[Updated on 1 June 2020] If you have poor posture, chances are you already know, and one of the indicators could be external aching from several points in your body, including your shoulders that might have tipped you off. However, it is important to note that pains and aches aren’t the only things that bad posture can do to your body. The real problem is that it can weaken your muscles, exposing you to serious injuries.
Poor posture is caused by a host of things. If you are constantly stuck at your computer, your shoulders tend to hunch forward, and your back is forced to hunch forward hours at a time. In case you have other health complications like depression, stress and, inflammation can only make your problem worse. If you don’t stretch and exercise daily; this kind of discomfort will contribute to sleepless nights, waking up stiff, starting a whole cycle.
So, what is the best way to improve your posture and keep your back safe? Well, it involves strengthening all of these muscles: your core and entire upper body. This will include exercise such as core building golf swings, shoulder rolls, ‘angles’ that help ease up the tension in your upper back, building the muscles that keep your shoulders in the right position.
But since everyone is a little different, the best thing to do it to book an appointment with your physical therapist. They will be in a much better position to recommend exercises for specific problems you encounter.
What muscles help maintain your posture?
Table of Contents
It is important to note that having good posture is a combination of flexibility in your skeletal muscles, and balanced strength, which helps you stand and walk gracefully. The conscious activation of the postural muscles is very important, especially when standing or sitting for an extended period. Medical practitioners, advocate training your body to move in such a way that little strain is put on your supporting muscles when performing weight-bearing activities or during movement.
The average adult head weighs about 12 pounds. Your head needs to be carried over the spine in balance to prevent pain and discomfort in your spine and neck. Your prevertebral, sternomastoid, and scalenus muscles are what enables the head to be flexed when touching your chin to the chest.
A flat triangular shaped muscle, known as the trapezius, is what is responsible for anchoring your shoulder blades to your spine. The trapezius covers the entire section of the neck, thorax, and shoulders. For effective posture, this triangular shaped muscle needs to be equally strengthened at the front and back of your body. The most common imbalance of this particular muscle is normally overextended at the back, and too short or tight across the chest, forcing your shoulder blades to pop-out. This effect causes pain and discomfort.
The midsection on the back of an individual’s body has muscles that run laterally to the spine. These muscles are known as the erector spinal muscles. They are the longissimus, spinae, and iliocostalis, respectively. These muscles work together to extend your spine. The multifidus muscles, which is a smaller group of muscles located deep in the back, connect to your vertebra. The most recognizable muscles from the front of your body are the abdominal muscles. The long vertical muscle that runs the entire length of the abdomen is known as the rectus abdominis. The oblique muscles, on the other hand, stretch around the sides and front of your stomach like a corset.
Several multitasking muscles are located in this region; a few are postural. The Transverse abdominis is a flat, horizontal muscle that lies below the belly button. The iliacus and the psoas work synergistically with the abdominal muscles to support the lumbar back. The tail end of the postural support is the hamstring and gluteus muscles. They work indirectly to help you maintain an upright posture.
How do weak muscles lead to poor posture?
If you have been experiencing chronic neck and back pains, there’s a chance you might have poor posture, however, it’s hard to determine which condition came first. Nonetheless, you will often be advised to strengthen your postural muscles to reverse bad posture.
Types of muscles
Sometimes going to the gym might not help regain correct posture. One reason you might experience this is-you did not target the relevant muscles. These are the stability muscles. Most of the time, gym training focuses on power muscles and not stability muscles. It’s important to note that, muscle exercise alone will not reverse poor posture and postural awareness is a big part of your recovery.
Most people believe that muscles are just muscles, but in fact, they are divided into two basic types: smooth muscles, and striated muscles, which include postural muscles.
These are your skeletal muscles. They generally consist of your calf or bicep muscles. Your heart muscles are also classified as part of your striated muscles even though they are different from the other skeletal muscles.
Your smooth muscles, on the other hand, are involuntary muscles that naturally blend into other body tissues to form your intestines and bladder.
Is there are the difference between Smooth and Striated muscles?
The distinguishing factor between striated and smooth muscles is that striated muscles tend to weaken the further they are stretched out. Therefore, if a particular striated muscle is about 10 cm long, it will exert more force at both ends when it contracts than if the same muscle is stretched to 20 cm.
Smooth muscles, in contrast, do not lose strength when they get stretched out. This is a vital feature with a full bladder or stomach. Therefore, the skeletal muscle, a type of striated muscles, gets weak when it is stretched and stronger when it is shortened. For people with bad posture, what does this mean?
Well, what it means is that one of the key things to do to strengthen your weak postural muscles is to shorten the lengthened muscles and lengthen the shortened ones. This activity helps to strengthen your core postural muscles, releasing the overly strong muscles positively contributing to the reversal of poor posture.
Most times, sustaining good posture gets confused with how we think about muscle training programs. When it comes to building strong muscles, a lot of us get confused and think about making more repetitions, carrying heavier weights and repeating as required. This will generally work if we are talking about big power muscles like your thigh or bicep muscles. It is important to note that postural muscles have a higher percentage of Type I fibers. These types of fibers have not been designed for power but endurance.
Therefore, when it comes to the slow twitch fibers, the best workout would be to utilize the lower load threshold, making sure that you are holding it for longer periods at a given time. While this might sound like you are holding the right posture for an extended period, it will help reverse poor posture over time.
When your movement is laded with a heavy load, your Type II muscles take over. It is because of this reason that lower load exercises such as Yoga or Pilates are great for people with low back problems, compared to heavy lifting experienced in gyms.
Signs you have a weak core
It is important to note that your core muscles are the most important muscle group in your body. They generally occupy areas in your lower back, glutes, stomach, truck, and hips. Your core muscles are very important when it comes to lifting, twisting, bending, and reaching. Your normal life needs constant usage of the core muscles. While we often get distracted building showier muscles, a strong core is critical to good postural fitness. Most people have weak, inadequate cores, which directly leads to poor posture. The following are signs you have a weak core:
Your lower back and abdomen connect to hold your pelvis and spine into position. In the event, these muscles are weakened; the first noticeable sign is instability. Individuals experiencing this effect will only be able to stand for shorter periods. They will also tend to have a slouched, slumped posture that will, in effect, strain their muscles. Only individuals with a strong core can hold healthy postures for long periods. It is also important to note that lower back pain and poor posture are directly connected.
Lower back pain
Back pain is the most common cause of recurrent pain. The vertebrae discs of your spine will not be properly supported if you have weak spines around your spine. It’s important that your lower back has a forward curve to it. Having weak core muscles will make this position virtually impossible. This will ultimately lead to pain in the surrounding muscle tendons.
Your core muscles are responsible for the balance. Since poor balance is not noticeable, you might need to visit a facility and perform a test. You could also check your balance by standing on one foot with your eyes closed. Try one leg, and then the other. If you are unable to hold your position for at least ten seconds, then your balance is subpar, and this could be due to an underdeveloped core.
Having muscular weakness in any part of your body could be a sign of an inadequate core. Since your core provides the needed stability for most of your movement, having weak arms and legs may be a revelation of core weakness. Actions such as kicking, throwing punches all depend on your core muscles.
When you fail to pass the ‘hollowing’ test
This is one of the simplest methods you could use to check your core muscle strength. First, take a deep breath, as you begin to breathe back out, try pulling your stomach back towards your spine as far as you possibly can. Try holding this position for ten seconds. If you are unable to make it that far, then your core needs some work.
Failing to hold a plank
Planks are one of the most popular abdominal position. This exercise can also be done as a strength exercise for your muscles. Planks are done by getting into a push-up position. Make sure you are holding your body is such a position that your entire weight rests on your arms, elbows, and toes holding your hips steady into position. Try holding this position for as long as you can. In case you are unable to hold the plank position for more than 50 seconds before your hips eventually give out, you have a weak core.
Your core produces the power that drives most of your movement. Therefore, having a weak core will affect every movement you make, and improving your core will work to your benefit. Fortunately, there are several simple exercises that have been designed to strengthen your core muscles. In case your core needs improvement, it’s important that you start exercising.
Exercises to Strengthen Weak muscles for better posture
A basic remedy to poor posture caused by weak muscles is simply getting up. Frequently getting up from a slouched position and doing the following easy exercises could significantly help you revitalize your weak muscles as well as a hunched over posture.
First, try standing with your back against a flat wall. Make sure that your feet are four inches from the base. Maintain a slight bend on your knees. Your head, spine, and glutes need to be against the wall. Now, slowly bring your arms up with the elbow bent so that your upper arms are parallel to the floor and squeeze your shoulder blades together to form a letter “w.” Hold this position for 3 seconds.
The next step involves straightening your elbows to raise your arms to form the letter “Y.” Make sure not to shrug your shoulders to your ears. Repeat this position at least ten times, starting at “W” position, holding it for 3 seconds and raising your arms to form the “Y” Do at least two to three sets.
The Hip Flexor Move
With your hands placed on your left thigh, press your hips forward to the point your hip flexors feel a good stretch. Contract your abdominals slightly tilting your pelvis behind while your chin is parallel to the floor. In this position, contract your abdominals, ensuring that you slightly tilt your pelvis aligning your chin parallel to the floor. Maintain this position for about 30 seconds before switching to the other side.
The Doorway stretch
This workout is meant to help loosen tight chest muscles. Stand in your doorway, lifting your arm so that it is parallel to the floor. Bend your elbows so that your fingers are pointing the ceiling. Then, place your hand at the door jamb.
Now lean slowly into your raised arm pushing against the door jamb for about ten seconds. At this point, relax the pressure, pressing your arm against the door jamb again. Make sure that there is a slight lunge with your limbs, and your chest is moving forward past the door jamb for about ten seconds. Repeat this routine three times on each side.
The X Move
This workout is meant to help strengthen your upper back muscles. These are the ones that are in-between your shoulder blades. Sit on the floor, extend your legs forward. Using a resistance band, place it around the bottom of your feet and cross one side over the other to make a cross formation. Grasp the ends of the band with your arms making sure they are extended in front of you.
Now, pull the end of the bands towards your hips, making sure you bend your elbows so that they are pointing backward. Hold and slowly begin to turn. Perform around eight to twelve repetitions for three sets.
The Chin Tuck
This is perhaps one of the best workouts to reverse forward head posture by strengthening your neck and muscles. You can perform this exercise sited or standing. To effectively do this exercise, you will need to start with your shoulders rolled back and down. Facing straight ahead, place three fingers onto your chin. You will also need to tuck your chin, forcing your head to move backward. Maintain this position for about three to five seconds before releasing.
The more of a double chin you can make the better the outcome. In case you are doing this exercise in a stationary vehicle, try performing the chin tuck by pressing the back of your head to your car’s headrest for about five seconds. Do about 20 repetitions of this routine.
According to a Scandinavian study conducted in 2013, doing the V-Move two minutes a day, five times a week will decrease your shoulder and neck pain, significantly improving your posture. In an upright standing position, stagger your feet so that one is slightly behind the other. Grasp the handles, or the ends of the resistance band lifting your arms upwards and slightly outwards from your body. Make sure it is at 30 degrees. Make a slight bend in your elbows. Stop at the shoulder level; hold and return. For this exercise, it is important that you keep your back straight and your shoulder blades down. Repeat this routine for about two minutes, five days a week.