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Ask HN: Tricks to improve posture?
89 points by throwaway062819 48 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 58 comments
I'm sitting in front of a computer at least 8 hours every day and have noticed that my posture is terrible, constantly hunched over especially when I'm at my desk. Has anyone developed any tricks or tips about improving posture? It seems like a simple problem but requires constant reminding, otherwise you will fall back on your old slouched posture. Thanks!

Wall slides [1]

They are quick and easy to perform and surprisingly effective. After 20 of them I fell my back and neck muscles kind of "activated". They wont fix everything but they are a good immediate action and will also make you more aware of your posture and muscles.

[1]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Apk-frSspcU

Yes. Strength training, especially back and shoulder exercises such as deadlifts, rows and shoulder press.

I'd advice doing whole body training though, rather than focusing on posture only.

I've tried a posture brace before. It helps to remind you to straighten up, but it didn't feel like a permanent solution. I eventually went back to bad posture when I stopped using it.

Proper heavy deadlifts are one of the best exercises to help posture. It's impossible to get a good amount of weight off the floor slouched over, and after a few weeks of training this movement you'll have good posture habits drilled well into your head.

...at least once this whole virus situation clears up. In the meantime, maybe farmer carries with heavy book bags or somesuch? If you're not in proper posture it will hurt, but correct form will challenge your grip strength more than your back. Planks are also wonderful for building up the strength to keep good posture.

Farmer carry demo: https://youtu.be/cBv3NcxqhPM

One form cue from deadlifts that's very helpful is to "hold the ceiling up with the top of your head" to finish. When a lot of people "stand up straight" they are pushing their sternum forward and arching their upper back. What good posture really is about is taking the force of gravity and distributing it straight down among all your joints, then resisting it with all your muscles.

Your feet are pushing into the floor, your knees are pushing into the tops of your tibias. Hips, ribs, vertebra, head. When you feel the downward pressure on your skeleton it means your muscles are pulling you up. Like a circus tent pole surrounded by guy wires, you're in a perfect balance between tension and compression.

I don't know if there's one weird trick for it. Ice skating helps you develop the feel.

I think this is the same thing a karate instructor meant when she told me to imagine I'm being pulled upwards by a string attached to the top of my head. Not exactly a "one weird trick", but a very effective mental image.

This is a really excellent cue. Thank you very much!!

I use meditation. I spend 20-30 minutes sitting on the floor focused on my breathing and muscle tension. Without anything to support myself, as I relax, I'll slowly find a pretty good posture. It's hard to hunch over when you aren't leaning on a keyboard. I find that it tends to translate over to the rest of my day.

In two parts:

1. Fix the underlying ergonomics. Put your monitor higher and your keyboard closer. The position you want is like the rest position of a dancer: elbows nearly against your sides, relaxed. (Taking an actual dance class will teach a lot about posture habits). A small change of a few degrees here and there can make a big difference. If you are a laptop user and have been actually resting it on your lap, try putting a shoebox or similarly sized object under it.

2. Train mobility. The hunch develops as a result of persistent overtraining in one direction. You don't need a lot of additional strength to start to correct this, just mobility.

Look up Youtube channel "Calisthenic Movement" - there are some very good mobility routines and I have incorporated parts of them into my everyday workout. Some of them use a pull-up bar but most are pure bodyweight and the floor or a wall.

If you want to stock a home gym I suggest going for resistance bands - they're small, light, cheap, more forgiving than weights and hugely versatile.

A laptop user should either buy an appropriate stand (I have [1]) and keyboard and mouse, or a monitor. Or both.

This is so essential to a reasonable posture that it's essentially required by workplace safety regulations in Europe. (In other words, in Europe your employer should buy these things, including for working at home.)

[1] https://www.therooststand.com/

There are not effective "tricks". Strength training will "magically" solve the issue.

Try this: https://hundredpushups.com/

While the parent post might appear dismissive, I've found that strength training is indeed the best way to improve posture. Once you learn to lift weights in good form, the body tends to naturally stay in good posture even when you are not doing your exercises. I've found that no amount of conscious effort to observe oneself and maintain good posture is even remotely as good as just doing exercises to strengthen one's body. Of course, mobility and flexibility help too and I'm assuming one is doing enough stretching as a good way to cool down after the exercises.

Try a $20 upper back brace. Wear it for 20 minutes at a time while you're working. It conditions your upper back to straighten up and become less rounded.


Does this help with neck posture? My neck is bent forward quite a lot, but my back posture is fairly decent...

Also...I'm skeptical about these as I've heard they train your muscles to be lazy – the brace does lots of the work, so when you take it off old habits kick in because you're muscles can't do the same job the brace was doing.

But I guess the limit of 20–60 mins a day is to prevent that?

$20 is really cheap for this kind of value prop.

Have you tried it yourself? Not doubting, just always have some skepticism of reviews on Amazon haha

I got an el-cheapo one from Staples. Same idea, same shape, etc. It helps a lot, but it takes some fiddling to dial in the right amount of tension pulling your shoulders back.

I'm also looking for recommendations of back braces if anyone here is using one.

Donnie Thompson casual bow tie.

You also need to do strength training.

I second everything about hitting the gym, seeing a physio, and focussing on back and glutes etc.. but for some tricks and cues, I recommend getting a great chair that you love, positioning your screen slightly higher and maybe closer than you normally would, get a MS sculpt keyboard which positions your shoulders outward more comfortably, pretend you're James Bond or some badass woman when you're walking around, and position your car seat at right angle if you drive. Also tell your partner if you have one to poke you when you slouch, and think abiut squeeezing your abs when you walk

All of the above/below. It's a complex problem (which I share) caused by a lifetime of habit, and it takes a long-term, multi-pronged/phased approach. A) Physical fitness: proper conditioning will allow you to hold posture for long periods of time without fatigue/strain (this is something you work towards over time). B) Physical environment: everything must allow you to maintain posture without excessive leaning/reaching/craning; don't hold a fixed position continuously, but your base state should be strain-free. C) Habits: take frequent stand/stretch breaks (sometimes I stand up if I am reading something that will take a minute or more; also remember to rest your eyes periodically; look out the window; engage in brief social interation; standing desks are great (alternate with sitting), especially if you get restless). D) Triggers: develop reminders about posture (if I see my reflection from the side or when I'm sitting in front of a TV...; I try to be (not self-)conscious of what an observer would see); when you stretch, use that to "reset" your postural expectation (through repetition, it will become your "natural state", and you will be aware of when you're out of sync with it); if I don't feel like I'm standing up really straight, then I'm not. E) Mental state: if you feel tired, depressed, preoccupied, etc. then you will lose track of all of this; it won't seem important, and you will regress; pick it back up again and move forward (it's about improvement/maintenance, not "fixing"). HTH.

I've been sitting on the floor, resting my laptop on the coffee table. When I get tired, I put the coffee table on the dining room table and stand. I used to fatigue quite quickly and go back to regular desk, but after 3 weeks of this, that's how i spend the majority of the working day. You can't use your chair's back support when you're on the floor or standing so you're forced to engage your core muscles.

How do you sit on the floor? I used to this a while back but I would have a hard time keeping a straight back and not slouching.

I either sit in half lotus, or 90-90 style stretch. When I started I had a hard time sitting like that for more than 10 minutes, so I had to change position frequently, but it's better now. I'd switch from sitting to standing ( dining room table + small coffee table). When I got really tired, I'd sit down and start slouching. I slowly increased my sitting time.

I've had good success with the Upright GO.

It's a little device that you stick on your upper back and connect to your phone via Bluetooth. It detects when you're slouching and buzzes your back with a slight vibration to remind you to sit up straight.


This is a problem I faced which contributed to giving up my day job in front of a computer. The ongoing solution for me started by going to an exercise based physiotherapist.

Simplified, the anterior muscle chain (muscles along the front of your body) are over activated and are not working in balance with your posterior chain. The muscles in front are shorter and stronger. In back they are weaker and elongated. This especially in hunched forward posture and neck tension.

The muscles in front also work harder to hold your body upright as you are probably used to 'thinking' with the front of your body. Instead of being evenly balanced and distributed properly from the hips and up through the spine.

This is a simplification and each muscle in the body tends to have complementary and opposing muscles. Each individual will manifest problems in different areas and require strengthening and stretching accordingly.

My current physio has a Pilates studio and focuses on strengthening and stretching tailored to me. Not cheap but for me it has helped to identify and rethink how I move in an intuitive movement focused manner. 60 per week for an hour session so not prohibitive.

Also Alot of problems tend to have issues rooted in the glutes and hip flexors, I.e. an imbalance down there at the body's structural core manifest up through the spinal and muscle chain. This being the case with me I do a lot of glute work and hip flexor work as well as upper and lower back strengthening etc.

Eventually going to a gym or something similar being the goal, i suggest to start with a good excercise based physio, ones who do Pilates seem to have the right science & body mechanics approaches, to establish good form (which can be quite non intuitive if you have under active and over active muscles).. starting out at the gym may be overreaching and may compound imbalances... a good instructor may help but start at the physio imho.

Good luck!

I agree with the strength training mentioned here, but I also found out I was sitting wrong. I always had my hips tilted too far forward, as if I was slightly slouching. Often made me hunch my upper back and my lower back would ache if I worked for too long.

I forget where I learned it, so unfortunately I can't provide professional guided advice, but I saw an article about sitting better and making sure your hips aren't too far forward or back. It took some getting used to as I had been sitting poorly for years. I needed time for certain things to stretch a bit so that it became natural, but now I've even had compliments on my posture while sitting.

Getting a split keyboard helped too. Being able to spread the two halves prevented my shoulders from pinching together in the front.

One easy-to-forget factor is lateral symmetry. Especially with asymmetric multi-monitor setups (including laptops), it’s easy to spend hours with the body facing straight, but the head tilted slightly to the side. This is probably very unhealthy for the neck/spine.

If your chair allows it, lean back.

A new study suggests that sitting upright for hours at a time -- for example, when working at a computer -- may lead to chronic back pain. Instead, the best position for your back is somewhat reclined, sitting at a 135-degree angle rather than the 90-degree angle most office chairs are designed for.


In the near future, I plan on purchasing one of the chairs https://www.komfortchair.com/ . But for now, I am using this https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0167NBDYU/

There's a lot of information here, lots of people saying to work out. If you don't workout and start, I would advise starting slow and using proper form, also getting the advice of a professional or at least something that really knows what they're doing is paramount.

I'll throw out something that helped me - strengthening my upper back. My upper back was weak and not doing it's job which was causing my lower back to suffer.

You need to make sure your desk is properly set up (screen, keyboard, chair). There shouldn't be any reason to slouch if it is properly set up.

So much this. Also give standing desks a try. That helped me to fix my posture a ton (not only while working on the computer, but while standing/walking/etc overall) and also made half of my lower pain back go away.

How long do you manage to work standing up? do you switch positions throughout the day?

Yes, I switch every hour. Also, when I have a meeting where I don't have to present my screen, I always make sure to switch to my phone and walk around. That's another very important, but often overlooked exercise.

Working from home for the past month+, I started using an active learning stool. It's basically a height adjustable stool that wobbles around. It lows me to sit on it, or lean against it. This keeps me from slouching in a chair all day and has done wonders for my posture.

I'll probably request one from work once we return to the office.

What worked for me is ditching the pillow to sleep when I'm on my back. I keep the pillow in the vicinity and use it if I switch to my side. People used to comment how bad my posture was, I don't get that anymore.

Do core workouts. While doing the work-out, really concentrate on keeping your core stable and your breathing in sync with your motions. Learning how to brace your core unconsciously will help more with your posture than anything else.

All those ergonomic solutions force you to position yourself well, but they won’t work unless you have the strength to hold it.

I've got the opposite problem. I would like to sit in one place for 8 hours... or even 1 hour. But I can't sit still for more than 20 minutes. Anyone got any tips for that?

I've been prescribed adderall before (I basically asked for it), and it was good, but I've cut it out since I don't like what it did to my personality.

Consider it a blessing in disguise (look at all the articles about how sitting for long periods is awful), which prevents you from wrecking your posture/health. It’s good to keep moving around! Some folks use Pomodoro timers to stretch/flex/move regularly :-)

Maybe what you want is a way to maintain focus — not necessarily hold still. Don’t mean to be patronizing; I’m trying to change my habits to move around more.

Stand up. Sitting all day just isn't natural, no matter what. Learn to do your desk-work from a standing position, barefoot, no shoes, and with a lot of little movements and stretching from time to time. And the workout ideas already mentioned are also great - build up your core. This is the way.

I think sitting is more natural than standing. Hunter-gatheres sit around a lot but they don’t sit on chairs. On the other hand they don’t stand on one place for too long and usually are on the move.


8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0979303605

This book fixed my posture. After reading it, I understood for the first time what it actually means to have good posture.

I am 52, male. Started wearing wooden clogs a couple of years ago, as I was experiencing similar symptoms as OP. Life-changing experience, this has been. My advice to OP: dispose of your sneakers and all of your comfy shoes. Wear nothing but wooden clogs instead.

I think you live in the flat above me.

Stand more, sit less. Stretch frequently, and do the basic calisthenics: pushups, unweighted squats, crunches, maybe even burpees.

Don't do a bunch of reps, just 5-10 or whatever is comfortable, every couple hours.

Start regularly attending yoga classes. This has improved my posture significantly over the past year. I personally enjoy power yoga classes that are more strength focused but all yoga will help with posture.

Weight lifting is the only reliable medicine. Everything else is a band-aid.

Got myself a 75cm exercise ball last week to sit on. Improved my lower back in just 2 days and can see myself sitting up straighter. $10 ball so much better than a $1000 chair.

Be careful, you may want to invest in a more expensive burst-resistant exercise ball that will not pop like a balloon.


Yes, I did get a birthing / maternity / pregnancy ball. They go by these names rather than gym / exercise / swiss ball. Thicker material, non-slip and burst resistant.

Excellent, thanks for following up!

^F stool... phrase not found.

My strong suggestion is raise your desk to 36 to 42 inches and buy a good quality lab stool with a foot rest. A stool forces your to sit upright and not slouch.

i have 'lordosis', ive found some simple excercises to sort it out - like pulling "my ass down" which makes my back straight. make sure to get your posture diagnosed and possibly get excercises from physician, if you cant then there are some books and good videos on youtube (sic! i know), just choose someone u can verify as knowlegable person if you cant physically get to doc.

You might try a standup desk. I have a varidesk.com. It is sturdy and lets you stand or sit.

Raise your monitor high enough that you have to sit upright and hold your head up to look straight at it.

Mounted or raised screen and a yoga/exercise ball. Also, do squat exercises.

Long duration walks (1-2 hours) with an upright stance has helped me a lot.

Press ups. Yoga. Moving about.


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