Exercising properly, but still have poor posture? It may be your computer habits. If you’re sitting at the computer for more than an hour at a time, you’re putting yourself at risk of developing injuries of the hand/arm, shoulder, neck, and back. Obviously these injuries don’t occur immediately. They take time to form, due to gradual adaptation of your body to unnatural position. Essentially you’re molding your body.
That being said, there are things you can do to counteract any problems from cropping up.
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Here are a few things that I do, that you could easily incorporate for better posture…
1) Strength training the abdominal muscles and lower back muscles.
2) Take a break every 30 minutes. Stand up, walk around, shake your body out and get a glass of water.
3) Stretch the hamstrings (back of the leg) and quadriceps (front of the leg) lightly. Sitting for long periods of time causes some tightness in the legs which can lead to lower back tightness or pain.
4) Take some deep breaths that fill your lower abdomen (stomach). Often while sitting at the computer for long periods of time, people tend to lean forward or slouch, leading to more shallow breaths and reduced oxygen intake.
5) Sit up straight with chin up. If possible, have your screen on level with your eye- line to avoid jutting your head out, leading to stress in the neck and spine.
6) Sit on a swiss ball (stability ball). I only use it once in a while, but some people swear by it. Sitting on the stability ball forces your body to contract the posture muscles so that you don’t fall over. It also strengthens the “core” muscles.
7) Foam roller. I love this thing. I foam- roll my full body twice per day and sometimes more if I’m sitting for long periods of time.
Eric Cressey demonstrates how to use it:
8) Arrange your work station properly. I’m not a work station expert, so I’ll leave you with Cornell Universities’ Ergonomic Guidelines for Arranging a Computer Workstation- 10 Steps for Users.
Keep in mind, you may have a lean body, but if you’ve got bad posture, it offsets your entire presentation.
Two bonus tips on better posture from Eugene:
9) Strengthen the scapular retractors – “Sit up straight!” The muscles that control trunk posture? The scapular retractors – trapezius, rhomboids, etc. – allow you to pull back your shoulder blades, bringing you into “proud chest” position. In sedentary folks, there’s considerable weakness and atrophy in these muscles. A judicious dose of heavy rows and reverse flyes (or rear delt raises) can work wonders for improving the strength of the retractors. Of course, we can get seriously fancy and do things like the Hise shrug to hit the scapular retractors hard, but seldom-seen and esoteric exercises are the subject of a later blog post…
10) Stretch the internal rotators – the two largest, strongest muscles in the torso (latissimus dorsi and pectoralis major) both function as internal rotators of the humerus. Translated into plain English, this means that when the lats and pecs get tight, your shoulders get pulled forward and your upper back rounds – voila, instant “Nintendo posture!”
It’s easy to counteract this by applying a couple of easy stretches.
The door stretch. Simply stand in the middle of a doorway, position your arms out to your sides at shoulder height, hold onto the doorjamb, and lean forward slowly. Hold the stretch for a few seconds, then lean back.
The swimmer stretch. Stand with your hands clasped together behind your back, retract your shoulder blades (“pinch an orange between your shoulder blades”) and push your hands down towards the floor. It’s ok to arch your back slightly. Hold for a few seconds, then release.
-Mike and Eugene