The First Sexy Posture Article
By: Geoff Girvitz
(This article was first posted on: www.t-nation.com)
I'm going to help you look good in the long-term by mixing together some
information on musculoskeletal health with a good dose of evolutionary
As a species we often take a shorthand approach to
processing information. Determining whether another person is attractive
relies upon highly-developed visual-perception circuits. These circuits
rapidly process a number of clues about a potential mate's status. They
run through a rapid-fire series of questions and answers. Young?
Strong? Fertile? Likely to win a knife fight? All of these form a Cliffs
Notes-style summary of their genes.
Yet, for as long as civilization has existed, we've been hacking this process.
emphasize, augment, or sometimes downright lie about the qualities that
other people may find attractive in us. We're not here to talk about
flashy cars or breast implants, though. And while we are going to talk
about health, it's not going to be as it directly pertains to muscle
mass or body fat. We're going to talk about an effect that will become
even more pronounced as you age.
You thought that this topic was going to be sexier, right? Well, it's going to make you sexier so stick around.
really takes posture into account other than schoolmarms and
specialists. However, if you want your post-retirement nickname to be
The Silver Fox instead of Old Droopy, you should be adding your name to
Posture is a significant indicator of youth, vitality
and mental state. And all of those things feed into the subconscious
list of attractive qualities that others seek. According to Professor
Geoffrey Miller, author of The Mating Mind and Spent, good posture can
increase apparent health and fitness in several ways:
increased height, which is especially attractive in males
increased youthfulness, as people tend to slump with age
increased energy level, as tired people slump
increased mental health, as depressed people slump
Studies have also shown improved posture to have an immediate effect on confidence.
horrible posture has not been a factor for most people until they're in
their autumn years. That is no longer the case. Posture is getting
worse (and this issue is becoming amplified by age).
I'll say it again: our posture is collectively going to shit.
friend, fitness hot-shot Alwyn Cosgrove, has used a wide method of
postural assessment tools over the past decade and, according to him,
"The movement quality we see in people walking in off the street now is
significantly worse than it was 10 years ago."
If you want a
quick idea of what posture looks like, sit yourself down in a café with a
lot of pedestrian traffic outside. Use anterior head carriage as your
go-to criterion (the middle of the ear should, in theory, be in-line
with the middle of the shoulder).
The first thing you should do
is narrow your gaze to everyone over the age of 50. Why? Because these
are people who have likely been stuck behind desks since childhood.
They've slumped just a little more every single day for the better part
of five decades. The result is that they show their age through the
degenerative changes to their spines. This is a fair baseline for
compromised posture. It's not inevitable, but it's very likely for
Now look at everyone between the ages of 20-25.
At least half of these people will probably have posture that's as bad
(or worse) than the first group.
People have been
stuck behind desks for as long as there have been desks. That's a
problem but it's not the real problem. A fella's gotta make a living,
The real problem is that after most people finish at
the office, they get up, walk over to the next computer and sit down
again. They no longer head off to chop wood, repair boats, or build
houses. Instead, they rush home to hit Facebook, hit the Xbox or watch
videos of guys getting kicked in the nuts.
Lifestyle isn't the
only factor here. We know that the amount of time schoolchildren spend
in front of computers has been on the rise ever since scientists figured
out how to squeeze a computer onto a desktop.
study from over a decade ago smartly linked the head angle of a wee one
looking up at a screen to musculoskeletal strain. What we can also
reasonably expect is that some of those habits – such as sitting with
your chin jammed forward (amplifying the stress on your cervical spine
dramatically) stick with us.
The human body wasn't designed to be
stuck in any one position for very long. When it is stuck in a position
for a long time, a number of adaptive changes take place that result in
However, you don't need to hear about the
myriad ways that poor posture will impact your athletic performance or
risk of injury. There's no shortage of information available on this
topic. What you should be aware of is that the slumped-over position
that facilitates high scores in World of Warcraft facilitates very
little scoring in the real world.
If you're interested in looking and performing better by improving your posture, here are some tips:
Control + Reset + Default
you try to establish what your ideal seated posture is, I recommend
beginning with a tall kneel. This will remove some of the confounding
factors in terms of how knees or pelvic alignment may affect your
default position. Our goal here is to determine what neutral spine looks
like for you.
If you use a mirror for the following series of
postural checks (which is a good idea), try turning to the side so you
can see yourself in profile. This will give you a clearer idea of what
your back alignment is like.
To establish a tall kneel, get on
your knees and squeeze your glutes together like there's a thousand
dollar bill stuck in there. If you feel tightness toward the front (the
portion of your upper-leg just below the pelvis), that's probably your
hip flexors kicking and screaming because they've become shortened from
long periods of sitting. Some soft-tissue and mobility work would be
Assuming that you're not facing any serious soft-tissue
restrictions, you should find yourself upright and with your hips in a
fairly neutral position. Remember that your job is to be as tall as
possible – not as arched as possible.
Once you've established your base, you'll be ready to build on top of it.
Chest Up, Ribs Forward
up!" is a very common weightroom cue designed to get you to stop
rounding your lower back. It might be more accurate to say "ribs
forward." If we follow the natural curve of the lumber spine, we can
help preserve or restore it by trying to drive your lats forward through
the ribs. You'll do just this to build proper lumbar spine alignment on
top of your neutral pelvis.
your shoulder blades together for a moment before letting them settle.
Repeat this process a few times until you feel the range of motion
improve. From there, rotate your thumbs to the outside (bringing your
thumbs to the front and beyond). Relax and repeat this motion a few
times as well.
Now that you've reminded your central nervous
system what a full range of motion actually feels like, it should be
easier to default to a neutral position. To achieve this, retract your
shoulder blades and turn your arms out one last time. Now, allow them to
relax slightly. They don't have to be in a pinned-back position; just
You may notice that having your chest up (from the
previous step) makes it easier to keep the shoulders from falling
forward. If you imagine yourself standing on a hill, looking down, it's
easy to understand why your shoulders are more likely to fall forward
when your shoulders and upper back are rounded.
think we can safely credit physiotherapist Charlie Weingroff with
popularizing the term "neck packing." If you want to know what packing
the neck means, the process begins with getting tall.
often make the mistake of tilting the head too far forward or too far
backward. Instead, elevate the crown of your head as high as possible
without decapitating yourself. From there, allow gravity to gently
(gently!) pull your chin down. If you grab your sternocleidomastoid (the
ropes of muscle tissue located at 10:00 and 2:00 on your neck), you
shouldn't feel any tension as you bring your head into position. That's a
job for the deep neck flexors, not the sternocleidomastoids.
non-zombies should answer yes to at least the first question. However,
you'd be surprised how many people fail at the second part. This is
unfortunate because the way you breathe can have a profound effect on
Breathing well means using the diaphragm. Ask anyone and
they'll tell you the same thing. However, there's telling and then
there's doing. Doing (on the regular) will make it dramatically easier
to maintain good posture. Assuming that you're not burning up all your
spare energy at work by squeezing your Kegels relentlessly, breathing is
something that you can work on right now.
Get Ready for Action
are differing opinions on optimal sitting angle. The status quo these
days is between 120 and 135 degrees, which is a fairly significant lean
backwards. I'm going to make a different suggestion – that your default
sitting position should resemble a (good) front squat. What does this
The advantage to leaning back like a smug boss is that it's
easier to prevent flexion of the lumbar spine and sacroiliac joint.
However, this position has very little relationship to any form of
It also tends to encourage that anterior head
carriage that leads us to trouble (and un-sexiness). On the other hand,
putting yourself in a position to stand (this is without rocking forward
or otherwise using momentum) helps ensure engagement of the core
muscles required for good posture.
To achieve this position,
lower yourself into a squat until you're lightly touching the chair).
Your weight should be toward your heels and you should feel no stress on
your knees. From here, slowly sink your weight onto the chair until
your muscles are only slightly engaged. Work on keeping the ribcage
pushed forward. You'll notice that your core is engaged, your neck is
packed, and that you'll feel ready to stand.
It's hard to get
lazy about core activation when you're ready for action. That's good.
Just remember not to let your lower-back round.
Now Go Get Some Action
of what you do when you're not working, make sure that you stand up,
reach for the sky or simply walk around every 10-20 minutes. This will
help you overcome some of the adaptations that your body makes to
sitting. It will help you move better, feel better and look better.
These are all essential traits for anyone who wants to let the world
know that their genes are worth chasing.
P., Petty, R. E. and Wagner, B. (2009), Body posture effects on
self-evaluation: A self-validation approach. European Journal of Social
Psychology, 39: 1053–1064. doi: 10.1002/ejsp.607
of physical ergonomics issues associated with school childrens? use of
every inch of Forward Head Posture, it can increase the weight of the
head on the spine by an additional 10 pounds." Kapandji, Physiology of
Joints, Vol. 3
Spinal Stress: Discovering the Optimal Seated Posture for the
About the Author
Geoff Girvitz (ACSM PT) is a contributing writer for NPI and is the owner and director of Bang Fitness in Toronto, Canada.
and his team constantly work to take information from the forefront of
strength and conditioning science and apply it to people at all levels,
from fat-loss clients to the new generation of mixed martial artists.