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Fixing the computer guy posture [pdf] (kaasplateau.com)
300 points by aniketpant on Dec 31, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 122 comments

When you ignore (or are unaware of) ergonomic issues for years, you can get into serious trouble (like I did). I had been programming for over 10 years without any problems (and without paying any attention to ergonomics), and 7 years ago I got Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI) really bad. I tried many things to get rid of it, including lots of exercises like the ones in this post, but it was very hard to get rid of. The RSI got so bad that I thought I had to give up programming all together.

Fortunately I managed to find a combination that worked for me. The most important component was using a break program that made sure I took breaks to rest my arms and hands, and to do some exercises. I also switched to an ergonomic keyboard and mouse. I am now completely recovered, but it really made me realize that we need to pay attention to ergonomics.

I've written up my story in more detail here: http://henrikwarne.com/2012/02/18/how-i-beat-rsi/

In addition to what I mention in my post, I am now also using a height-adjustable desk (some people think they are expensive, but they're not). It's really good to be able to switch between sitting and standing. If you are like me for the first 10 years of my career (i.e. ignoring ergonomics), consider paying a little bit of attention now, otherwise it may become a problem later on.

I know these are looked down on, but this is a +1 comment.

Break program saved my ass, having been told by a doctor that I'd have to give up programming as a career. I had tried all sorts of other stuff (DataHands keyboard, a vertical keyboard, wrist rest, bla bla bla), but the enforced breaks were the game changer.

Sometimes a break program will make things worse. When you are under (time) pressure and the break program is blocking your PC you will get stress. And stress is one of the main reasons for getting RSI.

Hopefully being under such time pressure is not the normal mode of operation though ;-)

All the break programs I have used have a "manual override", and you can also turn them off. Occasionally I have done that if is something really critical that has to go out at once. But for me that happens maybe once or twice a year.

Repetitive strain injury is caused by repetitive motions (hence the name), not life stress.

I've found that it can be hard to isolate whether pain is solely from repetitive motions or if it's stress induced. Reducing both have helped me.

I have found my RSI noticeably worse when stressed, too

Nothing like this has happened to me so far. But I am going to be watching for signs all the time.

Is going for a stand-up desk worth it? I have heard that they really improve your working.

I got rid of my RSI without using one. However, I do feel that a stand-up desk is good for my body as well. You can get some variation through the day by alternating between sitting and standing. It also makes it a lot easier to adjust the desk to the correct height when sitting at it (no more turning little screws at the bottom of the desk legs to adjust the height).

There were also reports a while ago about how sitting all day lowers your life expectancy - another reason to try to stand up part of the day.

I agree man.

We can't really make this world a great place if we don't live long. So, lets stand up.

From my experience, standing desks are worth it. It will take a week or a few to adapt your feet and legs, though.

I, too, have battled with RSI in my right hand and wrist. Things that helped:

Posture. Back straight; elbows bent 90 degrees (no less); monitor at eye level so neck is straight.

Physical therapy. Deep-tissue massage; fascia massage with tennis or golf ball; theraputty [1]; hand exercise balls [2]; and stretching.

Standing desk. Went with the DIY model, though I hear the motorized ones are choice. I switched to standing because of general health concerns with sitting, not because of RSI. However it has had tangential benefits there in that it seems easier to get the right height so my elbows are bent 90 degrees.

Chair. I still sit some of the time I'm working. The greatest chair I've ever sat on is the Swopper [3].

Keyboard. I use the DAS Keyboard [4]. It's clicky, but not ergonomic. I find the clickyness helps me use a lighter touch and still type fast.

Mouse. I use the Logitech Trackman Wheel [5]. It's long since discontinued. I bought a new-in-box specimen on ebay to replace my old one when it became unreliable.

[1]: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_0_6?url=search-alias%...

[2]: http://www.amazon.com/Isokinetics-Inc-Hand-Exercise-Squeeze/...

[3]: http://www.swopper.com/www.swopper.com/index.html

[4]: http://www.daskeyboard.com/

[5]: http://reviews.logitech.com/7061/166/logitech-trackman-wheel...

May I ask what your age is?

Also, when you got the RSI did you have symptoms before that you ignored or was it a binary affair (ie. it just hit you hard one day and you had RSI).

I ask since I am 38 now and have been using computers (gaming and coding mostly) multiple hours per day since I was 12 or so. However, I have always listened to my body and naturally get breaks by getting a glass of water every 30 to 60 minutes.

I was 39 when I got it. It took about 6 months to develop from no symptoms at all to really bad. Before the first symptoms I hadn't had any problems at all (and I have been programming since I was 15).

In retrospect, I should have done much more as soon as I felt the first symptoms. However, I didn't really know what to do, and I was sort of just hoping that it would go away by itself. Then I went to see several doctors, but none of them could help. It was only when I started doing my own research that I found effective ways to deal with it.

Also, it seems pretty clear from the research I did that not everybody will get RSI, even if they work just like I did. But the problem is that we don't know beforehand who will get it. Listening to your own body is a good precaution though. I wasn't very good at that I think.

I got one when I was 28, 2 years later I'm almost good. Breaks(I use MacBreakZ on OSX and Workrave on Windows), Colemak, Kinesis keyboard, trackball and regular stretching helped me a lot.

Thanks for sharing your experience. I'm starting to take ergonomics seriously, and I appreciate hearing what works for others.

In your write-up on your blog, you mentioned that you used a program called WorkPace on Linux and Windows. I looked into it, but I only see a Windows version on their website [1]. After a little Googling, I found a similarly named WorkRave [2], which is available for Linux and Windows. I was wondering if you might have meant WorkRave.

I have also been saving up for a few months to buy an adjustable desk and ergnomic chair. Most easily-adjustable desks that I've found cost between $1k and $2k, such as the Humanscale Float desk [3]. I don't mind paying that much if that's what it takes, but it seems excessive. I'd appreciate pointers to any other resources for adjustable desks.

[1] http://www.workpace.com/WP:DOWNLOAD_SYSREQ:680095134

[2] http://www.workrave.org/

[3] http://shop.humanscale.com/products/product_detail.cfm?group...

No, it was WorkPace. I've notied that they've stopped supporting Linux since when I got the license. Maybe bug them to see if they'll start supporting Linux again.

As for desks, the two that I have used have both been from the companies I've been working for, so I never had to buy one myslef. However, where I worked before (www.tilgin.com), everybody got an adjustable height desk (electric motor). They only bought the legs (cost a bit over 100 Euro per desk I think), and had some guys go around switching the legs on all the desks.

The brand of my current desk is www.holmbergsbordet.se but it looks quite expensive.

Thanks for the update. I did put in a request for Linux support with WorkPace.

I installed WorkRave this morning and have been trying it out while I work today. I like it. It seems like it would work really well with Gnome. I'm using XMonad. It's fully functional in XMonad, but the "tray" just floats on whichever desktop I start it on, which isn't ideal for XMonad.

I get the impression all the adjustable-height desks are expensive. I'm not a big fan of motorized ones. I tried them out at the Relax-the-Back store. They're way too slow at raising and lowering the desk for my taste, which is why I'm leaning toward something manual like the Float table.

Years ago I also got RSI. One thing that helped me a lot was to think about lactic acid. Your body doesn't have a lot of problems with repeating motion unless the milk acid can't be transported. And I think stress is the main reason why the transportation of milk acid is blocked because it make your muscles contract. I also think we are so used to stress that we don't even realize we are under pressure.

That's why exercise is great. It will help your remove the milk acid but also to release stress.

You have a flawed understanding of how your cells consume glucose.

Lactic acid it not produced in any significant quantity during 'normal operation' of your body.

Your cells break down glucose into a molecule called pyruvate in a process called 'glycolysis'. This yields some 'energy' (in the form of ATP). This process requires some energy, so the net gain is only two ATP. It also requires a couple NAD- ions, which pick up some spare hydrogen protons that get kicked out. Those NAD- get turned into NADH, are are used later in the process (and turned back into NAD-, so they can facilitate more 'glycolysis').

If the cell has enough oxygen, it can then oxidize the pyruvate in the Citric Acid Cyle (aka the TCA cycle, aka the Kreb's cycle), gaining many times more ATP (34, in total).

If, however, the cell doesn't have enough oxygen, it can't run the TCA cycle. This isn't a big deal in the short term. Your cells can keep running through that glycolosis process to produce energy as long as they have enough glucose to break down, and enough NAD- to grab protons. The glucose isn't generally a problem. Your body keeps a fair amount of it in the blood, and the liver can release more pretty easily.

The problem is the limited number of NAD- ions in your cells. Once those are used up, glycolosis stops. Fortunately, your cells can 'free them up' by using them to turn pyruvate into lactate. This produces the 'milk acid' you talk about, but it frees up the NAD- for more glycolosis. The cell hangs on to the lactate for a while in the hopes of getting more oxygen it can use to turn it back into pyruvate and run it through the TCA cycle, and if that doesn't happen, it eventually diffuses out into the blood where it ends up in the liver, which uses it to build up its glycogen stores for the next time there's a sudden demand for a lot of glucose.

So, in short, unless you're exercising hard, your body will have no trouble meeting its oxygen demand, and no lactic acid will be produced. This has been an overly simplified (but mostly accurate) description of this process. I'd encourage you to do your own research to learn more (the search terms 'cellular respiration' 'glycolosis' and 'citric acid cycle' should all be useful)

I doubt that this is how lactic acid works..

Any sources you can cite here?

Have you tried the penclic over a regular vertical mouse like an evoluent? care to tell us how you like it?

Yes, I tried the Evoluent vertical mouse. I found it too big and thick - I couldn't hold it in a relaxed way (but it could be because my hands are smallish). The Penclic let's me keep my fingers and thumb closer together, which feels better for me.

You didn't switch to an ergonomic keyboard. I do love good keyboard and your Goldtouch is a very good split keyboard. But it is not ergonomic.

You simply cannot have a (non-symmetric) staggered layout that is "ergonomic".

Real ergonomic keyboards are mostly symmetric: a Maltron or a Kinesys for example. Or a good split + matrix (symmetric) layout.

But a regular keyboard, no matter how good the keyswitch, like your keyboard or a Cherry MX-5000 or a IBM Model M15 (split) aren't ergonomic.

They're "less worse" than the typical keyboard in that they're split and they're easier to adapt to.

But you have to realize that your brain (just as mine) has been destroyed by years and years spent on typing on non-symmetric keyboard.

This makes zero sense from an ergonomist' point of view. Basically one half of your keyboard's rows are shifted "the wrong way". There's no logic to that and it's really bad.

For what it's worth: I'm on a HHKB Pro 2 + Aeron chair.

It's not perfect and it's not the most ergonomic, but it's not too bad either.

I'm surprised that the OP didn't mention reverse flies. I developed terrible RSI and upper back problems when I hit about 30. One of the biggest problems was my posture: slumping shoulders. By the time I got to this point, I could not physically hold my shoulders in the correct position with my back muscles, as they had completely atrophied, and a huge amount of strain was being placed on my neck muscles.

One part of the solution was physical therapy, which was mostly training me how to do the exercises I needed to do: reverse flies. First with a Theraband. Then with a stronger Theraband. Then with a stronger Theraband. And finally with dumbbells.

It was torturous! Especially since I was already in agony. But it ultimately worked like a charm.

What was also essential was getting a very good (i.e., expensive and highly adjustable) chair. And a Kinesis Contour keyboard. The Kinesis keyboard is the pinnacle of ergonomic keyboard design.

This is actually not op's pdf, but mine. A friend told me it was on the front page here.

Reverse flies are, indeed, a great thing.

OP didn't mention conventional deadlifts, either.

I can second the Kinesis recommendation. I like mine, especially the build-in Dvorak. The only downsides are the lame function keys and that it's harder to use one handed than a more conventional keyboard.

Yes, I had back trouble (see my other comment) and spent a lot of time doing reverse flies to strengthen the muscles between my spine and scapula. It was pathetic at first how few I could do. One variation that was particularly hard was with my thumbs pointing to my back.

Well, took be fair, RSI isn't mentioned at all, although most of the HN comments are more concerned with this issue. For hip/back/neck stuff, this is the advice you want.

Has anyone successfully fixed the computer guy posture? I see a lot of prescriptions and speculation (Yoga, Egoscue, Alexander Technique, weightlifting plans, stretching/foam rolling, etc) but zero evidence. At least some empirical evidence with documented workouts and continuous before/after photos would be nice.

Also this PDF just ripped images off the Internet. I recognized some of them from youtube videos and books I have. The fact this was hastily put together is another reason to question its accuracy or the (uncredited) author's authority on the subject.

A few years ago I had the traditional "computer guy" posture, with slumping shoulders and neck.

I began, for unrelated reasons, barbell strength training. Deadlifts, Squats, and Presses. They have had a dramatic effect on my posture.

I believe that by spending time lifting barbells, I gained better control over and awareness of my upper-back muscles, and that plus the improved muscle tone means I no longer slump the way I used to do.

I'm 29 now, and have never had repetitive strain problems. I believe I'm less likely to do so now than before I began strength training.

So, there's some anecdata.

If you already have upper crossed syndrome or otherwise stretched out lats and tight pecs, deadlifting without paying attention to form will not only exacerbate this but also cause you lower back strain. Glad to hear you avoided this, but I would caution against anyone just picking up a barbell to cure posture. Focus deeply on the motion and drawing your shoulderblades back at all times especially on the lowering phase. It's far too easy to round on deadlifts when going heavy, and therein lies danger for those already inclined towards rounded shoulders.

Anyone who is interested at beginning strength training I'd encourage to pick up a copy of Mark Rippetoe's Starting Strength. It has very detailed instructions of all the important movements.

I have been following a very similar routine to the one in this PDF, prescribed by a physical therapist due to limited mobility in my shoulders. (About 2.5 years ago I woke up with blinding pain in my left shoulder for no apparent reason. The doc referred me to PT, and the diagnosis was that I had developed upper crossed syndrome - "computer girl posture" - from being a lifelong keyboard user who paid zero attention to posture. I was 28 at the time.)

Specifically, the PT walked me through primarily thoracic foam rolling exercises, lat and pec stretches, a variation on the bench stretch (more like an elevated child's pose), scapular wall slides, dislocates and rotational dislocates, and chin tuck exercises including lying chin tucks. She also had me do lat pulldowns with conscious chin tucking with a thera-band looped around a door handle, and lying vertically along a foam roller doing snow angels, arm press-downs with barbie weights, and moving alternating hands from head to hip.

On top of this as general mobility work (I am/was a runner predisposed to hip tightness) I have been regularly doing many of the lower back exercises, though my PT didn't focus on them. Specifically hip flexor and pigeon stretches, especially if I can grab one of the machines at the gym for it; glute raises and roll-downs; clams and walking clams; cat-cow and dead bug, and plenty of foam rolling.

I do not have continuous before/after photos but after 3 months of weekly physical therapy (biweekly for the 3rd month) and daily or near-daily practice, the therapist cleared me from PT with greatly increased upper back movement, noticeable differences in range of motion both overhead and side to side, and generally better comfort/quality of posture while working. I'm sorry I have nothing quantitative to back this up, and I'm also not "cured" yet -- but vastly improved, and no longer on a path to become a doubled-over hunchback before I'm 40.

This is one of those things where it's going to be 5 different people with 5 different ways of "solving" the issue, and they're all going to be right -- FOR THEM. Finding your own personal way that will work FOR YOU is the hard part.

Original post from reddit with links to videos.


Strength training. Starting with classic Starting Strength, progressing to more advanced programs, still based around compound freeweight lifts for the most part.

It's probably one of those things that vary a lot person to person. You should really find what works for you.

I'm glad someone asked this. Before I spend the time on an exercise/stretching routine I want to get some assurance that this will have some effect/payoff. Unfortunately the fitness and health realm is so filled with charlatans and just sloppy thinkers that one cannot help but to be skeptical.

Unfortunately, I can't say that I have a success story, but I can confirm that this is typical advice, in line with what a very good physiotherapist would give you. I read this and it corroborates everything I am supposed to be doing (and describes my symptoms exactly). Here's hoping it is actually successful advice too.

I first came across most of this information from these two posts: http://www.reddit.com/r/Fitness/comments/ewrr0/writeup_on_th... http://www.reddit.com/r/Fitness/comments/exgiu/a_guide_to_fi...

I have been doing many of the exercises for some time now. Not only do they feel good, I can really notice the difference they make. Many thanks to Reddit-user troublesome.

I'm the creator of the PDF. I just got a call from a friend who told me my link was on here. Glad to see people like it.

Props for the document go to the fitness community on reddit, where a bunch popular posts have inspired me to make this.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask them here.

If you want to stabilize a structure, strengthen it.

As the article notes, weakness of the glutes and hamstrings, combined with a relative over-activation of quads and spinal erectors, is part of the problem.

Most people with poor posture, especially past their mid-20s, are suffering from underdeveloped musculature generally.

While several of the exercises noted are helpful at targeting muscle activation, if you really want to develop the posterior chain, and other muscles, in a balanced fashion, focusing on major lifts is going to do far more for you in less workout time than a bunch of small/isolated movements.

Deadlifts, squats, rows and chins, and yes, some mirror-muscle upper-body work with bench and overhead press. The recently posted "Everything you know about fitness is a lie" article (http://www.mensjournal.com/magazine/everything-you-know-abou...) details this pretty well.

For acute treatment, the PDF is handy, but you'd be far better off to invest in Starting Strength. (http://startingstrength.com/index.php/site/about)

And yes, foam rolling also helps.

I don't have an opinion on major lifts as I have fairly little experience with them, but as a younger man I would have (uninformedly) considered them "not right for me". What I did find right for me was intense rowing (on a machine), which I believe develops many of the same support muscles (but doesn't lead to the hypertrophy-induced visible muscle growth the same way lifts do, so if that's your goal rowing may not fit you).

For my tastes, I find rowing the perfect counterbalance to a sedentary lifestyle. The full-body compression/extension cycle just feels like the direct opposite of sitting fixed at a desk all day. It may be psychological, but it's very common for me to sense a relative weakening in my posture control muscles if I miss a week of rowing for holidays or illness.

Related tip: if you find long (6+ hr) flights physically taxing (yes, first world problems etc.), improving your posture control musculature can provide noticeable relief. Even as a teenager I used to dread having to sit upright and mostly fixed in place on transatlantic flights, but ever since I took up rowing in my early 20s I almost never feel cramped or fatigued anymore even on long haul 15+hr flights.

Understand physiology and the body's response to training stimulus.

A rowing machine is cardio (and it's good cardio), but, other than some very modest strength and hypertrophy response, you're not going to do much muscle development. My experience with it and kettlebell swings suggests that they may help with activation, particularly doing high-tension sets (damper set to 10, 20-40 pulls). Rowing pretty much is "the anti-desk", with the exception that you're performing the activity in a seated position. The main target is improving your cardiovascular performance, capability, and endurance.

What strength training does specifically is recruit muscle motor units (bundles of muscle cells). These are differentiated largely by size and response time, and activating a given bundle requires triggering its controlling nerve. Higher loads trigger larger motor units. Stimulus is usually classified by sets, reps, percent of one rep maximum load (1RM), "tempo" (how long you take raising and lowering the weight), and power vs. strength lifts ("Olympic" lifts are, confusingly, based on power, "powerlifts" are, confusingly, based on strength).

The strength training concept of "specificity" (also given as "SAID": specific adaptation to imposed demand) says that you'll get a training response that corresponds to the training stimulus. This means both the specific muscles, and type of lift determine the training response. If you want stronger legs, do squats, not bicep curls. If you want to get stronger, lift heavier (80-95% 1RM) weights for fewer reps. If you want endurance, lighter (30-50% 1RM) weights for more reps (15-20 or so). Hypertrophy (increased mass) is maximized by moderate resistance and reps maximizing time under tension.

Wikipedia's Strength Training article summarizes this nicely: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strength_training#Realization_o...

Interesting, some of the exercises are new to me. However I have yet to come across a resource that presents both exercises and references to scientific papers/resources proving that such and such technique is beneficial in medium to long-term. Mere "common sense" can be really backfiring when it comes to your spine. Does anyone know of such resource?

I haven't found any evidence that stretching in any form is effective over any longer term than a few minutes or hours, in my brief check on the subject.

The best I've found is a Cochrane review that says that specific neck stretches (NB as far as I can tell not those in the article) are effective in the intermediate term for relieving neck pain. A different review says that there is no evidence that stretching is effective in preventing injuries in runners.



The science, roughly speaking, doesn't exist. In fitness, the coverage of science is generally very poor, and the wisdom and experience of trainers is valued over the few, usually poorly-designed small-n papers that exist.

That's not true. Yes, there are plenty of areas that have limited research or small studies but overall there is more than enough to form scientifically based methods of fitness. The best trainers know this and base their methods on research and adjust as new research is published.

Perhaps this is what you meant and just didn't word it well.

That is not what I meant, I do not agree with you.

Are there some interesting studies? Yes, a few, and some trainers are aware of those. (I challenge you/anyone to provide a list of 5 great fitness papers! For funsies, I'm not saying it can't be done.)

However, in general, we're all flying seat of our pants.

I'd love to see some examples of the bedrock research that you believe trainers rely upon.

There was also some good articles on t nation some years ago:

(De)-Constructing Computer Guy http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/sports_body_trai...

(De)-Constructing Computer Guy part 2 http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/sports_body_trai...

Possibly nsfw imagery on the site.

I've been using Nike+ Kinect for 5~6 weeks now. It creates a workout plan for you based on an assessment that you do at the beginning. I've found it to be very challenging at times (when I push myself, e.g. by doing a second round) and now I'm additionally impressed: a lot of the lower body stabilization exercises on this PDF are also exercises that the game assigned to my workout plan.

As a geek who likes to exercise, you should also check out Starting Strength. (It always comes up in discussions about fitness here.)

If we are talking about ergonomics, RSI and such, I am using a Kinesis Freestyle with an Ascent -- vertical keyboard with the usual QWERTY layout. And an Evoluent VerticalMouse. Bliss. I wish for some solution to offload my thumb but other than that, this is lightyears ahead of any other setup. When Leap Motion will be released I will buy one (or Leap Motion will send me a dev copy, I just applied) and try to create an alternative "keyboard".

Some of the claims are just plain wrong. "Heavy lifting" doesn't make your posture worse. If you squat with good technique, working up to heavy loads, you'll have rock hard lower back stabilizers - cause otherwise, you won't be able to squat heavy.

I agree with you that if you squat with good technique and if you work up to heavy loads, you will do fine.

But if you have bad posture, and your flexibility is limited as a result, you will be unable to squat with good technique, and you will either not even try to lift all that heavy (certainly not doing full squats with all that much weight) or hurt yourself.

A tight posterior chain, for example, prevents a lot of people from keeping their back tight at the bottom of the movement. As a result you see a lot of people either rounding (and hurting their back - I did that a few times) or resorting to half or quarter squats and making excuses.

I understand what you mean, but I'm certainly a person who had terrible posture and a super tight posterior chain. A program of getting to full squats (took me years!) has really helped my situation.

Now I round my squats at 1.5x bodyweight, but not before... working on it.

Yeah. Also: "what you do in the gym only cements what you have"—what kind of nonsense is this? If you go to a gym with a weak core and start to work out with free weights you will fix it. How do you cement something that is not even here?

It's not things like the lack of core strength in itself that is a problem. You are right that will improve.

But if you for example go to the gym with a tight posterior chain, you will squat with a form that either hurts your lower back (been there, done that) or makes you emphasise the wrong muscles (been there, done that) and leave you with progressively bigger problems lifting correctly.

Similarly, it is very easy to get used to lifting with a form that is bad for you because it feels easier, which often means emphasising the muscle groups that already feels stronger. E.g. with a weak core a lot of people will lean forwards in the squat and load the spine too much.

I got to about 60kg on my back squats before I kept slamming into a wall because of how bad posture had severely limited my mobility and left me with various weaknesses. I'd repeatedly either fail or hurt my back badly enough I had to back off for 2-3 weeks. As a result after the second time I started hesitating, and kept my weight low, but eventually I'd hit it again.

When I realized what was wrong, it took me 2-3 months of stretches and modified exercises before I had loosened up enough that I flew past 100kg. 6 months later I did 160kg. Now my personal best is 187.5k (which I did at a body weight of 98, so it's no amazing feat, but it's certainly a big difference from struggling with 60%-65% of my body weight...).

But if you for example go to the gym with a tight posterior chain, you will squat with a form that either hurts your lower back... or makes you emphasise the wrong muscles... and leave you with progressively bigger problems lifting correctly.

Not to say that what you ended up doing was wrong, but to me this just indicates the need for a coach, or at least doing a lot more reading before you start lifting. If you have a structurally weak and tight posterior chain, you need to add romanian deadlifts to your program. Nobody (except Rippetoe) advocates blindly following a program like like starting strength. You can lift heavy while you correct imbalances, you just need to make sure the exercises you're doing are correcting the imbalances you have.

Romanian deadlifts was in fact one of the exercises I was doing to try to overcome the problem the first time around. It did nothing for me. Not saying it can't help, but it compared to the speed I progressed at within weeks of starting my stretches, I'll stick with the stretches.

And I did see a coach, who was also a qualified physiotherapist. What I was recommended was pretty much the stretches in the linked article.

A coach is just going to tell you to do the stretches that this document already prescribed.

Nice. So lifting gave you the impetus to actually do something about your posture.

Yes, for people with posture problems a good coach is even more necessary than for your average Joe who can get away with just watching a few youtube videos, reading a book, and some practice.

I think its a poor way of saying that if you have rather bad posture and work out to build muscle etc, with that bad posture your not necessarily fixing your posture, and may just make it harder to fix in the long run as your muscles build and develop with the bad posture/habits.

However I don't know how accurate or correct that may be.

This all looks unnecessarily complicated. I had really bad posture for most of my life and I fixed it with two things: deadlifts and cable rows. After the major muscular weaknesses are corrected (and those two exercises will correct them), it's just a matter of habit correction- stand while you work, walk with your stomach tight and shoulders back, don't let yourself slouch when you sit, etc.

This ain't rocket science. You don't need to spend an hour a day with 10 different exercises. You can fix the muscular weaknesses in 30 minutes, once a week.

If your posture problem is related to too poor flexibility, deadlift will not fix the problems. On the contrary, you can potentially put your back at severe risk as your form will break down.

You don't need to spend an hour a day, but not nearly all posture issues are down to muscular weakness.

For my part, I discovered my posture problems as a result of deadlifts and squats, that eventually got to sufficient weight that I was unable to compensate or work around the underlying lack of flexibility and ended up dangerously close to properly hurting my back.

The key with deads (or any other lift) is to get the form right first.

Doing full ROM lifts will improve your flexibility. I find this holds true more for squats than deads, specifically (you're getting pressed down with the bar, and have to retain proper back/spine alignment), but it's all useful.

If your form's breaking down, you're lifting too heavy.

What causes other than muscle weakness do you identify as causing posture issues?

If you're not flexible enough, you're not able to do full ROM lifts with proper form.

Once you're flexible enough to actually do the lifts properly, I agree you will see it improving further. But if you're flexible to do the lifts properly, you don't really have a problem.

When I started was not physically able at all to get reasonable depth in my squats before I would either need to stop or curve my back, no matter the weight. I also could hardly bend over while keeping my back firm - it'd be like stretching a violin string along the back of my legs.

A couple of months of stretches from my pysiotherapist got my squats from about 60kg to about 140kg in less than 6 months, after I'd spent the previous 6 months stalled completely because any attempt to go higher led to total form breakdown, and a lot of time before that with abysmally slow progress.

Doing squats (and, if necessary, additional mobility work) will increase your flexibility.

Doing light / BW / goblet squats is very low risk, and will help iron out your form.

My point is that if your form is crap, and you're using any added load, then you're going too heavy. If your form is crap at BW (and adding a modest load, 45-95# for most trainees) doesn't iron that out (sometimes a bit of "bar discipline" does help sort out form), then, yes, work on form.

My experience is that you want to eliminate the obvious and simple stuff first (Occam's Razor), and that for most trainees I've seen, starting with simple cues and light weights addresses form issues sufficiently. KISS.

Given that poor posture seems, at least in my case, to be a lack of good habit, how did you address this part? The exercises are intentional and engage the mind actively. But bad posture is what I do when I'm not paying attention... this seems particularly important if the OP is correct in stating that exercise will improve already good posture and further degrade bad.

I have always had bad posture, and I have looked far and wide for how to correct it. I think exercise is part of the equation, but I have also seen some strong people with bad posture. Another thing that has helped me has been the alexander technique. Before I learned about it, I didn't really understand what good posture was.

here is an example about how to "hold your head up"


I have RSI. The benefit of it is that it forces you to not take typing prodigiously for granted and by extension - to look at the long view of your programming career. So many people glorify in pounding out code, working hard - a 21st century pissing contest. Once you have symptoms of RSI, you are forced to think different.

It does not happen all at once. Boiling frog, eta 5 years. The warning signs are pain after a coding session, maybe a 2 or 3 on a scale of ten. However, eventually it gets worse. And your youth will act as such that the pain goes away. After a long weekend, you are recharged and re-healthy. That is a falsehood. Eventually, it gets to the point where the pain never goes away, it just subsides, constant background soreness, maybe on a 2 to 3 on a scale of ten.

Don't take your typing ability for granted. RSI can be managed but never completely cured.

The same traits that may make us good problem solvers (focus - as in not getting up, breaking that slippery, seductive state called "Flow", OCD - ignoring some things to focus, sometimes right, sometimes wrong on certain aspects, sedentary habits (biking FTW)) can make RSI an eventuality for a few.

As a 22-year-old I have been fairly warned and for many reasons take breaks every hour and have a walk around the room. RSI is just one of many reasons to take breaks, people.

Edit: I stand up and code every now and then, and also use Dvorak!

I'll pitch in with one that hasn't been mentioned yet. The Egoscue method: http://www.egoscue.com/meetpete.php. In particular Pete Egoscue's book Pain Free.

I had a horribly seized neck a while ago where I couldn't look over my left shoulder. This had come on after visiting a physio for a very stiff upper back (a legacy of military service and lots of programming). I bought the book after reading about it in the 4 hour body and did 1 set of the exercises. My neck had more range of motion after 25 minutes than it had for months and several hundred pounds worth of physio appointments.

This and other information on self treating trigger points (http://saveyourself.ca/tutorials/trigger-points.php) has got my back in better shape than before I joined the marines!

I don't get how people can use laptops all day long. The form factor is totally unergonomic. I always use an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse when at my desk.

I find a laptop very comfortable in my lap, not on a desk.

Just because you find it comfortable doesn't mean it's ergonomic. A laptop on a desk is bad for your arms and hands, while a laptop on your lap is bad for your neck and head. As explained in this document from Berkeley[0]:

> Unfortunately, the laptop’s compact design, with attached screen and keyboard, forces laptop users into awkward postures. When the screen is at the right height, the keyboard position is too high; and when the keyboard is at the right height, the screen is too low.

> Laptops pose less risk when used for short periods of time, but nowadays, many people use laptops as their main computer. This creates an ongoing tradeoff between poor neck/head posture and poor hand/wrist posture.

In your case, you are simply avoiding poor hand/wrist posture at the expense of having poor neck/head posture. However, having the laptop on your lap is better than having it on a desk. But even then, it should only be used occasionally, and not full-time.

0: http://uhs.berkeley.edu/facstaff/pdf/ergonomics/laptop.pdf

For years I suffered with really nasty chronic back pain. I tried back specialists, drugs, massage, exercise... Then my wife told me (I think it may be a lie..) that the Australian Rugby League team did pilates, and so, my masculine pride unimpaired I went and I did a session.

It is an instant cure. If you have a really good teacher (there are lots of clowns out there, look for someone who is gentle and runs advanced classes as well, then go to the beginner class) Make sure that you let them know that you have issues, and don't be afraid to stop and miss exercises that you feel uncomfortable with or worried about.

I've not had any posture or RSI problems, but here comes that word: YET. A few people have commented that whenever I stop typing I like to stretch my arms right down to the fingertips and adjust my position on the chair, sometimes getting up completely and straightening my clothes. It's an unconscious habit so I find it hilarious when people point it out but that could be something that has helped me.

These sets look very familiar to me as similar core exercises to ones I've done as part of rowing and yoga, but there are a few new ideas here I can't wait to try. Thanks!

Seeing that picture of a "computer guy" I see my opinion confirmed that notebooks have killed more health than they brought productivity. Get a docking station, a good display, some good input devices and your posture will improve automatically.

PS. And don't get me started on the strain on the eyes by all those "vivid colors" reflecting displays -- I still remember using a screen filter to avoid reflections on an already matte display!

I had this kind of posture as a teenager. When I started squatting 300+ pounds, I compounded my problem and wound up in physical therapy off and on for three years. My PT had me do a lot of the exercises and stretches on this list.

In short, if you've never addressed your own posture issues, consider doing so! Back pain is worse than pain in the extremities because it is continuous and affects everything you do.

If you are in your twenties and healthy, please learn from my mistakes. I suffered from wrist pain and lower back pain. I used all sorts of ergonomic keyboards, chairs, even a special back brace. Eventually I was seeing a chiropractor and massage therapist once a week. None of that worked, because I spent all my time sitting in a chair staring at a computer.

I started weight training and yoga, and my wrist and back pain disappeared. I thought I was done and everything was fine.

But I was still sitting in a chair all day every day, and more than a decade like that herniated a disc in my neck. The initial symptoms were a persistent pain in my upper shoulder blade for months. The doctor said this would not have happened if I had just got up once an hour, and he sees tons of desk workers end up the same.

Since then I have seen some improvement by using a program to force me to look away from the screen at intervals, and to get up once an hour.

My posture is still horrible, but now the remaining struggle is simply staying aware enough to avoid bad habits (slouching, letting my head fall forward, etc).

Thanks for sharing. This type of situation is what concerns me. Even with regular exercise (lifting/running/yoga), I'm worried that the overall amount of time spent sitting every day will lead to adverse consequences in 20 years.

When I first came across the idea of treadmill desks I thought they were rather silly, but now I'm seriously considering getting one. They aren't cheap though (unless you do a hacky DIY job).

I had a similar experience to henrik_w, though more around low back pain from prolonged computer usage. I felt the crazy thing was that I was in good shape and also knew how I should be sitting, and the importance of taking short breaks from the computer. I just never did those things when I was concentrating on my work.

I ended up creating a software solution that included break reminders but also uses your webcam to check your posture and remind you whenever you sit in a bad posture (or even a good one, since sitting rigidly in any posture for long periods is part of the problem).

It's not a substitute for exercise, but it is a simple, low-cost way to keep good posture in mind throughout the working day, without being overly intrusive. It's called Postureminder and there's a 30-day free download on my website, http://www.postureminder.co.uk


Here's another useful resource regarding posture and sitting [1] by Kelly Starrett, who's probably well-noted in strength training circles for his MobilityWOD project. He explains how to sit and provides guidance on several related topics such as shoulder/hip mobility and hydration. He also illustrates some massages and stretches you can do to take care of your junk through hours of prolonged sit-and-keyboarding.

For what its worth, I've been following along with his MobilityWOD project [2] for some time and it has immensely helped with my strength training pursuits.

[1] http://youtu.be/kfg_e6YG37U [2] http://www.mobilitywod.com

If we just follow the lifting guide posted a few days ago [1], wouldn't "computer guy posture" fix itself?

[1] http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4971196

If your specific issues are due to muscular weaknesses, yes. If it's due to reduced flexibility, then no. Chances are it'll be a bit of both.

Try bending over with your back in a slight upwards arch while keeping your legs completely straight and together.

Can you get below 90 degrees? If not, your flexibility along your posterior chain is poor. Can you effortlessly reach your toes with your fingers (you can bend your back this time)? If not, same.

Strength training alone won't fix those. And in fact, that poor flexibility will make it very hard to maintain proper form when lifting weights, and you're putting yourself at greater risk of hurting yourself.

On the upside, only a couple of months of stretches is enough to see a substantial improvement.

It might happen. Usually though it doesn't fix the underlying dysfunctions (doesn't target the highly untreated and tight muscles in an isolated way). From personal experience (myself + the people I train(ed)): you end up with worse problems.

Once things get screwed up enough, you need pretty specialized exercises to correct it. My glutes barely engage anymore, so typical lifting and gym exercises don't work. You feel like a dork doing the clam at the gym, but it works.

Here's a startup idea: a hip site with daily exercises targeted at people like us. There should be two levels: no supplies and having basic weight set (so it gives me the option of doing it at work on home too). You could track fitness, and tie it to a mobile app which reminds you. I'm sick of fitness being geared toward getting tone, losing weight, body building etc. I am just concerned with living healthy, so I want a minimum workout.

It's not quite what you suggest, but http://www.konkura.com is run by my brother - it lets people create fitness-related challenges (which can be entire workouts or even workout schedules, or just a single exercise) to share with friends. You can compete with people who have similar interests around the world, or keep challenges private to just a circle of friends who have a common fitness goal. There's a wide range of challenges already created by fitness enthusiasts so there's always something new to do. Worth checking out.

There was a line of iOS apps (*-foo) that were exactly this. I'm pretty sure they couldn't make it successful enough though, and closed up shop a year ago.

If the hour-long sitting is the cause of the problems, why not fix them by using height-adjustable sit-stand tables? They've become popular in our office...

I've taken to standing about 60%-70% of my day. It seems to have helped a lot of the back and hip problems that I've had. I also do strength training 3 times a week with kettlebells which has also helped.

hour-long standing brings other problems, alas.

That's why you should take frequent breaks. And from my own experience, it's way easier to take a mini break on a standing desk then when sitting down.

Removing even trivial hurdles can sometimes drastically impact behaviour.

Because of the barrier to entry: money, setup, and all the unknowns related to switching.

Yes, there are transaction costs. But overcoming them is worth it. (And you can create a make-shift standing desk pretty easily out of a normal desk with enough stacks of printer paper or boxes.)

Bed risers work great (like the kind you might still have hanging around from a college dorm room). I bought some two years ago from Bed, Bath, & Beyond, coupled with an anti-fatigue mat. Not only did my developing back pain go away, but I've lost 15 pounds since then without adding anything to my exercise regimen, or drastically changing my diet.

edit: Forgot to mention: juststand.org

Can your recomend a brand/model? I would like to buy one for home.

Same thing in fewer words: 'Do yoga.'

Actually this brings up one concern I've had for a while. I've been doing yoga fairly regularly (2x a week) for about six years. I have no problem keeping up with advanced classes, holding plank/bridge/wheel, can almost do a full split, etc. Yet, I have pretty extreme APT. I don't really know where I'm going wrong; I've tried similar exercise and stretching regimens in the past, supplementing the yoga, but never seemed to get anywhere with them. As a result, I feel like perhaps more direct strength training (squat, deadlift, etc) might be worth a shot. Thoughts?

Also, is APT the same as lordosis or is there a medical distinction?

My experience with yoga is that it is not enough for serious structural issues. For a strength-building workout, it is not systematic enough at most schools. It also usually fails to correct the day to day movement problems at the root of many problems.

I've done a lot of research into correcting my issues and it seems like this is what is happening with me. After reading Mary Bond's New Rules of Posture and Esther Gokhale's book, I realized that the way I do everything is pretty much wrong. I walk wrong, sit wrong, lie down wrong, and stand wrong (which is why a standing desk also didn't help). A great example is after implementing what I thought were really healthy changes to my lifestyle- the standing desk and walking to work, I developed an unpleasant heel pain and a rather ugly callus on my right side. After reading the Bond book I figured out that it was because that side is my dominant foot, but I was getting all my energy from walking from the heel strike there, rather than pushing off from the non-dominant foot through the hamstring/toes. Correcting that got rid of the pain and also had the side effect that my rear is more toned. That's just one example, and I'm not done with improving my posture, but it has made a great difference in my life. I also have implemented more systematic weight training (making sure I get ALL areas worked out) and core training (pilates). I still do yoga for the mobility benefits. I also have seen a Rolfing and Feldenkrais coach, but I think those services are generally over-rated and overpriced and you can get similar benefits from taking an adult dance class. I would like to try Alexander too.

Perhaps its just how your body is build? Do you have any problems related to APT? I would tell about your concern your yoga teacher. He can help you design yoga routine to fix that if its an issue.

Western gymnastics without the religion also work well.

? I know many people who practice yoga weekly (CA), and none of them have any form of religion imbued in it - it's just gymnastics (and the postures have funny names)

Actually, he does have a point.

Yoga has 8 levels (limbs).

Most western classes do not venture beyond level 4.


Amazing! I have been looking for this kind of exercise set for ages. Will try tomorrow.

Thank you anikepant!

One problem I've had is uneven neck (and probably shoulder/back) muscle development, because I don't sit staring and facing straight at the monitor. This is a warning to those that are younger and haven't noticed this yet.

The exercises in the book '7 steps to a pain free life' saved my ass:


For those with RSI problems, I used to get it very badly. I completely stopped it by changing my mouse hand every several weeks. It only takes a few minutes to get used to the new hand.

I had RSI a few years ago. Apart from paying attention to posture (I took up tai chi to help with that), I changed to a dvorak keyboard layout which helped a lot.

This is serious stuff. I'm dealing with really demoralizing lower back issues of my own, probably from years of crummy posture. Pay attention, kids.

Some stuff I don't understand fully because I am not native English speaker. Can somebody recommend Youtube video instead?

40 years old here...

Although not everyone likes them I do recommend shelling $$$ for an Herman Miller (or similar) chair.

The Mira seems to be great for the back. Me, I can't live without the "pellicle mesh" of the Aeron so the Mira is a no go for me. Hence I bought an Aeron with the adjustable posture fit (the new one, with the adjustable stuff that gently "pushes" the low-end of your back).

I realize HN is filled with negativity and a lot of people are going to criticize the Aeron (dot com symbol, not that ergonomic, bad for your health, bla bla bla) but honestly if you know how to adjust it it's a great chair. You hardly sweat in it and (when adjusted correctly), by pulling your arms behind your head the chair gently falls in "relax-mode".

The 12-year warranty is great too. I use that and a HHKB Pro 2 as my keyboard.

I'd like to dis-recommend Herman Miller for ergonomics. I bought an Embody chair a few years ago and the adjustments suck. The Aeron is not much better. They are both comfortable chairs, but they don't really conform to your body the way the marketing literature wants to convince you that they do. (The major problem with the Embody is that the arm rests tilt when you lean back, meaning that they need to be readjusted if you lean back. And the adjustments are in like 6 inch steps, so the adjustment is never very good. The lumbar support is also garbage. The rest of the chair is very durable and comfortable, however.)

Ultimately, you pay a lot of money for Herman Miller products that could be spent on better ergonomic features instead.

At work I have a Teknion Contessa and I love it. It is infinitely adjustable and very comfortable. I hardly ever think about my chair while at work. The only problem is that the fabric is not very durable; mine is a year old and it looks just awful. My Embody is much older and looks almost brand new.

I agree, the chairs are nice. But don't use them as the solution to back problems. Back problems need to be solved through muscle maintenance, etc. Once back problems are eliminated, you should be able to sit comfortably in any chair.

I have seriously been considering those stand-up workstation desks.

Some of these look kind of cool: http://www.amazon.com/s/?_encoding=UTF8&tag=produc05-20&...

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