5 Simple Changes That Will Help You Improve Your Posture

We bet you’ve heard “stand up straight” or “don’t slouch” a few times before — even if the critiques and criticisms about posture weren’t directed at you personally. But what is good posture and why exactly does it matter?

The Merriam Webster Dictionary offers a straightforward definition, listing posture as “the way in which your body is positioned in sitting or standing.” The Kansas Chiropractic Foundation says that good posture means “your bones are properly aligned, so your muscles, joints and ligaments can work as nature intended.” Kerrisa Smith, a Certified Bar Method Instructor at the Bar Method Marina in San Francisco and the National Physical Therapy Consultant for The Bar Method, tells us that the benefits of good alignment as nature intended include a healthy spine, improved circulation and digestion, efficient respiration and your ability to portray a more confident body image. She also notes that good posture can even help you to prevent injuries.

Why good posture matters

“Posture isn’t actually an inherent trait as it’s affected not only affected by genetics but also our daily rituals, positions and habits,” Kerrisa says. “Our hectic routines and mobile lifestyles can attribute to bad habits and cause problems like neck pain, shoulder impingement, carpal tunnel, back pain and tendonitis.” Even more, slouching in chairs, carrying heavy backpacks or purses, and sitting in awkward positions while driving can also lead to postural issues — leading to discomfort and injury over time.  

The silver lining? Kerrisa says that it’s never too late to correct your posture. “Making simple changes to your daily routine can save you from pain and impairment in the future,” she promises.

To begin practicing better posture, Kerrisa tells us you’ll need to take a quick inventory on your current physical stature. While facing forwards, look into the mirror and notice:

  • Are your shoulders level?
  • Is your head straight?
  • Are you hip straight?
  • Is there equal space between your arms and sides of your body?
  • Are your ankles straight?

Next, turn to the side or on profile to the mirror (or take a picture):

  • Is your head upright? (not pointing forwards or backwards)
  • Is your chin parallel to the floor?
  • Are your shoulders in line with your ears and the midpoint of your hips?
  • Are your knees straight?
  • Is there a slight forward curve to your low back?

After assessing your posture, begin to incorporate her five easy tips into your daily routine. They’ll correct postural imbalances while helping you maintain the superb stature you’ve mastered by taking class.

  1. Lift your chin: Kerrisa says, “Doing this will help help decrease unnecessary stress on your cervical spine.”
  2. Squeeze your shoulder blades together: Whether you’re sitting at your desk or standing in line at Starbucks, begin to perform small isometric squeezes of your shoulder blades. Kerrisa tells us that this will help to lift your chest and stretch out tight, rounded shoulders.
  3. Pull your belly in: Do this all day and every day! Kerrisa explains, “This action will activate your deep abdominals (the transversus abdominis muscle) — just like the work you do in flat back. Think of these muscles as your inner girdle and know that as this muscle strengths, it will help protect your back and help flatten your stomach.”
  4. Stand with relaxed legs: Like your instructors tell you in a Bar Method class, avoid locking out your knees. This puts increased pressure on your lumbar spine.
  5. Stand tall: Be proud of your height (or lack thereof!) and own your body by standing tall. Not only will your inner confidence will reflect outwards, and you’ll look more lean while doing so.

As Kerrisa reminds us, “We’re only given one body in life and it’s our job to love it, respect it and nurture it. Take the time pay attention to your daily positions, and make the necessary changes to improve your posture. You’ll find yourself with a healthier, happier body.”

We’d love to learn how Bar Method has helped you improve your posture — share your personal story in the comments!

What the Tuck?

On the front lines of communication when it comes to feedback and questions from students across the country, Bar Method studio owners really know their stuff. We recently caught up with Jessica Bowman, Owner of Bar Method Solana Beach, about a blog post she recently published for her client community that talks specifically about the infamous “tuck” you experience in a Bar Method class.

As Jessica shares in her post on her blog Barre Boss, “People who ‘do barre’ typically know that all barre classes are not created equally and understand the subtle (but important) differences between the various programs. However, even if you’ve been taking The Bar Method or another barre fitness program for several months or years, you may still be confused about some of the terms instructors use to help you achieve proper form.” She went on to guess (and we bet she’s right!) that at some point during your Bar Method journey, you’ve probably stopped to ask yourself, “what the tuck?”

What the tuck?

Jessica went on to perfectly explain, “The Bar Method tuck is really just a stance that maintains spine neutrality during weight-work and muscle isolations. In this stance, students recruit their bodies’ three core muscle groups, those in their upper backs (shoulder stabilizers), their torsos (abs), and under their spines (glutes). The ‘Bar Method tuck’ thereby keeps these stabilizer muscles working to protect students’ spines and also to enhance the effectiveness of the exercise at hand.”

As Jessica notes, a good example of this is in the warm-up weight work. Instructors will tell you to “drop your tailbone, draw your abs in and grip your glutes” to achieve stability in your back to perform the targeted weight work (bent-elbow lifts, biceps curls, lat pulls) properly.

The term “tuck” takes on a different meaning when it’s used in choreography (i.e. in thigh or seat work when you’re told to “tuck for the last 20”). In this context, the instruction means to grip your glutes repeatedly to the specified tempo in order to isolate and contract the glutes against stability coming from the front of the body. In this example, your glutes are the muscle group being targeted and worked as opposed to providing stability like they are in the previous example.

What the tuck?

In both cases, she states, “you can potentially over-tuck resulting in overstretched hip flexors, poor upper back posture and lower back strain. To prevent this, use the mirrors in the studio to check your low back alignment and be mindful of whether or not you are simply engaging your glutes or tucking your tailbone under you in a way that creates unnecessary resistance in your glutes. Oftentimes very flexible students won’t realize they are over tucking which is why it becomes very important to workout under the guidance of highly trained instructors.”

From her experience as a studio owner, Jessica wisely notes that an outsider comparing a Bar Method workout with another barre class might not see that the students in both classes are using entirely different muscles. She says, “This skill is called ‘differentiation,’ or the power to use one muscle without unconsciously engaging another. Bar Method teachers are highly trained to help their students learn this important kinetic ability.” As Bar Method Founder Burr Leonard explained, Bar Method is not “all about the tuck” but rather “all about the technique”.

Have questions about your tuck or specific positions in class? Drop a note in the comments!