How to Improve Your Posture
Lots of us are concerned about posture.
We worry that it’s contributing to back pain, and honestly, we don’t like the way it looks.
There’s a lot of hysteria online about how posture can affect pelvic floor function and diastasis recti and make your spine explode and that we should aim for neutral posture all the time.
Most women I work with tell me that they try to remember to “stand up straight” and “pull their shoulders back” - but it doesn’t last for long.
While well-intentioned, I think it’s a pretty one-dimensional way of thinking about improving posture.
So in this blog post I’m going to go through my 3-step process for improving your posture.
If you'd prefer to watch a video about this you can head to my YouTube Channel
What is “bad” posture?
The most common standing position that I see in mums is this: The “Mum Slump”
People think of it as a large “lordosis” or curve in the lower back, but if you look closely at this picture, you can see that I am actually throwing my ribcage back. It’s kind of tilted backwards. If you draw a plumb line down from the upper back, if sticks out behind the bum.
You might notice that the bum is tucked under… which CAN make your glutes go a bit flat (and LOTS of mums complain about losing shape in their butt)
What is “good” posture?
When people talk about “good” posture, or alignment, what they mean is “ribcage over pelvis”
Although, a point that I want to make in this post is that the terms “good” and “bad” are seriously problematic, since ALL postures serve a purpose: the healthy body is the one that can use them ALL.
When I started out training mums, I used to tell my clients NOT to stand in the “Mum Slump”, and embarrassingly borrowed someone else's baby to show you HOW you should stand.
Since having my own baby, I have realised that this was the MOTHER of shit advice. There is no way you can hold a floppy newborn like that for hours on end!
I now think about it differently - it’s actually amazing that my body can adapt in this way, that I can find a position that is really comfortable for baby, and requires very little effort on my part. I can kind of “hang out” on my skeleton.
The same is true when you’re at a computer. We’re told “don’t sit like this”
Sit like this instead! Sit up straight!
But that isn’t actually comfortable to do for 8 hours either!
The problem isn’t any ONE particular position - it’s more about getting STUCK there.
And it’s also about being STRONG ENOUGH to support the weight of a growing child on you. I still hold my son like this today now that he weighs 10kg.
But I’m not STUCK there the rest of the time. I can find other positions.
Lots of us, when we put the baby down, still stand like this:
This is inevitable in the beginning, because we’re spending so much time holding a baby in that position.
Again, “stand up straight” isn’t helpful advice. We’ve often gotten a bit stuck there, and can’t FIND another position. The picture above is me around 3 months postpartum. I couldn’t NOT stand like this.
And if we spend all day every day in ONE position that we can’t get out of, that might be when the body starts to get a bit achy and stiff. It may also affect your diastasis and your pelvic floor function. You might start to get that bump on the back of your neck that old ladies have as your 5kg head jutts forward to find your centre of gravity.
It’s kind of unreasonable to expect your body to just assume another position when you put your baby down. It will have adapted to that “Mum Slump” place that is comfy and convenient.
Most mums expect this from their bodies though, and then beat themselves up for not being able to “stand up straight”.
Most of us can totally improve posture, but it takes a bit of focused work.
That’s why our exercise programme should focus on getting us OUT of those positions, into new ones, and preparing the body for those new positions.
I have a 3-step process for helping women OUT of that position.
STEP 1 - Find a different one!
It takes some trial and error to find “neutral” or “more neutral” or something different from what you’re used to. You can try this trick from Julie Wiebe called “Ski Jump”, where you take your weight forward onto your toes, then rock back onto your heels, but keeping the new alignment between pelvis and ribcage.
There is a simplified version of this. Simply placing your hands on your pelvis and the bottom of your ribcage you can swing your ribcage over the pelvis.
What we’re looking for is ribcage over pelvis - that way the diaphragm and pelvic floor are aligned and muscles of the core canister are more available.
The diagram on the right shows the position we tend to get stuck in postpartum, while the diagram on the left shows an alignment that we might aim for when we are not holding our babies.
STEP 2 - MOBILIZE
If you’re spending loads of time in those positions,
your upper back gets rounded as it juts out backwards,
Your lower back gets tight
Your shoulders rotate interally, and the chest and shoulders get tight
The front of your hips get tight
You need to MOVE those body parts first. You can do this with some simple mobility exercises, like a cat-cow.
Or a shoulder stretch against the wall.
If you can’t actually straighten your spine, how can you expect the muscles of your upper back to contract all day long to keep you totally upright?
If your spine doesn’t bend that way, how are you supposed to just stand up straight?
You need to MOVE those body parts first, through their full range of motion, both to stretch the tight bits and to allow your body to find new positions.
Here's a short mobility routine and 5 simple exercises you can do to improve your posture
STEP 3 - Strengthen!
Finally, you need to strengthen the muscles that hold you in that position. Namely, we want to strengthen the muscles of your posterior chain:
Upper back and back of the shoulders
Glutes (bum) and
… think of this as your scaffolding, supporting you upright.
Here are 5 exercises you can start doing today to strengthen all the muscles of your back and improve your posture
This video takes you through 4 mobility exercises and 2 strength exercises to help with exactly this:
Any programme, online or otherwise, aimed at mums, HAS to include this stuff. So many programmes targeted at mums focus solely on the core and "burning the baby fat" - because that is what mums want to do. It feeds off that insecurity.
What they should ACTUALLY be doing is strengthening your back, and helping you move through full range of motion.
If you’re ready to start improving your posture, as well as strengthening your abdominal muscles, check out my Complete Postpartum Programme
where I take you through a structured and systematic core, mobility and strength programme designed for mums.