The best form on any exercise first and foremost involves good posture. Good posture means more than just preventing joint injuries and aches in the lower back. It translates to stronger muscles since it helps improve performance. Consider that good posture shows confidence too.
Keeping the shoulder blades back and the chest up on the bench press protects your shoulders and gives you a solid base against the bench. This promotes stability. Without stability, you will fail to express your true strength as you will waste too much energy moving laterally.
Keeping the chest up prevents stooping during a squat. A stoop involves bending forward at the hip without the help of the knees. This position encourages rounding of the lower back. It also makes the knees and ankles bend less, which prevents the powerful quadriceps and calves from contributing their share to the workload.
Keeping the chest up prevents protraction of the shoulder blades during pulling motions such as the row. A loose scapula compromises shoulder safety. It forces the shoulder to bare the load in a position where the muscles function too weakly.
Good posture in all these exercises and everything else means maintaining a neutral spine position. This requires effort but should feel right. Follow these steps.
A good stance and posture reflect a proper state of mind.
– Morihei Ueshiba
- Stand tall.
Try to make yourself as tall as possible. Imagine if a drill sergeant asked you to stand attention. A puppeteer could pull your body upright using a string. Try to get the top of your head closer to the ceiling.
The ears, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles should line up if you drew a vertical line when viewed from the side. This will happen naturally if you stand tall.
- Pull the shoulder blades back slightly.
This prevents slouching. Do not elevate your shoulders toward your ears. Pull them straight back, as if trying to pinch a pencil between your shoulder blades.
- Keep your chest out.
Do not drive your chest out so far as to hyperextend your back though. You will know this occurs if you start feeling a pinch anywhere along your spine.
During heavy lifting though, you want to drive your chest out to fight the tendency for your back to collapse. This will also pull in your abdomen, keeping your abs tight and further supporting your back.
- Keep your hips tilted back.
This usually comes about by following the other tips. Imagine you had to bump a door open or close it using your rear end. This creates a subtle pelvic tilt.
- Glide your neck back and relax your head.
This also tends to come about naturally alongside the other tips. Face forward and avoid twisting your neck.
- Think about good posture.
Focus on one step that works well for you. This encourages everything else to come together. For example, keeping the chest up should pull the shoulder blades together and glide the neck back.
You can test your posture by standing with your butt against a wall. With good posture, you should fit a hand between your lower back and the wall. If you cannot fit your hand, then you slouch too much. If you could fit more than two, then you have overdone these steps.
Some look to me for exercises to correct posture. They ask for scapular retractions, neck extensions, and other exercises that break down a natural compound exercise into unnatural isolation movements. You never need them as the postural muscles receive the work they require following a basic routine. Pulling develops these muscles enough.
Good posture is an ideal. Having good posture throughout the whole day makes little sense. It would fatigue the muscles involved. Just keep good posture when needed the most. This includes while moving and especially when lifting.
Good Posture is Essential
Apply good posture for safety and performance. Stand tall and pull back your shoulders blades, keep your chest out (not too much), and tilt the hips back slightly. Face forward with your neck pulled back a bit and your head relaxed. Finally, get strong and muscular. Good posture alone will fail to matter much without muscles to support it.