Get Your Back in the Game

This year’s blogs highlight the interconnection of all aspects of wellness. The more tools we have, the better our chances of creating the results we desire. We have learned this month that we can energize ourselves and can enhance our moods through the energy gains and drains activity or through backbends. We can also do so through exercise.

One energy source we typically overlook when exercising is our back. The back holds some of the largest muscles (latissimus dorsi, trapezius and erector spinae) in the body, yet they are also some of the most underused thanks to America’s favorite sport: sitting. Americans now spend more time sitting than they do sleeping. This weakens our back muscles, which destroys our postures.

Poor posture contributes to countless health problems, such as: depression, stress, back pain, digestion issues and low energy. It also inhibits our ability to move freely, to stand comfortably and to breath properly – key components of health and vitality.

Last week, we experimented with looking upward and smiling to feel the effects of opening our bodies and minds. Today, let’s try the opposite to explore the effects of poor posture. (Please skip this activity if you struggle with depression.)

Try this: Walk around with your head down for a minute. What do you notice? How do you feel? How did your energy and mood change?

I once participated in a study at San Francisco State University in which half of the students walked with their heads down, while the other half of us skipped. The visual and energetic effects on the class were shocking. The students in the first group reported feeling down and lethargic, while the skippers and I reported feeling happy and energetic.

Improving our posture may be the cheapest yet most effective way to increase our energy and to enhance our overall wellness. Start doing these three powerful exercises today to strengthen your back to restore your posture:

Passthrough1. Pass-throughs: A major cause of poor posture is tight shoulder and chest muscles in the front body. As a result, it may be necessary to loosen your front body before working out your back body. If you notice that your shoulders round forward or you have a hard time touching your hands behind your back, incorporate pass-throughs in your daily routine. They take little effort yet can transform your posture and mobility instantaneously. Here’s how to do this simple therapeutic exercise.

2. Pull-ups: Pull-ups activate the entire back, shoulders, arms and core. They will improve your posture by making you stronger and more confident in your physical abilities. This exercise is not easy. Most people cannot perform even 10 repetitions. The key is starting. A valid first goal is to complete five to 10 pull-ups. If you can’t do a pull-up yet, try these beginner variations to work your way up to the full exercise:
a) Negatives
b) Assisted machine pull-ups
c) Assisted band pull-ups
d) Wide-grip pull-ups

Deadlift3. Dead lifts: This is the king of all back and maybe all exercise. Dead lifts strengthen every muscle in your body, as they require your center of gravity to move over the floor in a parallel manner. Dead lifts tax your brain, torch calories to improve your metabolism and to increase your energy, and strengthen the hell out of your backside. Learn proper form to increase the amount of repetitions and weight you can pull.

Focusing on the front body is a common trend in weight lifting and in exercise in general. You therefore may find back exercises uncomfortable and challenging, especially if you haven’t trained these muscles before. As we learned last week, this is another reason to start doing them. The key to growth and change is confronting discomfort.

Prioritize your back body. Revitalize your posture. Amplify your energy. Change your life.

Want to learn more about training your back muscles to increase your energy and to enrich your well-being? Contact me today about personal training at my gym in San Francisco.

Nick Palladino-King teaches students and clients how to reduce stress, to increase happiness and to elevate health through yoga, wellness coaching and strength training.

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