The simple fixes you can make to end the pain you feel when you stand, sit, or are even lying down.
The greatest lie ever told is that adding exercise will ensure your body will never hurt again.
Yes, a smart training plan can go a long way towards preventing injury and feeling great. But your hard work in the gym can be reversed if you don’t take care of yourself outside the weight room. This where you posture can do more damage than you realize.
If there’s anything I’ve heard over and over again, it’s that most people are constantly feeling achy. And the reason is obvious: you spend a lot more time outside the gym than in. Whether you’re on your feet or chained to a desk, the reality is life can be a pain in the back. Literally.
You spend the majority of your non-training time in one of three positions: standing, sitting, and lying. The goal is to minimize unnecessary muscle activity and imbalanced stress across your joints.
The following guidelines are meant to help put your body in a more efficient position and help you fix your posture without extra time in the gym.
Less Pain When Standing
The Correct Position Checklist
- Your feet should be pointed straight ahead or out slightly.
- Your weight will ideally be evenly distributed across your entire foot, and make sure you’re not leaning to one side or another so that one foot takes on more weight.
- Ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, and ears are all in-line.
- Weight shifted forward on your feet or more to one leg than the other
- Your upper back is slouched
- Your head is positioned forward/in front of your spine
Perform three quick, small jumps. (Yes, it might look a little funny at a dinner party, so have a good story ready and waiting.)
The jumping should help align your feet and reestablish your balance, which will snap your body back into preferred and ideal posture.
Less Pain When Sitting
The Correct Position Checklist
- Feet flat on ground pointed straight ahead or out slightly.
- Your hips flexed to roughly 90 degrees
- Weight evenly distributed on both sides of your butt
- Hips, shoulders, and ears are all in-line.
- Face and eyes are oriented straight ahead.
- One leg crossed over the other
- Weighted shifted to one side more than the other
- Upper back slouched
- Head positioned forward of spine
- Arms not supported
Place both feet on the floor, raise your arms overhead, and then pull your arms down and drive your elbows down and back. (Image you’re performing a chinup). The arms overhead will help lengthen your spine, and pulling your shoulders back should help open up your chest and prevent the hunched-over desk syndrome.
Less Pain When Lying
The Correct Position
- Side-lying position with shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles stacked directly above opposite side.
- Knees and hips slightly bent
- Ankles, hips, shoulders, and ears are all in-line
- Pillow under your head, between your arms, and between your knees to support neutral alignment
- Lying on your face or back, which applies undesired torque on your neck
- Lying on your side with one shoulder and/or hip rotated relative to the opposite side.
- Lying on your side with your body curled up in a fetal position
- Lying on your side with neck under- or over-supported
For a week, try going to sleep on your side with a pillow squeezed between your legs. You’ll train your body to sleep in the correct position, and by improving your sleep quality the new position should become second nature.
The Posture Mindset
It’s important to note that while some postures are more desirable than others, the best posture is a changing posture.
In other words, you don’t want to be stuck in the same position for hours on end. That means you should stand up and move a little at least once every hour.
Your body naturally adapts to the positions it spends the most time in. Regularly breaking these cycles with movement and stretching can help ensure you don’t structurally or functionally adapt to a position that is going to limit your performance or set you up for injury.
Adam Bornstein is a New York Times bestselling author and, according to The Huffington Post, “one of the most inspiring sources in all of health and fitness.” An award-winning writer and editor, Bornstein was the Fitness and Nutrition editor for Men’s Health, Editorial Director at LIVESTRONG.com, and a columnist for SHAPE, Men’s Fitness, and Muscle & Fitness. He’s also a nutrition and fitness advisor for LeBron James, Cindy Crawford, Lindsey Vonn, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. His work has been featured in dozens of publications, including The New York Times, Fast Company, ESPN, and GQ, and he’s appeared on Good Morning America, The Today Show, E! News, and The Cheddar.