It turns out, having good posture is as important as your mother always told you.
Remember when she told you not to slouch? Well, she definitely had a point.
If you are looking to improve your posture and wondering whether you should be using a posture brace or doing some exercises, then this short article should be very helpful to you.
What Is So Important About Posture Anyway?
Poor posture does not only look bad, but it gives rise to numerous negative effects including:
- Increased wear and tear on joints
- Increased risk of injury
- Stiffness and pain in your muscles and connective tissue
- Back pain
- Makes you look unattractive, fatter and less fit
- Compresses internal organs causes issues with digestion and breathing
- Less confident
- Impairs mental capacity
Poor posture can be caused by a number of things, e.g. injuries, bad habits or genetic predisposition. Usually, it is caused by the many hours spent every day sitting in awkward positions.
If you keep ignoring your poor posture you are very likely to experience some of the issues mentioned above and probably back pain.
80% of Americans report back problems at least once in their life and I think it is safe to assume that a lot of that is at least partly due to poor posture.
Now that I have established how improving posture and learning how to maintain it should be of high priority, let me instead focus on how to do it.
There are several things you need to consider when working on improving your posture. You need to stretch and strengthen your muscles, improve your postural habits and improve the ergonomics of your surroundings.
Most people usually either focus on using a posture brace or doing exercises to improve posture. So let us take a look at which approach is better.
Posture Brace Vs Exercise
Why Use A Posture Brace?
Our bodies will litteraly adapt to all kinds of stresses incurred. It will adapt to how it is used and the dominant positions it is being used in.
The spine is a flexible thing and muscles and both shorten or lengthen, become stronger or weaker.
Wearing a posture brace reinforces proper alignment by forcing your body to adjust the position the brace puts you in. The brace happens to put your muscles and joints in a position that encourages good posture.
Most braces work to correct poor posture by pulling the shoulders back and pushing the chest forward.
Most people spend every day sitting at their office desk, hunched over the wheel of a car or looking down at their phones. All of these actions encourage our shoulders to round forward and our backs to hunch.
Posture braces are effective at counteracting this very common habit we have of rounding our shoulders.
Even if you wear them for just a 10-15 minutes per day, posture braces should work to both retrain your muscles to align properly and help you develop good posture habits.
In order to get good results from using a posture brace, you have to get a good fit and wear it properly.
However, using a posture brace for long periods at a time on a long-term basis can cause more harm than good. Essentially, the posture brace is doing most of the work to stabilize your body and not your muscles.
Posture correcting shirts is an alternative that does not share this issue. If you want to check out the best posture braces and posture correcting shirts, I suggest you see this list of the best posture correctors.
Why Do Exercise?
We know now that bad posture causes some muscles to overwork and become tight and it causes other muscle groups to lengthen and weaken.
Exercise is a very effective way to improve your posture by alleviating these muscular imbalances. It is really as simple as improving strength in underdeveloped muscles and stretching tight muscles.
Obviously, you need to target the right muscles and this is sometimes not as easy as you think.
Here are three quick exercises that I am pretty sure will be helpful no matter what:
Deep Belly Breathing
This is a very simple exercise you can do every day.
In order to perform deep belly breathing you to have somewhat good posture. Because if you don’t there is not enough space and you can easily feel how your lungs feel restricted.
All you do is place your hands on your abdominal area and feel your belly as you deeply breathe in and out. It’s that easy!
Scapula Retraction With External Rotation
If you get a resistance band at home you can easily do these every day. They are super fast to do.
The trick is to use a light resistance band and do a lot of reps because the important muscles you want to target (rhomboids) respond much better to this kind of stimulus.
I didn’t realize this before and I have done a lot of heavier reps in the past for this muscle without much result. I am talking about more than a year. It is almost embarrassing!
Grab the resistance band with straight arms in front at about shoulder width. Your grip should be so your thumbs are points towards each other.
Now pull the band with straight arms as if you want to pull the band apart. Pull until it reaches your chest while externally rotating your shoulders so at the end both your thumbs are pointing backward.
This is essentially the exact opposite of the position we usually are in while hunching over a phone, computer, or book.
In this video the awesome Jeff from AthleanX shows how to do it.
Using any wall corner or doorway, put your right palm and forearm against one side of the corner/doorway at a 90 degrees angle with the elbow.
Now gently lean into it until you feel a good stretch. Remember to keep good posture while doing it.
Pros And Cons
Now let’s compare the two approaches methods with the traditional pros and cons.
- It isn’t time-consuming: you can easily wear your brace any time you want throughout the day (except when you are sleeping).
- Requires minimum effort: for example, you shouldn’t have to work continually to pull back your shoulders and straighten your spine. The posture brace will do it for you, which allows you to gain muscle strength.
- Can help you develop good posture habits
- It costs money
- It can be uncomfortable and take some time getting used to wearing it.
- Strengthening and stretching muscles solves the root problem
- Exercising is good for you
- It’s basically free
- It is more time consuming as you have to carve out minutes from your day to properly do the exercises.
- You have to put in the effort
- You don’t necessarily develop good posture habits
When it comes down to it, the best solution is both as they complement each other. Relying on the posture brace only will most likely not give you great results so I would not recommend you do that.
Use a posture brace or posture shirt, do various exercises, improve the ergonomics of your surroundings, and I am sure you will be able to get good posture.
If you are interested in the best posture braces and posture shirts, then this buyer’s guide should be helpful.