Correct Standing Posture
What Is It? Does Such A Thing Exist? How Do I Do It?
It’s common to want to know what is correct standing posture and clients often ask something like “How should I stand?” or “What’s the best way for me to stand?”
Well, I don’t think there’s such a thing as ‘correct standing posture’. “What?!” you might say.
Okay, in anatomical terms, yes, there is such a thing as correct standing posture, but real life is different from the picture of the perfectly aligned skeleton hanging on the wall.
There are many schools of thought out there that teach alignment through body awareness and then using conscious effort to change the way you sit, stand or carry yourself.
And while I think it’s great to be aware of your body and how you’re standing, sitting or carrying yourself, I’m not a fan of using conscious effort to make adjustments, which includes your standing posture.
Instead of consciously correcting your standing posture, a far more useful approach would be to correct the muscle imbalances that have created the asymmetries in your body, as they are the cause of your incorrect standing posture!
Correct Standing Posture
The image below shows what correct standing posture would look like in an ideal and perfect world. It shows that:
- The shoulders are level with one another and parallel to the ground
- The hip joints are level with one another and parallel to the ground
- The knees are level with one another and parallel to the ground, and…
- Yes, you guessed it … the ankles are level with one another and parallel to the ground
- It also shows, both in the front view and in the side view, that the ankles, knees, hips and shoulders are stacked up vertically, one on top of the other.
While the position of your load bearing joints is important, there are other things that need to be looked at too. Amongst other things, we also need to take into account the position of your pelvis. Is it:
- Elevated on one side
- Rotated forward on one side
- Tilting too far forward (anterior tilt)
- Tilting backwards (posterior tilt)
- Have a tilt disparity (the left side and the right side doing different things)
The ‘Posture Assessment’ page already goes into quite a bit of depth regarding what to look for when assessing alignment, so there’s no need to repeat it here.
Correcting Standing Posture With Conscious Effort Doesn’t Work
The important point with regard to correct standing posture is that adjusting yourself with conscious effort doesn’t address the underlying muscle imbalances that are the cause of standing in a way that is unbalanced and uneven.
If you find you have a tendency to stand with more weight on one leg most of the time, only occasionally switching to the other side before switching back again, then that is a good indication that you have a problem on the opposite side (the one you stand on less frequently).
Quite often, for various reasons, one hip doesn’t function as well as the other hip and there is what is known as a hip disparity. As a consequence, the dysfunctional hip becomes less and less functional over time, to such a degree that it no longer becomes comfortable to bear much weight on it.
That’s when you started shifting your weight to the opposite side, albeit unconsciously. From there it’s a vicious cycle: the less work the dysfunctional side does, the less it is capable of doing and the more work the opposite side does.
The more you become aware of it and try to consciously correct it, the more you realise that that hip just doesn’t want to play the game! And the more you realise that conscious effort is pretty much futile.
Is it Possible To Correct Muscle Imbalances?
Now there’s a better question than asking how to correct standing posture!
Yes, or course it is. It’s possible to get both hips working equally and that is done by first understanding what your hips need and then giving it to them.
Understand that your hips joints have the dual function of providing both ‘Mobility and Stability‘ to your body, being both very mobile and, at the same time, very strong and stable joints (at least, they’re supposed to be).
There are many muscles surrounding the hip joints that all serve different roles.
In brief, your hips have six different major movements that they are capable of, which are:
- External rotation
- Internal rotation
As well as these movements, they also have other roles. For example, when you’re walking and you swing one leg forward, at that moment when it is completely off the ground, the opposite hip has to bear the full weight of your body and stabilise.
If the stabilising muscles of that hip aren’t functioning properly, then you have a problem.
So you may be wondering if your hips function equally. Have a look at the tell tale signs of a hip disparity to find out.