Active Recovery

Why It’s Actually So Hard To Sit Up Straight, According to a Physical Therapist

Allie Flinn

Photo: Stocksy/Lumina
Too many of us spend so much time hunched over a computer or slouching in general that our bodies quite literally forget how to sit up properly. This can lead to aches, pains, and even injury. So get in loser, we're reteaching our bodies how to sit up straight by counteracting synergistic dominance.

"Synergistic dominance can be explained simply with one word: compensation," says Thomas Mandala, PT, DPT, OCS, a physical therapist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. "Our bodies are smart and will find a way to continue performing the motions we ask them to do. If the primary muscle that performs a motion is not working to its full capacity, then other muscles will work harder to compensate for that muscle." While you may blame your shoulders and neck for your slouching, it's also connected to other parts of your body. He adds that it's posited that slouching can lead to tight hip flexors. When that happens, you use your glutes less, so your hamstrings are forced to work harder.

"The advice we give patients is that 'your best posture is your next posture,'" Mandala says. Meaning, it's pretty much impossible to maintain perfect posture all day long. Interrupting your posture every 30 minutes throughout the work day by sitting or standing can help prevent aches and pains. That alone is enough to make a noticeable difference, but if you want to take it a step further Mandala recommends doing bridges (make sure to squeeze your glutes and not arch your back) and squats to a chair to help improve your glute activation and take some of that stress off of your hamstrings. You can also do posture exercises and stretches for your glutes, back, shoulders, and core to help improve your posture and relieve tension.

Exercises for better posture to overcome synergistic dominance

1. Glute bridges

To do a glute bridge the right way, lie on your back and place your feet flat on the ground. You know your feet are in the right position if you can reach your arms down and graze the back of your shoes with your fingertips. Make sure your lower back is pressing into the mat. Place your arms at your sides. Inhale and lift your hips toward the ceiling, engaging your core and your glutes. Your knees should be right over your ankles. Lower back down as you exhale, lightly touching the ground with your lower back before repeating the movement.

2. Banded lat pulses

This movement is one of six posture-improving back and core exercises in the video above. To do a banded lat pulse, place a booty band over the middle of your hands, with your palms facing each other. Squeeze your shoulder blades, engage your core, and lift your arms out straight in front of you. Pulse your hands against the resistance band. You should feel this in your lats, not your traps.

3. Dead bugs

One key movement from this 16-minute pilates workout for better posture is the dead bug. Yes, it has a silly name, but it seriously works your core. To do it, lie on your back, bend your knees, and lift your legs up so that your knees are at a 90-degree angle. Reach your arms up toward the ceiling. Then, slowly lower your opposite arm and leg to the floor, making sure that your lower back doesn't arch off the ground. Then lift them back into the starting position and repeat on the other side. Watch the full video to do the entire workout.

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