Yeah I sucked you in with that title, didn’t I! Why stand like a superhero? So that the body’s mechanics can work optimally, without the need to compensate. Compensation means that one muscle isn’t doing it’s job properly and makes all it’s surrounding muscles pick up the slack. Much like a lazy colleague not pulling their weight, the surrounding guys get overworked and unhappy, and will sometimes just go on strike in the form of tension, pain and injury.
Okay now that the serious stuff is out of the way, let’s talk what REALLY motivates us so much of the time: appearance. No one wants to admit it, but we are judgemental creatures. We see a person sitting alone, slumped over, doing whatever resting (bitch) face they do… and we might assume they’re sad, lonely, weak. Switch to another person with their chest puffed out, head held high and smiling/laughing – one might assume they’re happy, confident and perhaps even a little cocky.
Now I’m going to assume that if we’re not actively thinking about it, most of us tend to fall into the first category, not the second (especially considering you’re all lovely and not at all cocky). With all the time we spend sitting at desks, in the car, on the couch, not to mention poking our necks forward to check our phones, we end up slumped and slouched, with rounded shoulders and overall terrible posture. Even if we start with good intentions, by the end of the day, gravity is trying it’s hardest to pull us into a little foetal position and slowly but surely crush us.
This is where we fight back, superman style! In a study by Amy Cuddy of Harvard University, researchers found that holding a ‘high power’ posture for two minutes increased testosterone by 20% and decreased cortisol levels by 25%. Think increased confidence, decreased stress.
Image by James Clear
Image by James Clear
Try standing with your hands on hips, chest out for a minute and see how you feel! It will at least make you appear more confident and command more respect – even if your body is faking it until your mind makes it! Standing up tall can help us to appear slimmer (stretch the rolls and wrinkles out! :P) which is why you see fitness models contorting themselves into different poses. They angle their bodies in certain ways towards the judges to optimally show off their great bits and simultaneously downplay any not so great bits.
Yep that’s me with the green bikini and orange skin..
Unfortunately it’s just not viable to go around angling ourselves in weird ways to the people around us if we’re not on stage, so here are some key things to alter your appearance in about 5 seconds flat:
● Squeeze your butt cheeks, imagining your ‘tail’ going between your legs
● Pull your belly button in towards your spine, lifting the front of your pelvis up
● Imagine a string pulling you up by the crown of your head
● Lightly squeeze your shoulder blades gently back and down
As for a longer term fix, we need to fight that tendency to go into the foetal position by strengthening everything on the back of our bodies and stretching out the front of the body.
|Rhomboids (between shoulder blades)||Pectorals (chest)|
|Latissimus dorsi (outside edge of back, down from the armpit)||Hip flexors (muscles at the front of the hip)|
|Glutes (butt cheeks)||Trapezius (neck/shoulder area)|
Due to lifestyle factors (sitting at work/home/driving), many of us develop an anterior pelvic tilt (APT). APT is a fancy way of saying your pelvis is tipping forwards, leaving your lower back and hip flexors tight. Conversely, your glutes get stretched out and decide they don’t want to work anymore because ‘don’t worry, lower back’s got it!’ (such a lazy colleague!). So we need to strengthen those glutes and abs to help counter the APT, and also strengthen the back muscles to help keep the shoulders back and chest forward.
In your exercise routine, try doing two ‘pulling’ exercises (rows, lat pull down, anything where you are pulling the resistance to you, or yourself to the resistance) to every ‘push’ exercise (bench press, push-ups, shoulder press, anything pushing the weight away from you). We want to get posture and alignment perfect before you add too much resistance or weight, so start light and really focus on squeezing those posterior muscles instead of just smashing out reps as heavy as you can.
Confused? A good personal trainer will be able to help you with a personalised program! Until you get around to that (because I get how crazy life can be – heck I’m proud you’re still reading!), you can start the process with a few of these exercises!
|Deadlifts||Imprinting Spine||Seated Row|
|Glute Bridges||Table top breathing||Lat pull down|
|Step ups||Table top crunches||Bench supported row|