Sit up, shoulders back, head straight… We’ve been hammered since birth by parents, teachers, and coaches to achieve beautiful and wonderful posture. So why is it that most of us have chronic conditions directly related to poor spinal alignment/posture? In my opinion, I don’t think that we make correct postural alignment a priority. Most people who go to the gym want to lose or maintain their weight, and increase muscle tone. These are two very reasonable and desirable goals that can be accomplished in many different ways. Postural alignment should never be sacrificed for muscular gains. One benefit of this well balanced training philosophy that doesn’t get a lot of attention is the aesthetic improvement. Below are a few areas of the body that can be enhanced through correct alignment.
Overactive chest and shoulder muscles and weaker opposing back muscles will cause the head of the humerus (The bone in your upper arm) To rotate forward and up. This will cause incredible tension and stress to the shoulder joint, and it just plain looks dysfunctional. Most men have a vision of bowling ball shoulders and a shelf on their pectorals so they repeatedly perform chest presses, bicep curls, and overhead presses. This no doubt will absolutely lead to a well-defined and strong upper body, but not a symmetrical and aesthetic look.
To work this area of the body without the negative consequences, try to balance out upper body pressing exercises (pushups, bench press, shoulder press, pec flys) with pulling exercises (pull-ups, rows, rotator cuff exercises). Lateral dumbbell flies are also an appropriate exercise that will build mass without compromising your shoulder and elbow health.
Another bad look is the classic excessive anterior tilt:
This occurs when the quadriceps and hip flexors (among others) are tight and overactive. They pull the pelvis forward and down. This distortion is characterized by an excessive curve of the lower spine. It’s also gives the lower abdominals and I’m appealing pouch. So if you’re one of the many who would prefer not to look like a marsupial, this would be an area of interest.
To work your core efficiently in this area, I suggest you work your abdominals by focusing on hip flexion instead of upper spinal flexion. Instead of doing a traditional abdominal crunch or sit up that involves rounding the spine, instead pull the knees into the chest while keeping the lower spine flat on the floor. Dead bug is another variation of this. It can be made more difficult by adding a mini band wrapped around the toes. There’s no need to sacrifice muscle growth and a lower body composition with unattractive postural alignment.