Since the average American sits about 13 hours a day, it’s typical of the 9-by-5 desk jockey to have a back like a question mark punctuated by a concave chest and rounded shoulders. Such habitually bad posture can actually change the length of your muscles.
“The muscles in the front of your body tend to be shortened and the muscles and tissues in the back tend to be longer,” says C. Shante Cofield, DPT and founder of TheMovementMaestro.com. This is especially true of the upper body, which is the main culprit in everyday slouch-a-thon. Strengthening the upper part of your posterior chain – the erector spinae, latissimus dorsi, deltoids, trapezius, rhomboids, and levator shoulder blades – can help you smooth out, correct imbalances, and improve performance.
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“Better alignment means a better ratio of length to tension in the muscles on either side of the joint, which means you can generate more force,” says Cofield. More strength means lifting heavier weights, developing faster, and overall calorie consumption increases. It also improves your posture, making it easier to maintain what Cofield calls a “confident position”: shoulders back, chest up, and ears in line with your shoulders.
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Proper posture will elongate you and make your stomach look flatter and your waistline appear trimmer. Ready to stand tall? Use these movements for perfect posture in and out of the gym.
Why: Strengthens all of your back muscles and posterior delts, helping you flatten from your head to your hips.
Performance advantage: Helps you lift the bar off the ground faster and more efficiently during movements such as snapping and cleaning.
How: Hold the pull-up bar with your hands a little wider than shoulder width apart. Pull your shoulder blades together, then move your elbows down and back to pull your chin up toward the bar. Take a short break, then slowly lower yourself down to start.
Seat cable row
Why: Isolates the upper back and counteracts a rounded thoracic spine.
Performance advantage: Strengthens the muscles that clean a barbell from the floor to the shoulders, which means you can get under the bar much faster.
How: Sit in the machine with your knees slightly bent and hold a V-grip with your arms outstretched. Keeping your torso upright (don’t lean back), pull your elbows back and squeeze your shoulder blades together to bring the grip toward your stomach. Slowly return to the start.
Banded Pull Apart
Why: Trains shoulder blade retraction, chest opening and lifting.
Performance advantage: Promotes a straight posture, which is essential for proper deadlift form.
How: Grasp a light resistance band with your palms facing down and hold it at chest level with your hands shoulder width apart. Keeping your arms straight, pull your shoulder blades back and open your arms to your sides, pulling the band as far apart as possible. Take a short break, then slowly return to the start.
Why: Strengthens the spine of the erector and puts a protruding chin (caused by overstretched muscles in the neck) back into position.
Performance advantages: Strengthens the muscles that help maintain and stabilize a front rack position for squats and engines.
How: Lie on your back with your arms down and place the back of your hands on your glutes. Lift your head and shoulders off the floor and keep them raised as you bring your arms forward parallel to the floor. When they come over your head, turn your palms down and touch your thumbs together. Return to the start to complete a replay.
Foam roller angel
Why: Stretches tight chest muscles and promotes a neutral spine, which counteracts the question mark pose.
Performance advantages: Properly position your shoulders to ensure the correct set-up position for large barbell lifts and presses.
How: Lie lengthways under your spine, neck and head up with a foam roller. Extend your arms to your sides, palms up, and let your shoulders and chest open. Slowly move your arms up in a “snow angel” motion from your hips and then back to the starting position.