August 10


Work on Your Optimal Posture the Way Competitive Athletes Do

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Optimal posture creates the right conditions for your body to move. Notice I didn't say 'perfect' posture. Instead, we focus on optimal posture. That is, the position in which our bodies breathe more freely and move easily. In fact, optimal posture provides the platform for us to live, breathe and move well. Not to mention perform like a true athlete.

In truth, most people nowadays don't have very good habits around their posture and body position.


Just look around any office, workplace or public space. You'll find numerous examples of people hunched over at their desk, staring at a computer screen most of the day. Or the individual constantly checking their phone, aimlessly scrolling through life. Head down, shoulders rolling forward, ribcage deflated.

Illustration of an office worker hunched at his desk in front of a computer screen with a lack of optimal posture

The essence of optimal posture comes down to your body moving well - free and unrestricted

If you're looking to perform at your best, both in and out of the gym, your body needs to move well.

Most training programs aren't particularly well-balance. They often involve large volumes of repetitive movements, often at high intensity. Similarly, they likely encourage these types of movement over long periods of time.

In effect, these movements become not unlike a regular habit.

However, even though this exercise is 'good for us' it can still wreak havoc with our body's musculature and optimal posture.

For example, unless careful thought is given towards the overall training loads and balance, we may end up experiencing:

  • overuse
  • compensation
  • muscle imbalances
  • postural changes

Consequently, the very training program we religiously follow may well lead to dysfunction, pain and injury. Undoubtedly, they may end up working against us in our quest for the best performance.

We very rarely target muscles in the gym that promote optimal posture. Even if we do, it's likely that the rest of our daily habits, or level of inactivity, negate any beneficial changes we may get from our workouts.

So how can we improve our posture and still get the best out of our body when we exercise?

We can train ourselves to adopt optimal posture whenever we are in control of our movement. In the gym, we must first set up our body position and then stabilise. This gives the additional benefit of allowing us to activate the correct muscles more easily. Furthermore, it's likely we will be able to lift more with better efficiency.

If we really want to train ourselves to improve our posture, we must focus on two things:

  • body alignment, and
  • breathing mechanisms.

Follow these simple steps to work towards optimal posture

Either sit or stand tall. Think of your head as an extension of your spine. That is, feel yourself being pulled upwards through the top of your head.

Relax your jaw, neck and shoulders. Aim for your shoulders to sit directly below your ears. Don't let them roll forwards. Similarly, don't let your head just forwards so that your ears sit in front of your shoulders.

Practise pulling your stomach muscles in gently. Focus on pulling from the area just below your belly button.

Focus on deep, abdominal breathing. That is, practise breathing from the lower abdomen. Avoid taking shallow breaths through just the chest and armpits. Where possible, slow yourself down. Inhale for four seconds, and then exhale for four seconds.

When standing, distribute your body weight evenly across both feet. In yoga, we talk about grounding ourselves through all four corners of the feet. In other words, use the whole foot to support your body.

Similarly, when sitting down, distribute your weight evenly through your hips. That is, evenly across your butt. This will help keep your pelvis level and in line. As a result, your lower back and spine will remain in line.

Where possible, aim to keep your feet evenly spaced, directly below your hips whenever you are standing.

Use every opportunity to practise these steps. While waiting in line at the supermarket. If you're working at your desk. Even sitting at lunch, chatting with friends.

In essence, improving your posture is all about repeating good habits. Reinforce them day after day, week after week. You'll be amazed at what optimal posture both looks and feels like.

About the author

Paul Stokes

Paul Stokes BSc (Hons) is a Certified Personal Trainer, Accredited Sports Nutritionist, qualified Exercise to Music Instructor, Precision Nutrition coach, Massage Therapist and teaches 8 of the Les Mills Group Exercise programs.

He currently works in the Oil & Gas industry as a Wellness Coach, imparting his vast knowledge and experience to improve the quality of life of several hundred offshore workers.

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