Stand up Straight!

Stand up Straight!

Perfect Posture from Toe to Head
October 18, 2016
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Smartphones, computers, desk jobs, shoulder bags, and endless commutes: we have become a generation of slouchers. In the desire to appear “cool” and relaxed in public, we are doing ourselves much more harm than good. Nearly all of us complain of chronic knee problems and back pain. The rise in popularity of chiropractic practice, massage, and physical therapists is a result of our lifestyle choices as well as our less stringent standards of carriage.

What comes to mind when you hear the phrase “perfect posture”? Do you think of a strict disciplinarian with a ruler in tow? Or an etiquette queen at finishing school who can balance books on her head? Fear not—having excellent posture need not feel affected, forced, or uncomfortable. Instead, working on one’s posture can have incredibly positive effects on one’s mentality and health.

Are you ready to go after that promotion and live a longer, healthier, and happier life? Well, then, let’s start at the toes and work our way up!

Feet and ankles:

Ask any running coach what their first piece of advice would be to beginning runners, and a great number will answer to start with the right shoes. Regardless of whether you are a runner or not, the same advice rings true: good posture starts at your feet. After all, they are the base upon which the rest of your body rests!

Ankle and Arch Positioning - Perfect Posture from Toe to Head

Spending all day in heels or other unsupportive shoes can lead to extremely weak arches and ankles and, in turn, exacerbate pronated ankles (flat feet). A few simple exercises can help to restrengthen your feet and help you reestablish your foundations. The next time that you find yourself with time at your desk, place a pen on the floor and practice picking it up with your toes.

Another great exercise is called “short foot” – shorten the length of your foot by lifting up your arch only (it takes some practice!). When you are standing, utilize this newfound strength by standing with your feet straight front-to-back (not like a duck or pigeon!) and with your arches engaged, not falling in. This will help set you up for knees and quadriceps!

Foot Strengthening Exercises - Perfect Posture from Toe to Head

Knees and Quadriceps:

The knees are a “dumb” joint – they will follow the example of the joints above and below. Thus, the importance of strong ankles and arches (and hips, which we will get to in a minute). When standing, your ankles should be in line with your hips and ankles from the front and side. Relax your knees and avoid hyperextension (taking the knees past the vertical). Engage your quadriceps to protect the knee joint as well!


The pelvis is central to posture, both literally and figuratively; thus, having proper pelvic alignment is critical. Unfortunately, years of sitting and standing, correctly or incorrectly, means that many of us may require a great deal of work – perhaps even to the level of needing massage therapy to help relax muscles and release the pelvis. Furthermore, women tend to carry a great deal of tension in their hips, making it even harder to release the area for better posture. Desk jockeys tend to have tight hip flexors from sitting that then result in a forward-tilting pelvis. Hip flexors benefit from various stretches such as runner’s lunge or low lunge with the rear knee resting on the ground.

Pelvic Tilt - Perfect Posture from Toe to Head

Another way to significantly improve one’s pelvic tilt – if the top of the pelvis is tilted forward, causing one to jut out their tailbone, like a duck – is to engage the gluteal muscles, gently pulling the tailbone down while engaging the lower abdominals and gently raising the pubic bone. Do not overly engage either muscular system – doing so will bring the spine out of alignment in the other direction!

Abdominals and Core:

Speaking of abdominals, while you don’t need a six-pack, you need to know where your abs are located! Imagine someone is about to punch you in the stomach – that bracing or pulling in of the abs is what you seek. Learning how to brace your abs in such a way will strengthen the abs, help stabilize the pelvis, and, most importantly, protect your lower back, one of the most common areas of chronic pain for the modern-day worker. So get a jump on bikini season – after all, bikini bodies are made during winter – and save yourself a trip to the chiropractor!

Shoulders and Chest:

The shoulders are another area where we all carry a lot of weight; on the one shoulder, we carry a shoulder bag, and on the other shoulder, we carry a great deal of tension that we aren’t storing in our hips. So learning how to relax both the shoulders and hips can have an incredible impact not only on our physical health but also on our attitude.

Shoulder and Chest Posture - Perfect Posture from Toe to Head

The next time you stand up from your desk or put your shoulder bag down, reset your feet, your knees, your hips, your abs, and then your shoulders: Sweep your hands up over your head in a wide arc, then back down to your sides. Interlace your hands behind your back and gently race them away from your body with your arms straight, but not locked, as you slowly lean forward. Return slowly to standing.

Next, “anchor” your shoulders into your back by raising your shoulders up and then back and down. Think of wrapping your spine with your shoulder blades. Lastly, relax and let your shoulders return toward neutral, but keep your shoulder blades and upper back engaged and your chest open.

Neck and Head:

And now we have arrived at the top of the tower! Having laid proper foundations and going floor by floor upwards, you should already feel inches taller, and maybe even gained some real height! Finish off that feeling by lifting your chin slightly and looking gently ahead—relaxed, but ready for whatever is to come!

“Perfect posture” has, unfortunately, increasingly become “uncool” in today’s more relaxed culture, but one need not be followed around by a mother with a ruler in order to improve posture in subtle ways that can yield massive results not only for your physical health but also for your mentality. Stand tall, smile, and enjoy the newfound confidence that comes with having fantastic posture!

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Stand up Straight!
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Written by:

Susie is a NASM-certified personal trainer, marathon coach for Chicago Endurance Sports, former competitive equestrian, and blogger at Suzlyfe; a health. fitness, food, and lifestyle blog. Based in Chicago but with clients and followers around the world, Susie is dedicated to helping everyone discover that they can live beyond their expectations!
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