean and condemning. I’m sure you don’t notice it because you don’t have the problem. We slouchers KNOW we slouch. I’m pretty sure many of us are trying to correct it. Being referred to as Quasimodo (even with a winky face) is degrading. ALSO, if so many women have confirmed that their poor posture stems from low self esteem, it seems even MORE necessary to tip-toe around the subject and be a little more sensitive. I’m sure that you have a genuine interest in helping, but (again, from the viewpoint of someone who has struggled with her posture for as long as I can remember) the article almost seems like the REAL reason is because you just don’t like to look at poor posture. I’m responding ONLY because I feel like if you change the wording i think you will be able to influence more people who struggle with this. I don’t know if my response was even coherent, but I hope that you are able to understand what I am trying to say. I am NOT trying to be mean at all, I just want you to see how the article can be interpreted by its intended audience.
Thanks again for the videos.
Thank you so much for your comment. No, you are not being mean at all and my comment at the end of my post was not supposed to insult anyone. However, I can understand if you felt upset by it and I apologize if it made you feel bad. I was not trying to be mean or condemn anyone who has poor posture. I believe, unfortunately, that our society has helped to create these issues. Cell phones, long days sitting at the computer, driving. But I also believe that we do not have to suffer. This is why I do not understand people’s aversion to strength training. This is the key to better posture, stronger bones and muscles and all around stronger bodies. I can clearly remember my father walking around bent over and asking my mother “who is this?” He was referring to my mom. “Do you wan to be a drink tray?” He would ask. Okay, perhaps this was not the nicest thing he could say but it resonated with me. As a dancer, I was taught to stand up straight. It is a part of me. My mother had never exercised in her life until about four years ago. She started with yoga and has been strength training with me for the past two years. Not only is she standing better, but she is stronger, she is more fit and she has lost weight. Strength training works. It does not take much to change how you look and feel.
I wrote the post out of frustration. Next time, I will be a little more careful with my choice of words. Thank you for pointing this out to me. I appreciate your honesty.