As a personal fitness trainer, I am responsible for everyone’s posture. Whether the person comes to me trying to fix it or not, I know it needs to be fixed when it is bad. Here are some of my trade secrets on how to go from hunched over to standing tall.
Observation – A Special Skill of Any Personal Fitness Trainer
Most of my job is observation.
Every body is different. Everyone takes direction differently. If I see a problem with someone’s posture, I don’t outright say it. I may bring it up as an option of things to work on: “Are you interested in improving endurance, strength, posture…?”
If the person is receptive to an evaluation of their posture, I’ll show them an objective test where they stand against the wall and put their heels, hips, upper back and head all against the wall. I tell them that they are now in the correct position. If they feel completely awkward, then we have something to talk about.
If they say that they feel weird, I take a picture of them with their phone (both up against the wall and standing normally) and show them the difference. We are now in an objective discussion about it and I let them evaluate the differences in how they feel and look. I tell them that I can get them to the correct position and have that feel normal.
End of sales pitch. And no argument.
You have to be able to observe whether their posture is off in the cervical spine, thoracic spine or lumbar spine or all of them. You also have to observe how the person will take your evaluation.
And you’ve got to be right about it all. No pressure.
The Usual Case
Most people are off slightly on every part of their spine. It is like we are all curled forward in the fetal position. Sitting kills the curve in the lower back, texting and typing kills the upper back and neck.
I always make it real to the person that something is off by having them stand up straight against the wall. It is best if you film their reaction. The more of these little things you collect at first, the more you’ll have to show for the progress made.
From Hunched Over to Tall and Proud
Drill in proper deadlift form with fury using a PVC pipe. People may feel like their back is going to break. Don’t worry, it is just those tiny little muscles getting to work for the first time in god knows how long.
For the lower back, I’ll have them lie on their backs with a towel rolled up and stuffed under their lumbar spine. If they can take it, I’ll have a foam roller there instead.
Upper back is handled through deadlifts, but also through making sure that every movement is done with a neutral spine. Tons of opportunities on to drill this in: when you’re doing upright rows, biceps curls, shoulder press, etc.
This is the key time to get them into that neutral position – you know, the same one as when they were up against a wall and felt really weird. You do that often enough and they will just stay there.
And the fitness trainer is now their favorite person. We would self-correct our posture but it is hard to constantly get a side view and feedback when get are a bit off.
How Much Effort Is Needed To Correct Posture?
Not much, actually. Just training basic exercises with proper form forces in good posture. And you walk out of the gym standing tall.
I’ve “secretly” fixed my clients’ posture without them knowing. I saw that I had a person who didn’t want to hear about how bad his posture was, so I did it on the sly. I didn’t tell him what we were doing, I just told him “This is a deadlift. You are learning how to properly pick up a heavy load from the ground. This is what we need to do…”
Fitness trainers fix all sorts of things with people that go unnoticed. Testosterone levels, HGH, flexibility, strength, endurance, and all sorts of relieved pains get improved, but unnoticed. So if you fix their posture and the client doesn’t notice it, don’t worry. The people they interact with will notice it and compliment them.
That means you’re doing your job.
Why Posture Goes Wrong in the First Place
Aside from sitting, typing and texting, we tend to sleep in the fetal position. This is when you are curled up on your side.
All of that time spent leaning forward shortens the abdominal muscles and surrounding connective tissue. Then when you go to stand up, you’re not just fighting against gravity, you’re fighting against your own muscles on the opposite side of your spine.
So you can make a fair amount of progress in posture just by stretching the tight side.
Also, short people have it better than tall people, actually. They have to look up and stand up tall. A tall person has to look all the way down there to the ground otherwise he’ll step on one of the short people. If a tall person sits straight at a table with other shorter people, he’s looking down his nose at them. So he slouches.
Kids have heavy backpacks and lean forwards to balance themselves. I even had one client who said it was “cool” and “fashionable” to look straight at the ground when he walked around at school with his backpack on. That took a lot of work to fix.
I have had multiple women tell me that they slouch because they don’t want to stick their boobs out to the world and be seen as a whore. So they totally change their posture into something gross.
Every person has their own reason. Talk about it and it will help the person realize what went wrong. It is much easier to fix when you see the point at which it went off the rails.
Posture says a lot about a person.
People judge you based on your posture alone. Look at it backwards: If you were sickly and weak, you’d be slumped over with bad posture. On the other side of the coin, you’d be seen as strong and healthy if you stand up tall and make it look effortless.
It is a worthy goal to fix your own posture and, if you’re a personal trainer, the posture of your clients.
In fact, I don’t know if people would have respected me if I were a slumped over fitness trainer. The deadlift changed how I carried myself.
Take the simple test. Stand up against a wall with your heels, butt, upper back and head touching the wall. If that feels normal to you and you can step away and easily keep the position, you’re good.
If you are up against the wall and feel all sorts of tensions and things stretching, you need some work.
Find a fitness professional to work out a program for you.