A quest to improve health of people working in tech.

One trick to reset your posture without hurting yourself

Straightening your back by puffing up your chest can be harmful. Learn how to straighten yourself safely.

Before you start, a short experiment

To get the most out of this article, I invite you to try this short experiment.

Stand up and straighten yourself. How does this feel in your lower back? Do you feel like you could sustain this posture for a long time?

Straighten yourself, or end up crooked

Since I was a kid, I've been told to straighten my back by puffing up my chest. Stand tall, like a superhero. Straighten yourself or you'll end up crooked.

I tried. A lot. However, I could never sustain it for a longer period of time. It either felt uncomfortable, or I would just keep forgetting. If I tried harder, my back muscles would feel fatigued, and would sometimes even hurt.

This is because the way I was straightening myself was doing me more harm than good. And it took me only 20 or so years to learn that.

Dangers of a straight back

Puffing up chest to straighten ourselves is dangerous because it invites us to overextend our back, going far further than our actual neutral position. When we do that, our back muscles need to work much more—think working at Twitter.

The problem with overextending back muscles is that they will eventually burn out. And when muscles burn out, they hurt. This usually translates to looking more like a tortured villain rather than a superhero.

Through studying the way our skeletons work in motion, I found a quick trick to reset my posture in a safe way, where my back muscles won't fatigue. I hope that it will help you as much as it helped me.

Reset your posture safely

Your body is wonderfully unique—please don't try to imitate what I'm doing in the video. Instead, try discovering what feels right.
Video of the exercise

In this exercise you are relying on the natural movement of your skeleton to align you in an upright posture.

  1. Stand up.
  2. Slouch a little bit.
  3. Raise both of your forearms with fingers pointing forward. Think shaking hands with two people.
  4. Slowly move each hand to its respective side, and allow your body to follow the movement.
  5. When your forearms are pointing to the left and right, let them drop.

Are you feeling upright now? You can take a look in the mirror to confirm.

A short experiment, continued

Try the exercise again. Notice how standing straight like this feels.

Do you feel like you could sustain this posture for a long time? How is this different from the way you straightened up at the beginning of the experiment?

I'd love to know the result of your experiment. If you'd like to share, please send me your thoughts at seb@healthyfolks.tech.

Thanks for your time,
Seb. 🙇‍♂️

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Jamie Larson