As a kid, it always seemed strange that people didn’t recognize Superman. Yeah, you don’t expect the Man of Steel to be working in your office as a mild-mannered reporter, but his disguise is literally just a pair of glasses.
Christopher Reeve changed that in about 6 seconds.
When Reeve makes the transformation from Clark Kent to Superman, he changes more than just his eyewear.
The glasses come off, yes, but everything else seems to change too. His slouch disappears, his shoulders come back, his chest expands. His chin is held higher.
It’s the difference between the nerdy reporter that makes awkward references to drinking and the indestructible hero that reverses the rotation of Earth to save the woman he loves.
Are you Clark Kent or Superman?
When you look at Reeve’s Clark Kent it isn’t even obvious that he’s slouching at all. In fact, that’s part of what makes the transformation into Superman so convincing. The rounded shoulders, the hunched back, and the slouching neck just seem like a part of who he is.
The same thing can happen to you.
If you ever sit hunched over your computer, especially if you work at a 9–5 desk job, you could be sabotaging your posture without realizing it. Even as you read this, I’d be willing to bet that you’re semi-consciously sitting up straighter than usual. You aren’t usually aware of your body.
Standing up straighter won’t suddenly let you fly fast enough to turn back time and save Lois Lane. But your posture can affect both how you feel and how people perceive you.
Sitting posture can have an effect on lower back pain , a condition over 80% of Americans seek treatment for . Having good posture can only benefit managing aches and pains from training and everyday life.
Posture has social effects as well as physical ones. People judge your emotions based on your posture . Posture is one of the major methods of nonverbal communication, so much so that being unable to read people’s posture is a symptom of autism .
At this point I’m rambling, but here’s the point: posture is important. It affects how you feel and it affects how people view you. It’s also easy to slip into bad posture habits without realizing.
How to Improve Your Posture
Sure good posture is great, but won’t you develop good posture just by lifting and working out?
Maybe, maybe not. If you’ve never lifted before and start deadlifting, the increased strength in your core, back, and glutes could possibly help your posture.
At the same time, we’ve all seen or at least heard of those huge dudes that look like Neanderthals. If your lifting doesn’t deal with posture problem areas—forward head posture, thoracic flexion, tight hips, weak glutes, and others—it isn’t going to fix things.
Pain sucks, confidence is good, and not looking like a caveman is excellent. Here are some exercises that improve your posture by working common problem areas.
5 Exercises that Improve Your Posture
1) Chin Tucks
Take another look at Reeve’s transformation into Superman.
One of the subtlest changes is that his head goes from dangling out in front of his neck to firmly situated on his shoulders.
If you spend a lot of time at your computer, chances are you sit hunched, with your head sticking forward and down like a giraffe (at least, that’s what I used to look like).
Over time, you get used to that position and your head stays hanging there all the time. You might even start to develop neck problems, but at the very least it affects your posture.
Chin tucks are a simple exercise you can use to strengthen the musculature of your neck and train away forward head posture.
Closely related to forward head posture is thoracic rounding—aka the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Just like Superman, you want to throw your shoulders back, push your chest out, and project confidence and strength.
One reason this is such an issue is the popularity of the bench press. It’s super easy to work the front of your torso with pushing variations, but increasing the number of pulling exercises you do is often more beneficial when trying to improve your posture.
Batwings, a favorite exercise of strength coach Dan John, work the muscles of your upper back. Beginning as a chest-supported dumbbell row, pull up the weight and hold it at the top of the motion.
Everyone seems to want abs. Abs are a stereotypically “sexy” body part, and something like 83% of all exercise advice on the internet is about abs (I made this number up).
But abs are also functional. A strong core supports your back during big lifts and keeps you upright during everyday life.
In order to train to improve your posture, it makes sense to train the core in the same way it actually functions. You can do endless crunches and sit-ups, but that isn’t the main function of your core. Your abs mostly work to stabilize your spine; their action is isometric (without moving) rather than concentric or eccentric.
You’ve probably tried planks before, since they’re one of the most popular core exercises around. But you may not have tried all out planks, a variation championed by Dean Somerset. Somerset also argues that planks are a powerful tool for improving hip mobility (another key component of posture).
Squeeze every muscle in your body. Tighten your core as hard as you can, clench the butt, hold it. If you’re doing this right, you won’t be able to maintain it for more than 10–15 seconds.
When most people do planks, they actually don’t use much of their core at all. They rely either on the natural stability of their body, or else rest on their hip flexors.
An all out plank fixes that problem. Squeeze for 10–15 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, then do it again. Five or six rounds is a good set.
The butt is such an underrated body part.
Strong glutes play an enormous role in posture and lower body health, and most people have weak glutes because of inactivity or poor exercise selection.
Show me someone with knee problems and I’ll show you someone with a weak ass. Every physical therapist I’ve ever spoken to has singled out the gluteus medius as one of the most under trained muscles around.
Having strong glutes helps you keep your pelvis and lower back is a safe and healthy position. Especially if you sit all day, you spend most of your time on Earth with your glutes turned off.
Glute bridges are a staple of lower body physical therapy, but they are also an exercise you can load up in a big way. My own deadlift jumped 50 pounds as soon as I started doing heavy glute bridges.
“Glute Guy” Bret Contreras is a major proponent of the glute bridge and hip thrust, and either exercises can help strengthen your butt, improve your posture, and increase your ass…ets.
Along with weak glutes come tight hip flexors. If you sit all day with your hips constantly in flexion, it’s hardly surprising that your hips wind up tight.
When your hip flexors are tight, they pull your pelvis and tilt it forward. That in turn can create an arch in your lower back and cause all kinds of problems.
Stretching your hip flexors is an important step in de-desking your body. The half-kneeling hip flexor stretch is a simple move to get this done.
Set up as though you’re in the bottom of a lunge with your knee on the ground. Squeeze the glute on the side that’s on the ground, keep your back straight, and lean into the stretch in your back hip.
It isn’t a particularly difficult stretch, and even 30 seconds goes a long way towards maintaining your healthy posture.
Improving your posture will take more than walking into the nearest phone booth. But incorporating these exercises into your workouts will improve your posture and get you closer to Man of Steel status.
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 Coulson, M. (2004). Attributing emotion to static body postures: Recognition accuracy, confusions, and viewpoint dependence. Journal of nonverbal behavior, 28, 117-139.
 Reed, C. L., Beall, P. M., Stone, V. E., Kopelioff, L., Pulham, D. J., & Hepburn, S. L. (2007). Brief report: Perception of body posture—what individuals with autism spectrum disorder might be missing. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 37, 1576-1584.
 Cashdan, E. (1998). Smiles, speech, and body posture: How women and men display sociometric status and power. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 22, 209-228.
 Mehrabian, A. (1969). Significance of posture and position in the communication of attitude and status relationships. Psychological Bulletin, 71, 359.