With so many of us slouched over laptops on our couches or in armchairs that aren’t designed for working, it’s more important than ever to be mindful of our posture. There are several parts of the body where a weak spot could be potentially contributing to posture issues. On the front of the body, that’s the abs, hip flexors, and hip rotators, while on the back it’s the thoracic spine, hamstrings and calves.
In a new Athlean-X video, Jeff Cavaliere C.S.C.S. breaks down his 22-day plan for testing and correcting these areas of weakness. He starts on Day 1 with an individualized test for each area. Once you’ve carried out your test on Day 1, the next 20 days alternate between stretch sessions and strength sessions based on the areas of weakness you have identified.
In order to test thoracic extension (a common complaint area), Cavaliere does the “wall splat”: stand facing a wall at with your feet at a distance of 6 inches, place your hands on the wall at 11 o’clock and 1 o’clock positions, and then go into a squat. “The goal is to see if you can get your thighs parallel to the ground,” he says. “If you can’t, it’s a failure.”
The stretch to focus on for thoracic extension is the kneeling T-spine stretch. From a kneeling position, put your elbows up onto a bench and drop your chest down as much as you can, holding for 45 seconds. “This will drive you into more thoracic extension, and actually stretch the lats,” says Cavaliere.
The strengthening exercise for this area is the banded face pull. If you don’t have a band, you can perform a bodyweight version of this exercise in a doorframe.
Test your hamstrings for weakness with a simple toe touch. “A lot of people think testing their hamstring flexibility is just bending forward and touching their toes; not if you’re allowing your back to round and go into a posterior tilt,” explains Cavaliere. “You have to get into an anterior tilt, with a hinge; hinge back as far as you can, maintaining that slight arch in your lower back.”
If you fail this test, Cavaliere prescribes the wall hamstring stretch, which creates that same anterior tilt. Then on your exercise day, focus on the opposite side of the joint in the hip flexor, with a hip lift: stand with one foot on a box, stair or wall just above waist height (your hip should be up just over 90 degrees), then lift your knee up higher, without holding onto anything for balance, holding for 3 seconds each time.
Stand with one foot 6 inches away from a wall, allow your knee to drift forward so it’s touching the wall, and then hold while keeping your heel planted firmly on the ground. If you can’t get your knee to the wall, or your heel comes up, that’s a fail.
This can be addressed with an ankle drop stretch; stand on a curb or step with your knees locked, and allow your heel to drop down as low as it will allow; hold for 45 seconds, 3 to 4 times on each side. The exercise for this area works to strengthen the often-overlooked anterior tib; however, Cavaliere recommends only doing this every other strength day. In a seated position, attach a band to your foot, and perform banded toe pulls.
Test for ab weakness with the pressup test. The goal here is to get all the way into an upward-facing dog position, with your elbows fully extended, without your hips rising off the ground. If you can’t achieve this, then you can work on it with the bow stretch: hang from a pullup bar, drop your feet back, and allow your body to sink. Alternatively, you can achieve that same stretching of the front by leaning back over an exercise ball. Exercise-wise, you can perform “Supermans”, i.e. lying face down with your arms stretched ahead of you, and lifting your arms and legs off the ground.
Lying on your back, pull one knee to your chest. If your other leg doesn’t stay parallel and in contact with the floor, or you arch your back, this can mean tightness in your hip flexor. Tackle this tightness with a lunge and reach stretch, and then target the opposite side of the joint with a glute bridge heel tap to strengthen the posterior chain muscles.
Seated hip crossover test. While sitting in a chair, simply try to place the ankle of one leg on the opposite knee, so that your shin is parallel to the floor. If you fail this test it’s probably because the internal rotators in your hip are tight. A stretch Cavaliere recommends for this is the pretzel stretch, which aims to achieve the same goal with your legs, but while lying on your back.
The strengthening exercise for the hip rotator is the frog glute press: lie on your back with the soles of your feet pressed together and your heels as close to the body as possible, then press up into a bridge. “The shift of focus from the glute max to the glute medius is something you’re going to feel right away,” says Cavaliere.
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Following the first test day, and the 20 days of alternating between stretching and strengthening your problem areas, on Day 22 you go back and carry out the same tests that you failed on Day 1, to see how much you’ve improved.
“This is specific to you,” says Cavaliere. “It’s based upon each of these tests and what you need to work on.”
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