Stand up straight.
I see them all the time. Young women. Walking, jogging, sitting, talking on their phones. All of them slumped over, their shoulders dropped, their necks poking out like chickens. The other day, I was driving down the street and two women were crossing the street in front of me (presumably they had just finished running as they were decked out in the their Under Armour gear and were a little sweaty). I immediately yelled to myself in the car “Stand up!!!” Both were walking with rounded backs, head forward, arms swinging by their sides. These were women in their mid-twenties who already had developed slight humps. It’s not right. It’s not acceptable. And it doesn’t have to happen.
My husband once asked me why so many women stand, walk or sit this way. I really have no clue. But there may be a couple of reasons:
1. Some women slouch to hide either a well endowed chest or a small chest. Perhaps they are self conscious of their size and slouch to hide it.
2. Some women slouch because they are taller than their friends and standing this way makes them appear shorter. I certainly did this when I was in high school and I had my growth spurt. I was taller than all of my friends and it made me feel very self conscious.
3. Some women slouch because of low self esteem. They are not confident in themselves and slouching allows them to hide themselves more. People do not take notice of someone who is not standing tall.
4. Some women may slouch even if they are confident but in certain situations, they may feel that if they do stand tall, they will be taken for being TOO confident or TOO proud and thus ignored or talked about. Any way you look at it, standing tall is just something that some women cannot do, no matter what the reason.
I have spoken about this to many women and talked to them about why I think women slouch. Many have agreed with me on all points. Most importantly though, they have talked about their own struggles with their posture and how much improvement they have made now that they are stronger. They are much more aware of their posture and work to stand or sit better during the day. And I see it too, day in and day out at my gym. The women walk in one way and leave another way. They walk taller and more confidently. Many are reversing their years of roundness. My mother has scoliosis and had a frozen shoulder years back. She has been strength training regularly twice a week since last August and looks and feels considerably different than she did a year ago. She stands taller because she is stronger overall. She works hard in her training to watch her form with every exercise and concentrates on using her back for all exercises. My younger women are also concerned about how they stand and they focus very hard on what I am asking them to do. It is a struggle for some but they try and they work hard. I tell them it won’t happen overnight but it will happen if they are consistent and patient.
So what can you do today to start making improvements to your posture? Here are three exercises that I use with ALL of my clients (men and women). These are very easy to add to your existing program although they are far from “easy.” Many women and men find these exercises extremely challenging and would prefer to squat than do a wall slide. However, if done consistently, over time, they will make big improvements to your posture and allow you to work better. While there are many, many, many exercises out there, try adding just these three to your routine and you will soon find yourself standing taller.
Face Pulls and Band pull aparts: I paired these two because both exercises should be staples in everyone’s program. The face pull is a great exercise for working the low to middle trapezius and the external rotators of the shoulder. And both face pulls and band pull aparts improve shoulder function, posture, and strengthen the upper back, specifically the scapular muscles.
Here is a great video from Diesel Strength and Conditioning showing two different versions of face pulls.
Here is my video demonstration of band pull aparts:
Wall slides: So simple, yet so challenging to many of us. The wall slide will activate your low traps, rhomboid, and shoulder external rotators and stretch your pecs and internal rotators. Most of us will have a difficult time getting into the correct position. It is one of my clients’ most “hated” exercises.
Here is a video of Eric Cressey demonstrating wall slides.
Add these into your training TODAY. I really don’t want to see any more women walking around looking like Quasimodo.