Chances are, if you’re like me, you sit at a desk for the majority of your day. This can wreak havoc on your posture and muscles. I wrote once about posture tips in the office, but today I want to talk about what you can do at the gym to help your posture.
Something I learned when I first starting personal training in 2010 was in regards to exercises we do that can either help or end up making our posture worst. Pull exercises are the #1 that can help you maintain better posture (I feel like I already typed posture 10 times and I’m only 2 paragraphs in).
Most people do push exercises when they’re at the gym, or do a combo of push and pull exercises.
Push exercises include: push-ups, bench press/any type of press
Pull exercises include: pull-ups, rows, pull-downs
I know that banging out a few bench press reps makes you feel awesome and hardcore, but it may not be the best thing for your posture. When you sit at a desk all day, chances are you’re probably hunched over, at least a little bit. That means your shoulders are rounded forward, and as time goes on, they stay like that. Your pectoral muscles get tight, and doing more bench press reps just ends up making it worse…meaning then your shoulders are hunched over, and the vicious cycle continues.
That’s why I suggest doing more pull exercises than push exercises. I rarely even do push exercises to be honest. I’d rather work on my back anyway, which is one of your largest muscle groups. I also have horrible posture so I know going for a bench press PR won’t help me (though I did try this winter haha).
Doing anything that involves pulling will work your back muscles, which is good for a few reasons.
- Working a large muscle group like your back means you’re burning more calories, before and after the workout.
- Your back muscles are what keeps your posture up and also pulls your shoulders back. A strong back will help correct posture imbalances.
When you start doing more back workouts, just make sure you mix up horizontal pulls (seated row) and vertical pulls (lat pulldown).
MY FAVORITE PULL EXERCISES
Here are a few of my go-tos, and I wrote about more in a previous post as well:
Can’t do a pull-up? No problem. Start with these. These are really tough but will make you stronger really quickly. This exercises focuses on your lats and biceps. Yeah you’re not actually PULLING yourself up but you’re working towards being able to do unassisted pull-ups (if that’s your goal)
Start with lowering in 5 seconds, and work your way up to 10 seconds (aka it takes you 10 seconds before your arms are straight again)
I love seated row. It’s probably my favorite exercise and has really helped me build a stronger back. Make sure you sit with your chest up and shoulders back. Shoulders back always!! Pull in with force, then take 3 seconds to let the weight go again. Don’t rush through any of these exercises. Focus on squeezing your shoulder blades as you pull in.
Cable row (Runners, add this to your routine!)
I just started doing this as I’ve been half marathon training and I believe it has really helped me running. Go to a cable machine, pull the cable out a bit and stand in a split stance. Leg that goes back matches with the arm holding the cable. As always, chest up, shoulders back and when you pull make sure to maintain that posture and don’t let your body turn in any way. Your torso should stay facing forward. Pull in with force, then slowly let it out.
She’s not standing in a split stance but her form cues are exactly what you need to be doing.
Why is this great for runners? Because it’s working on your arm strength specific to running. When you need power, what do you do? You pump your arms. You need that arm force. This exercises goes through that exact movement pattern, and as you get stronger you’ll have more power when you need that finishing kick.
To make it more challenging and add in a leg workout too, you can grab the cable, do a reverse lunge, and as you come up do the cable row.
So my main tip? Stop doing as much pushing and start pulling!
Do you do chest AND back exercises or tend to focus more on one?
What’s your favorite pull exercise?
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