Is Your Workout Ruining Your Posture?
Gym-goers have fallen in love with all the wrong exercises. Particularly if you work a desk job, the three worst exercises you can do are bench presses, arm curls, and stationary cycling. You might be thinking, "But that's my whole workout."
Working all day in a seated position results in short hip flexors, short pecs, and short biceps. This is due to the posture adopted while seated with your hips flexed, arms bent, and shoulders forward. And it's also why Americans suffer from so much neck and back pain.
If you go to the gym, your objective should be to reverse the effects of hours of seated posture not magnify it. Instead, most people go to the gym and magnify the problem. Bench presses further shorten pecs, curls reinforce the flexed arm position, and 30 minutes on the bike further shortens the hip flexors.
How to Fix It
- Do more exercises that strengthen the muscles that keep your shoulders back, not the ones that pull them forward. More rowing-type exercises, fewer pressing movements.
- Stretch your hip flexors.
- Make sure that all your arm work is done through the full range of motion to not reinforce adaptive shortening.
The Take-Home Message
One of the goals of any exercise program should be to reverse the effects of aging. The forward head and rounded shoulders that come with aging are not an accident. They are the result of the way we live and work. But the truth is most people are not going to stop bench pressing, curling, or riding a stationary bike.
With this in mind, make sure you do one set of rows for every set of bench press, close-grip bench press, or incline press that you do. Get off the bike and start running instead, or stretch your hip flexors when you finish your ride. The real key is understanding that the muscles you can't see in the mirror (the ones in the back) are the ones responsible for making sure that you don't end up looking like grandma or grandpa.
Michael Boyle is one of the world’s leading experts in the area of performance enhancement and the owner of StrengthCoach.com. He is also the author of Functional Training for Sports.