One Small Change to Look Leaner, Stronger, Taller

For Christmas this year, how would you like Santa to help you look leaner, get stronger, have more energy, live pain-free, appear more confident, get a raise at work, look younger, breathe easier, boost performance, and even grow an inch taller? Would that be the icing on the fruitcake, or what?

Well, I’m here to tell you that no matter how naughty you may have been this past year, it’s all possible. The only thing you have to do is sign on for this month’s One Small Change experiment. Then, for the next 31 days, we’ll set out to improve our posture, which is the simple, overlooked key to getting all these gifts.

Posture doesn’t get much respect from athletes because they think it’s the domain of prissy etiquette experts. But I’m not Miss Manners, and this program isn’t going to entail walking around with books on our heads. Posture is the secret weapon to enhancing performance and—no exaggeration—life itself.

“About 75 percent of my work with athletes is spent helping them improve posture, whether they realize it or not,” says Sue Falsone, PT, CSCS, the director of performance physical therapy for Athletes’ Performance. “The body needs to have some element of stability in order to produce mobility. When that foundation isn’t there, you’re going to have a hard time doing just about anything well.”

Indeed, not since Neanderthal days has there been a time when poor posture was at such epidemic proportions. Although Falsone points out that everyone is born with perfect posture (“just watch little kids sit, walk and pick things up,” she says), we lose it by sitting for long periods, doing repetitive movements, and not stretching regularly. In fact, you’re probably reading this right now hunched over some computer or phone.

Still skeptical? Let’s take a few minutes to determine how good your posture really is. Strip down to your skivvies and have a friend snap two head-to-toe photos: one of you from the front and another from the side. Stand naturally with feet hip-width apart and arms at your sides. Now check the following:

From the front…

  • Look at the tops of your shoulders; they should be level.
  • Imagine there’s a vertical line splitting your body in half from your nose through your crotch; the right and left sides should be mirror images.

From the side…

  • Shoulder blades shouldn’t be visible; if they are, your back is rounded.
  • Spine should be straight; any outward (convex) curve signifies slumping.
  • Imagine there’s a vertical line running from the middle of your ear to the floor. It should bisect the middle of your shoulder and the boney protrusions on the outside of your hip, knee, and ankle. If these checkpoints are forward or behind the line, or you noticed any of the other imbalances mentioned, you’re out of whack and your posture needs work.

Fortunately, Falsone says it’s possible to correct misalignments and significantly improve posture in four weeks or less. “I see it happen all the time,” she says. “When we compare before and after photos of our athletes, the most startling change is often their general posture and head position.”

Falsone has designed a special workout for us that will strengthen the most-important postural muscles. Plus, she’s assembled a bunch of quirky little exercises involving everything from Post-It notes to duct tape that can be used as reminders throughout the day to—as you’re mother probably yelled—“Sit up straight!” I’ll deliver both in my next blog post. Join me for the ride, and maybe Santa will come through, too.


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