How you’ve been lied to for all these years…

Have you ever been told that pulling your shoulders back and down will improve your posture?

Well let me tell you now, it’s one of the biggest lies you’ve ever been told!

If you’re in a position to do so, try pulling your shoulders back and down now. Tell me, what happens to your chest when you do this? Does it protrude forwards? And how about the front of your ribcage? Does that now jut forwards even further as well? And what’s happened to the curvature of your lower back? Would you say it’s more arched than before?

Although pulling your shoulders back and down might make you feel taller, adopting this postural strategy over a prolonged period of time is likely to cause you major issues in the future.

First of all, that increased arch in your lower back indicates that you’re now adding huge amounts of pressure down through the vertebrae in this area of your spine. The more compressed these vertebrae become over time, the less room there is for the spongy discs lying between them. Eventually these discs are forced out to the sides of the spine, resulting in what is referred to as a slipped, herniated or bulging disc. And you’ll know how excruciating that is if you’ve ever been diagnosed with one!

Now try this…keeping your shoulders pulled down, lift one of your arms out to the side and up to the ceiling.

You’ll probably find that your arm gets stuck or jammed in its movement and can’t rise very far. That’s because the shoulder blade is actually designed to slide on the ribcage in order to assist the arm in moving upwards. But of course if you inhibit this action from happening, by pulling your shoulders down, you won’t be able to move your arm properly, which in turn will result in shoulder problems. If you’ve ever been diagnosed with rotator cuff issues or shoulder impingement problems then this strategy of stopping your shoulder blade from moving smoothly up and down your back is likely to have been the trigger.

And if all of this wasn’t bad enough, pulling your shoulders back and down actually makes you look fatter than you actually are. The consequent forward protrusion of the chest and ribcage forces the abdominals to dome forwards, making you appear larger than you actually are.

Whilst it might not seem like a big issue to you, pulling your shoulders back and down will also cause your weight to shift back into your heels. In order to keep you upright, you’ll consequently grip your bottom muscles like tally ho, which will result in lower back tension. Added to which you’ll lock into your knees as a way of helping you be more stable, thus increasing the likelihood of you developing knee problems.

And how many people do I see adopting this postural strategy? If I’m being truly honest? About 8/10…and that’s me being lenient!

So all in all, pulling your shoulders back and down has never been and will never be a good piece of advice to follow in order to improve your posture.

But remember, good posture can’t be forced. Because if I told you to draw your shoulders forwards, pull your ribcage back and relax the back of your knees, if this wasn’t your normal stance you wouldn’t be able to hold it for much more than a few seconds before reverting back to your natural tendencies. And it’s for this reason that if we want to reduce wear and tear on our muscles and joints, we have to work hard at achieving good posture by slowly but surely retraining our brain and body to adopt more efficient and functional patterns of movement. And whilst it won’t happen overnight, it can definitely be achieved through commitment and dedication. So it’s not all bad news after all…phew!