By: Brandon Richey, B.S., CSCS
As a strength coach I am constantly observing poor posture and muscular imbalances with a large portion of the population. With the advent of cell phones and other handheld devices, society has steadily regressed both mentally and physically due to laziness and with the availability of a cushier lifestyle.
I can go on all day long about the mental regression, but for the sake of today’s article I’m going to address the physical mistakes people fall victim to in regards to their lifestyle and training choices.
Once again, the availability of sitting jobs is something that has caused a lot of physical issues with today’s society. As a coach this is something that I’m constantly working to combat with my students and with new training students that need to be worked back into a state of correctness.
I mean, just think about the reality of sitting. The body will adapt to whatever stress, or lack of stress you place on it…period. If you train for enhancing mobility, for enhancing strength, and for enhancing an optimal level of conditioning the body will adapt into a Greek God (or Goddess) like figure.
However, if you sit 6 to 8 hours a day at work, sit on the drive to and from work, and sit at home at night watching Netflix until bedtime your body will adapt to the act of sitting. I mean 10 to 12 hours of sitting everyday will have a negative impact on the body. Common sense will tell you that much.
So besides the lack of physical activity the problem with chronic sitting is the weakening of the posterior chain and core center of the body. In addition to these areas of weakness we can also see a tightening of the anterior muscles of the upper body including the pectoralis muscles, rectus abdominis, and deltoids.
At this point the body is essentially starting to fold up like tent. As a result, people get weak and tight and it’s my job to work on stretching that which is tight while working on strengthening that which is loose or weak.
Poor Programming Choices
To continue on from the point I just made about the problems associated with the current state of inactivity, there are also many ways that people worsen these problems when they decide to make a lifestyle change and start trying to train for better health.
So looking at the profile of the individual that already has poor postural problems and weakness, even with good intentions, this individual at times can make a bad situation worse when looking at starting to get into shape again.
First of all, if we’re talking about someone that already has a weak posterior and a tight anterior chain of muscles then smart programming would have us selecting exercises to strengthen the posterior chain while working to stretch and mobilize the muscles of the anterior chain.
For a guy that sits 10 to 12 hours a day and already has an obvious postural problem with forward slouching of the upper body, as a coach – I’m not going to be in a hurry to program in a significant amount of bench press. My focus is going to be more on working to strengthen the posterior chain by incorporating a healthy dose of some effective pulling exercises.
The 3 To 1 Strength Ratio
Now to be clear, I’m not advocating that these individuals should altogether avoid all pushing related movement such as the bench press. I’m just merely pointing out that their needs should be met when formulating a physical program. Based on the physical description I’ve posted here a heavy emphasis on bench press is not going to be the thing to meet the needs of such a trainee.
As a general rule of thumb I like to try to implement and advise trainees to program a 3 to 1 ratio of pull related movements to pushing related movements. In other words, for every push related movement you perform try to include 3 pulling related exercises to lend greater focus to strengthening the posterior chain.
Pull ups are a great drill to practice and include for this very reason. Pull ups engage the latissimus dorsi muscles (or lat muscles) of the back giving greater support to the shoulder girdle when performing pushing related movements.
If pull ups are too challenging, or if you just want to challenge your pulling movement in very different way by getting in more unilateral (single limb) movement you can perform some single arm rows with a single dumbbell or kettlebell.
As you can see single arm rows also require significant lat stimulation while also training you to stabilize the shoulder girdle. If your shoulder girdle doesn’t feel stable, or the row feels awkward try rotating the thumb of the lifting hand out away from your body externally rotating the humerus.
This 3 to 1 ratio may consist of other pull related movements such as lat rows, or more total body moves such as kettlebell swings and deadlifts.
The key is understanding that it’s best practices to place your emphasis on pulling related movements in order to ensure a strong posterior development in order to achieve a respectable level of function.
The key to building a strong fit body is understanding how to train for your needs first. Addressing needs with the stereotypical lifestyle I’ve described here involves making sure to include a good ratio of pulling relating movements.
A strong posterior chain encourages a more correct posture and staves off a lot of potential problems that might be associated with a lifestyle that causes a weaker posterior chain and a tight weak anterior chain. The 3 to 1 pull to push ratio is a safe starting place for building an intelligent strength program.
Stay strong. Be better. Train smart!
For more information on coach Brandon Richey and his strength programs please visit him at brandonricheyfitness.com.
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