Your parents weren’t totally off by telling you to stand up straight.  In fact, it could have been some of the best advice they ever gave you. When people start a training program, the first things that usually come to mind are: what cool exercises will I be doing? How many post workout shakes do I take? Which supplements do I need to get? Very few ever think about their posture. However, it could be the piece of the puzzle that’s holding them back and limiting their muscle gains, strength and performance.

Picture this: you are on a quest to save your princess (who coincidentally looks like a mix between Jessica Alba and Adriana Lima). She is unfortunately locked in a tower. A giant Master key padlock locks the entrance to the tower. You have two choices. Go on a separate mini-quest to find the key. Or, go around the back and climb the tower. The only problem is that an evil gargoyle named Ronald guards the tower. Being a gargoyle, Ronald can blend in with the stone and send you plummeting to your death at any moment. While it is still possible to climb the tower, it is more difficult and carries a much higher risk—you could suffer injury at any moment without warning. It also makes escaping even more of a challenge once you get the princess. While finding the key may take some time, once found, it will make for a speedy and safe rescue.

Which choice will you make?

The key itself will not get you the princess, but because you put in the effort to find the key, it saved you a lot of time and risk. Who knows what would have happened if you and Ronald had to duke it out?

Having adequate posture works the same way. If you stand tall, it won’t make you jacked, but having good posture will allow you to get jacked much faster and with much less risk of injury. Here’s why:

When you’re aligned properly the muscles are able to function properly. Think of the muscular system as a giant corporation. Each muscle has its own role and responsibility. If each muscle does its respective job, then the body as a corporation makes the Fortune 500. The muscles of the rotator cuff help keep the shoulder in the socket. Likewise, the gluteus medius helps to keep your hip in the socket. The gluteus maximus helps to extend the hip and make you run fast as a bull. The external obliques help to stabilize the pelvis so you don’t wibble wobble with every move. Then we have biceps … well they do a good job of looking good for the ladies. In any case, each muscle has spent a long time honing their skills and is very adept at what it does best. Unfortunately, when your posture sucks it throws a wrench into this well-functioning company. This is like the guy who forgot to order the photocopier, so you have to do copies by hand; you can still do your work, but it’s a hell of a lot harder, and way less productive.

Imagine the CEO just told the glutes to go home and take a vacation, leaving other muscles, who have no idea what the glutes do, to take over its responsibilities. What do you think happens next? Cluster@#$%, that’s what. This is what happens when you sit for a long time, which is an unavoidable part of modern living. With work, dinner and even good old Facebook we’ve all gotten pretty talented at sitting, which would be sick if sitting got you jacked … It’s too bad that sitting will do the exact opposite. It actually destroys your posture.

When you take bad posture and throw a bunch of challenging weightlifting exercises at it, it’s only a matter of time before your body can’t function well anymore. Have you ever plateaued in a lift? This is likely because your body is out of wack and can’t move optimally.  This is especially true for ectomorphs. Without feeling too sorry for ourselves, as I’m ectomorph 4 lyfe, in terms of weightlifting purposes, ectomorphs do not have the best genetics. Ectomorphs typically have small bone structures, low muscular development and less testosterone. Can we up our testosterone production, add a ton of muscle to our physique, and become a beast in the gym? Absolutely, but without proper alignment and a proper training program we’re much more likely to get hurt when our posture is bad because our physique is sleek. Us ectomorphs need to put a bit more work into training because it’s not our natural strength, literally. Our natural advantage is being ripped to shreds once we’re muscular, so hold tight!

To get the most out of the big bang strength exercises, one must have the proper foundation of good posture and optimal biomechanical efficiency … huh? Let’s put it this way. Not mastering alignment is like building a house on top of a frozen lake during winter. The bigger the house gets, the more its weak foundation is exposed. It is only a matter of time before the ice cracks.

One of the most tried and true methods for increasing muscle mass is to eat a surplus of Capuchin monkeys like a Harpy Eagle while following an exercise regimen full of heavy lifts.

Unfortunately, skinny guys tend to make the mistake of going too heavy and too complex too soon. They skip that first fundamental step of putting together their foundation. Why do they skip it? Because they want big powerful muscles. Now. That’s understandable—very understandable. We’ve been there. What most ectomorphs don’t realize is that they’ll grow really damn quickly while doing intelligent foundation work. Shane gained 15 pounds while testing the first five weeks of Bony to Beastly. We’re not talking about months of stretching here, we’re talking about intelligent muscle-building exercises that take alignment into consideration. And a proper foundation not only speeds up the process of putting on size, it allows for sustained progress, too.

If you move well, you can lift more weights without hurting yourself. If you can lift more weights, and you eat well, you will increase muscle mass.

Sounds simple, right? If only it were that easy to move well. Years worth of sitting and moving improperly has caused us to adapt to very faulty movement patterns, making it difficult and time consuming to correct. This tends to be a big turn off for us ectomorphs—we’re eager for muscle mass. We want to go straight to the muscle pumping exercises.

What if you could correct posture and improve your muscle mass at the same time???

You can! All you need to is follow these steps:

Spend less time sitting

People smarter than me have said that it takes roughly 20 minutes for tissues to tighten up. If you sit for 8 hours a day, it should be no surprise that people get tight in the hips and shoulders. If you don’t use it you lose it. Try setting a timer on your computer for every 20 minutes. When it goes off, stand up tall, wiggle around and squeeze your butt cheeks together.

Stand tall whenever you can

When you walk to school, when you’re at the club and when you are waiting in line for a hotdog  double-steak sandwich, stand up straight. My favourite cue for improved posture relates to head position. Just think that of trying to push the top back of your head through the roof while keeping your chin tucked in. The more often you can keep your head aligned with your spine, the better!

Train with good posture

This is training with proper technique. I won’t go too in-depth here as it’s quite a vast subject, but if you maintain the principles of good posture throughout your training, you will be more likely to stimulate the correct muscles and learn to keep your posture better. Kind of like hitting the “save” button on posture. The key is to choose exercises that make it easier to maintain excellent posture. As soon as things get hard in a lift, your body will go right back to its “bad” habits. It may be smarter to choose a Goblet Squat over a heavy Back Squat right off the bat because the Goblet Squat makes it much easier to have good posture. This is because the load is in front, which stimulates the core muscles, which helps to stabilize the spine. The load used will also be lighter, making it easier to focus on using proper technique.

People revert back to habits when things get hard.

Solution: Build good habits.

Marco Walker-Ng is the co-founder and strength coach of Outlift, Bony to Beastly, and Bony to Bombshell, and is a certified trainer (PTS) with a Bachelor's degree in Health Sciences (BHSc) from the University of Ottawa. His specialty is helping people build muscle to improve their strength and general health, with clients including college, professional, and Olympic athletes.

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1 Comment

  1. Daniel on October 26, 2015 at 7:06 pm

    Gargoyle named Ronald 🙂 Great article and so true! I missed it when I started and it took me a year to figure this out. Focusing on posture an much as I can as it does cause health issues if ignored and taken as “normal.”

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