The Basics of Good and Bad Posture

Do you know where you stand in terms of your posture? Is it good or bad? Is there room for improvement?

A lot of attention has been given lately to posture and the difficulties of maintaining and improving it. Our societies shift to an “electronic and sitting world” works against our human structure of being balanced and moving in the ways it was intended making it hard to be good.

What is balanced anatomy and good posture?

Who should we look to for the answers because as I see it there are several ways we can discuss posture, and it can be simple or it can get really complicated. Few norms have been established that are scientifically backed. What’s good and bad is largely based on a visual analysis which is subjective and influenced by the experience and education of the professional you are working with.

As expected in these times we have many posture apps that will analyze and tell you how bad things really are. Where you are today is a reflection of your genetics, habits, history and environment from not just now but going back to your birth.  Early rolling and crawling patterns, walking to running development, and growth patterns have all contributed to your posture today. Your injuries and history all play a part in how your posture would be considered good or bad.

From the book Anatomy Trains, author Thomas Myers reminds us “There is no virtue involved in having a symmetrical, balanced structure. Everyone has a good story and good stories always involve some imbalance. There is no moral advantage to being straight and balanced.” And I add you may have bad posture but you can still be a nice person!

What’s your postural vocabulary?

Let’s go over the terms so at least in an effort to say yours is good or bad we are on the same page. This is the start of the confusion I see because you could have good posture standing and bad posture sitting or sleeping. Then there’s movement. Everything from an easy walk to sport specific movement analysis. The golf and tennis swing, soccer, sailing and cycling positions all can be looked at here. You can see pretty quickly that there are many variables and hence many more terms than simply good of bad.

Left – Right – Forward – Back – Straight – Bent – Tilted – Rotated – Shifted

Then there are the more standard postural adjectives:

Anterior – Posterior – Superior – Inferior – Medial – Lateral.

Good posture should have evenness of tone, length of muscles, ease, and generosity of movement. (-1)

We can also look at specific body parts. Are we are looking at just your head or your head related to your torso?  Perhaps your head is tilted to the left and your ribs to the right? Compared to what? We must be careful who and what we compare ourselves to.

Keep in mind we are not static and fixed creatures but dynamic and neurologically adaptive ones. As we attempt to classify and put you in a box of good or bad and needing correction I caution the trainers that I mentor to remember that we don’t have a looking glass. Getting so specific on the reason we are “compensating” and “imbalanced” and in discomfort can be a slippery slope in my opinion. Thinking of your posture as having severe faults will only limit your ability to improve them.

Every movement you do is trying to help you move better. The sooner you start to think of movement like this your “compensations” will take a new place in your mind and repair.  Something is holding on to your hip like that so something else doesn’t fall apart! Getting rid of the tension is Step 1, getting rid of why there was tension in the first place is step 2-10. And this usually needs repeating as it took you awhile for your body to get that way. It’s not simply going to change with only one nudge in the good posture direction.

One thing I’d like to remind you of here is that I’m a trainer and although I could pull out a goniometer to determine the precise degrees of rotation of you neck, shoulder, hip or ankle, I often don’t. I can work with simple assessments to find the clients limitations and program to improve them using efficient exercises that are within the clients ability and progressed appropriately. Assisting someone to move better and improve their posture is a privilege and one hopes than with so many factors involved the process will yield results. Results for goals in the sport of life, sport specific, or sport of aging with a good handle on nutrition, sleep, movement, and mindset are what I want for us all.

What can you do? What do you envision for yourself?

Sarah Cahill, strength coach with Women’s USA Hockey says she has a saying: ”You can’t be it if you can’t see it.” (-2) I’m here to tell you that with a commitment to movement you can change and improve your posture every day.

Is what you are doing working for you? Whether you are working with a professional or not ask yourself the age old question: Am I getting a training effect? Am I seeing results? Assessment, evaluation, and revision of the plan may be needed if your answers are not what you are looking for. Doing the same thing over and over and not getting results is a waste of your time.

  • Can you do a push up, a pull up and crawl?
  • Can you touch your toes? You should be able to.
  • Can you look over your shoulder, side to side and up and down without restriction or pain?
  • Can you pull a sweater over your head without pain?
  • Can you pick up something heavy? How heavy without hurting yourself?
  • Do you have pelvic floor issues and do you know these could be improved with posture and core work?
  • Can you squat down without rounding your back and having your heels lift off the floor?
  • Do you ever go barefoot and work on your balance?
  • Can you get up and down from the floor easily?
  • Can you kneel?

Who sets the limitations on your goals? You do!

Working to improve you mobility, stability and strength will all improve your posture. Visualize your improvements and set some goals for yourself that you never thought possible.

You can do it – and you should.


Written by: Sheila Hamilton Copyright June 2017

Click here to listen to Sheila discuss this topic on the Jon McComb show.  The Fitness Segment airs live every Thursday at 9:05 on CKNW 980 am.

Anatomy Trains :Thomas Myers  2009 Page 229-232 (-1)

Dynamic Aging Katy Bowman Copyright 2017 p 120

(-2) below:


Physical Preparation with Chris Chase