One thing I will say about being a personal trainer is that you are always learning, whether you mean to or not.
I know I’ve written other columns on improving posture and the common occurrence of head forward, rounded shoulder posture.
Today I wanted to share with you something I’ve recently found to be instantly effective in improving my clients posture.
If you are not familiar with head forward posture run to the mirror and glance quickly at your standing profile, there’s a good chance it’s affecting you.
You’ll quickly be able to identify it by noting the appearance of a rounded upper back, the front of the shoulder seemingly protruding out sometimes creating a concave appearance of the chest and the ears sitting forward of the bony top of the shoulder.
Head forward posture notoriously is associated with headaches, back pain and rotator cuff injuries. With all the time we spend looking at screens these days it becomes quite easy to see why this type of posture is the most common. We spend a large part of our lives in this position.
Traditionally as trainers we educated people on the anatomy and movements of the upper back, why they are weak and the opposing muscles on the front of the body are overly strong in relation. We taught people row movements, retraction movements and all kinds of things.
What we haven’t done is encouraged bicep curls, and from a purely technical perspective, we shouldn’t.
Here’s where I contradict myself. The bicep is also often one of the many related culprits to head forward posture. As the bicep shortens it pulls our shoulders forward. The stronger it becomes the more it pulls.
There is a large muscle that originates on the back side of the shoulder blade, between the shoulder blade and the ribs, it’s called Serratus.
The serratus muscle wraps around our ribcage and attaches to a number of ribs on the front side of our body. One of the neat things that serratus does (or is supposed to do) is actually flatten the shoulder blades against the rib cage.
As things like our chest muscle and biceps get stronger and pull our shoulders forward the ability of serratus to perform this function decreases. This is where all the rowing and retraction movements come from as fitness experts like myself try to improve your posture.
Unfortunately if it’s not working properly it’s very difficult for your brain to fire this muscle and make it start working properly, I mean it’s basically forgotten how.
Your brain has now become very comfortable with the idea of recruiting other muscles to do these tasks since it’s not generally a major or common exertion we do so for many years.
Now in the typical sense as mentioned above the bicep curl compounds this problem but if performed the way I am about to explain it’s also the thing that will help you feel, recruit and understand exactly what should be happening with serratus muscle to rapidly improve your posture.
Start with a shoulder width grib on a barbell, use a weight that’s light enough that you could easily perform 20 bicep curls with.
Now before starting the movement concentrate on lifting the chest up and squeezing the lower tips of the shoulder blades together. Your shoulders should not elevate at all as you do this.
Now as you perform the bicep curl don’t allow your shoulders to move, it will feel very different, much more difficult and you will feel the muscle on the underside of your shoulder blade tire long before your biceps.
You are feeling the muscle fibres of your serratus and lower trapezius firing, both critical for the improvement of head forward posture.
Repeat this for three sets of fifteen repetitions 1-2 times per week. Admittedly this is often easier if someone knowledgeable helps you position your shoulder blades and keeps their hands on your shoulder blades to detect movement while you perform the exercise.
Maybe bicep curls can lead to better posture afterall.
Cabel McElderry is a local personal trainer and nutrition coach. For more information on fitness and nutrition, visit the Fitness F/X website at www.fitnessfx.com