In this post you will discover how to develop confident posture. To carry yourself with poise and authority, get instant respect from people you meet; and feel more confident.
What is posture?
Posture is the way that you hold your body in space. It’s a dynamic thing, which change as your body moves.
You can roughly equate key positions as specific postures, e.g. standing posture, sitting posture, walking posture, etc.
Think of your posture as where part or all of the body is in relation to other parts of the body, and space.
Why confident posture is important
Your posture is very important for a few reasons, and if you’ve never thought about it before, you need to start.
There are 3 main categories I’ll break this into:
- How you feel
- How others see you
- Your health
We’ll take a look at each in turn, to determine why posture is important. It’s one of the first things you need to start fixing if you’re committed to taking responsibility and creating a better life, and we’ll look at how to do just that.
How confident posture impacts how you feel & think
For you to understand why confident posture has a huge effect on how you think and feel, you need to understand that your body is your permanent home, every single day, until the day that you die; and it operates in a feedback cycle with your mind.
Let’s do a little experiment…
Hunch your shoulders forward, look at the floor, shrug your shoulders up towards your ears, and cross your arms in front of you. Sit like that for a couple of moments, and tell me how you feel?
Now stand up tall, plant your feet solidly on the floor a little wider than hip width apart. Pull the shoulders down and back, spread your arms wide, take a big breathe into the belly, look up at the horizon, and smile. Tell me how you feel?
The easiest way to gain control of your mood, and ultimately your thoughts, is to change your body posture.
If you know anything about body language, you know that your posture says everything about you, without you ever opening your mouth.
Well, you might not know that it works the other way too. Changing your posture can do a lot towards changing how you’re feeling and thinking internally.
In my post on the benefits of (and how to do) cold showers I related a story about how I used control of my posture to stand extreme cold temperatures with relatively little discomfort. Conversely letting my body default to it’s ‘cold posture’ made it immediately unbearable.
To understand how posture impacts your thoughts, feelings, and moods, we need to understand where exactly these things come from.
You need to know that you are your body. There is no duality between mind and body – it’s the same thing.
Your brain relies on signalling from hormones and neurotransmitters to function.
Where do hormones and neurotransmitters come from?
It’s well documented that 30-40 neurotransmitters are produced in the gut. While if you consider that your ‘brain’ runs all the way down your spinal chord, and throughout the body in nerve endings…
It becomes very hard to determine where the body ends and the mind begins.
Before we even start talking about ‘gut instinct’, ‘feeling it in your bones’, ‘heart break’ and all of the other ways you literally say that you think and feel with your body, without even realising it.
Of course this is all because there is no separation between mind and body.
Thoughts and memories are hard-coded into the nervous tissues (the physical body), and they create your thoughts and emotions.
Prolonged thoughts and emotions create states, moods, and ultimately a permanent way of being.
Eventually, you become your posture…
Someone who is depressed looks depressed.
The way they carry themselves, the way they move; screams depression.
They don’t need to say they’re depressed. It’s obvious.
If you carry yourself in a depressed posture, a fearful posture, etc. that will be your predominant mood. It will become your permanent way of being.
The guy who lacks confidence because his hair is falling out, so he hides himself away under baggy clothes and avoids the spotlight becomes permanently low in confidence.
Suddenly he’s scared to talk to girls, or lacks confidence in business putting himself out there to sell his services, so he hides away in his comfort zone. Unaware that is precisely what is keeping him lacking in confidence and not moving forwards.
When you change your posture, your thoughts and feelings start to change.
Don’t you feel better after a workout?
After a massage?
Ever felt your shoulders literally drop an inch or two, after a big load of stress was released?
Soon your moods change, and over time your very sense of being will begin to change.
I’ve seen dozens of people completely change their very sense of being, as they go through a physical transformation.
The confidence grows internally, in this one domain (fitness), and suddenly they just look confident. Like an old client of mine in the image below:
Which brings us nicely on to…
How others see you
We make instant snap judgements about each other, just as much as we assess everything else around us.
We startle if something slithers in the grass, and breathe a sigh of relief when it’s a gekko rather than a snake.
We find puppies and babies adorable, and immediately want to protect and play with them.
It’s called instinct. Just because we have fancy brains and smart phones doesn’t make us any less of an animal.
If you study a little neuroscience, you’ll know that instincts are controlled in the oldest, deepest parts of the brain.
We make judgements about whether someone is a threat, a friend or foe, someone we can fuck, or someone we shouldn’t trust… all by looking at them…
All within a split second.
You don’t know how it happened. It happens much quicker than you can think about it happening, but you feel that it happened.
Threat: You divert your eyes away from the gangsters on the corner, hurrying your step and your breathing picks up a pace.
Friend: You see an old friend across the street, before you even realise it you’ve smiled and started to head in his direction.
Fuck: You and every other guy in the bar all turn and follow the gorgeous girl as she walks across the room.
You didn’t plan to do any of these things. You didn’t will for them to happen. They just do.
Your body is controlling your mind.
Your eyes can signal movement away from a threat quicker than they send signals to the visual cortex to actually interpret what you’ve seen.
You’re literally already in fight or flight, before your brain is even aware there’s a threat.
What’s in control here; body or mind?
You might be wondering what this has got to do with posture?
Which category do you want to fall into when other people assess you?
We’re making these micro-second judgements constantly, based on what we can see.
They say 60+% of communication is body language. Your body relays intent, regardless of what your words are saying.
You know when someone is bored and just nodding their head and smiling to be polite… their body tells you.
You know when someone fancies you, but is playing it cool… their body tells you.
At least, you know if you’ve learnt to read the signs and trust your instincts.
How you carry yourself (your posture) says everything about you, before you ever have chance to open your mouth.
What your posture is saying about you
People are reading you, every moment of the day.
How are you standing? How do you move?
If you look confident, people will treat you well. If you look insecure, people will treat you badly.
That sounds too simple, too black and white to be true; but I can attest to it myself.
When I went from out of shape, scrawny loser; to being in great shape, confident and carrying myself well… absolutely everything about the way people treated me changed.
I get checked out constantly by women, instead of being invisible.
Guys respect me, instead of taking the piss out of me.
People assume I know what I’m doing and defer to me, instead of treating me like an idiot.
If your posture sucks, it says, “I don’t respect myself, I don’t have confidence, and I am weak”.
If your posture is strong, it says, “I respect myself, I am confident, and I am strong”.
Which of the two do you want to project?
How posture impacts health
Posture will impact health in numerous ways. Roughly broken up into two categories:
How posture impacts your physical health anatomically is perhaps more obvious.
When you carry yourself with bad posture, your body is out of alignment. Muscles and joints will take up extra stress where others are not able to function properly, because of poor posture.
Most back ache is caused by poor posture, and poor movement patterns.
Posture and movement go in a circular feedback loop together.
If your posture is bad, your movement will be bad; which will make your posture worse, making your movement worse, etc. etc.
Knees hurt? Back? Neck?
It’s probably a combination of your posture and movement patterns.
The second way posture impacts physical health is the hormonal/physiological way we touched on earlier. Poor posture literally alters your hormonal and neurotransmitter balance.
You can increase stress level, decrease dopamine and serotonin.
Poor posture can lead to poor digestion, poor blood flow, and poor breathing.
The alignment of your body is a signal, and you will react to it. If you’re constantly signalling fear, scarcity, and the need for protection, your body will always shut down its efficiency (poor breathing, digestion, sleep), produce less energy, and store fat in case you’re going to starve.
Posture and breathing
Breathing is the single most important function the human body does. Nothing will kill you quicker than not breathing.
Yet most people suck at it.
Sounds ridiculous, but people do not know how to breathe properly.
They run on 20-30% of their lung capacity, and wonder why they’re tired all the time, and can’t get any oxygen to their brain to think.
Yet they’re completely unaware, because breathing is so natural, so unconscious. It’s difficult to actually perceive yourself doing it without focused effort.
Poor posture leads to your ribs compressing on your diaphragm, and you start to breath short, wheezy breaths through your chest; instead of deep breathes into your stomach.
Now you’re constantly stressed. Your body is not getting enough oxygen, so you’re always in a low-level stress state. Pumping out cortisol and adrenaline.
Soon your body is so flooded with stress hormones, it has to down-regulate the receptor sites – in other words, it starts to ignore them.
Now you make even more stress hormones, because the signals aren’t getting through.
Drawn out over years or decades, you now develop heart disease or cancer, and wonder why, after swimming in a pool of stress hormones all of your adult life.
If people started fixing their posture and breathing we’d be much happier, and much healthier. So how do we do that?
What is confident posture?
Let’s start at the top and work our way down, looking at what is confident posture. Watch the video for a visual explainer that will be easier to follow along with.
Your head should be back on your neck, with your chin tucked back. Your eyes looking forwards, not down.
Neck should be back, and spine elongated.
Lengthening the spine will have the effect of pushing the shoulders down and back, where they should be.
Your ribcage should sit flat, not sticking out at the bottom.
Your lower back should be flat, not overly arched with your ass sticking out.
The pelvis should sit level; not cocked to one side, nor over-extended or tucked under.
Weight should be evenly distributed between both legs when standing.
Your feet should have strong arches, and point straight forwards. Not be collapsed, and/or pointing off sideways.
How do I assess my posture?
There’s a few ways to look at your posture for assessment purposes.
You can have someone take photos of your natural standing and sitting posture. If you want a really authentic representation, tell them to do it at some point and then forget about it.
You don’t want to bias the outcome by ‘posing’ for the camera.
You can do the same thing for walking posture, by having someone film you.
These give you really objective views, and you can keep them to compare to later; after you’ve started to fix any issues.
You also want to build your awareness. It helps if you’ve seen what it looks like from photos or videos, or at least looking in the mirror (in a relaxed posture, not posing).
When you have a visual of what is good and what is bad, you can start maneuvering yourself consciously into better postures and seeing how it feels.
Done enough, over time, you’ll start to get a ‘feel’ for it, and self-correct automatically. But that will take time and discipline.
What does good and bad posture look like?
Bad posture has head and neck forwards, eyes looking down. The shoulders are rotated forwards and the upper spine also caves forwards.
Good posture sees you standing tall, spine elongated and eyes looking at the horizon. This allows your shoulders to naturally hang down and back, the spine to be flat, weight distributed evenly between both feet.
How did I get bad posture?
You’ll develop bad posture slowly, and you won’t notice it happening.
It happens because you spend all day sat behind a desk, typing away on a computer, or staring down at a smart phone.
(It’s especially bad forcing kids to sit at a desk for hours at a time).
Then in your spare time, you likely do the same, staring at the computer and smart phone.
We even travel in a seated posture for the most part. Whether on public transport or driving; we’re sat on our butt, instead of walking/running like we’re designed to do.
We don’t spend enough time standing on our feet, and we don’t spend enough time moving. Be that just walking, playing, or actual organised exercise.
Further to the physical problems; any lack of confidence, depression, low self-esteem, etc. shows up in our posture. If that’s how you feel all the time, that will become your ‘normal’ posture.
Even if you’ve moved beyond what was getting you down, your posture holds on to it, so you keep feeling miserable, low, or lacking in confidence.
It’s become your ‘normal’ way of being, and you just feel blue all of the time, for no apparent reason.
Many people stay stuck in depressive states for no reason other than their body never learns any other way of being, so it keeps doing what it already knows.
The world is pretty much set up to break you. All of the sitting, the entertainment, all of the modern comforts; are negatively impacting your posture.
Where your grand father probably never worried about posture a day in his life, for you it is going to be a daily battle to keep on top of it.
The flip side of that, is it’s very easy to stand out as someone with confidence and respect, when you carry yourself well.
You’ll instantly look better than everyone else, with just a little bit of effort.
How do I develop confident posture?
So what do we do? How do we develop confident posture?
There’s 3 main areas we need to look at:
They all work hand in hand, so you will need to look at all 3 in conjunction to see significant changes.
Let’s look at each in turn.
Stretches to develop confident posture
After assessing your posture you can identify where your most significant problems are, and then begin stretching/releasing those areas to improve posture.
What you need to understand is that muscles do not just get tight for no reason. Tight muscles are a protection mechanism. They lock down to protect joints against potential injury caused by a lack of strength and stability.
Stretching is important, but you also must be working on strength and function to get the body working better and allow the muscles to release, rather than being locked down as a compensation pattern.
I see a lot of people complain about tight hamstrings or pecs, and then stretch them to death… to absolutely no effect, because they never fix the underlying instability/weakness.
The muscles release for 20 minutes, and then lock back down to protect the body.
Tight muscles are rarely due to the muscle being shortened, and almost always neurological in their origin. You have to address the body as a whole integrated system to release any particular tight muscle.
Below are the stretches to release certain muscles. You also need to focus on the exercises to re-program and strengthen the body, so your stretching actually makes permanent changes.
Exercises to develop confident posture
A relatively simple way to think about this is to train the back of your body more than the front. That’s a slight over-simplification, but you wouldn’t go too far wrong.
Bad posture is essentially various parts of the body being pulled forwards/down by gravity. Building muscle to oppose that is a good way to counteract it.
That means training the glutes and hamstrings, upper and lower back, rear delts, lats, and also the abs.
Deadlifts, back extensions, rows, pull ups, abs should be done regularly and for high volume in your training program.
Daily awareness to develop confident posture
Finally, you need to build general daily awareness of posture.
To start recognising the postures you are in at various times of the day.
I’ll break down the different times you want to be aware of, and what to look for below.
What you need to do is just keep being aware of it, whenever you can. The more aware you become, the quicker you will be able to fix it.
As you build more body awareness, you’ll start to feel when you’re in bad posture, instead of having to consciously assess. At that point you’ll start self-correcting without too much effort.
You can download the posture plan, which includes these awareness tips, along with the stretches and workout plan by clicking here.
- Sleeping – Sleep with 1 pillow. If you’re cranking your neck up on 2/3 pillows you’re pushing your head forward and giving yourself bad neck posture.
- Sitting (general) – Either sit back against a back support, or upright (unsupported). Keep your neck and spine aligned while sitting. The floor is generally a better place to sit than a chair (as far as your body is concerned).
- Sitting (computer) – Set your desk up at the right height, so your keyboard is in a comfortable spot. Your screen should be at eye level so you don’t strain your neck to look at it. Sit upright or against the back of the chair, don’t slouch.
- Standing – Stand on both feet (not just one). Have your feet pointing 0-15 degrees forwards. Have your glutes and abs engaged, pelvis in neutral, shoulders down, and spine lengthened.
- Walking – Look where you’re going (not at the floor). Keep the spine lengthened, shoulders down, abs and glutes engaged. You want to project forwards from glutes and calves.
- Using phone or reading – Either hold your phone/book up to eye level, rest it on a desk and sit up straight, or lay down. Do not have your phone/book on your lap and crane your neck down to look at it.
Developing confident posture: Your action plan
The first step towards developing confident posture is simply being aware of the importance of the way you carry yourself, and how adopting a confident posture can benefit your life.
The next step is to assess your own posture, look at how you are in different positions (sitting, standing, walking), and some of the reasons for this.
Whether they are mental, physical, habitual; etc.
Finally you need a three pronged strategy to develop confident posture, as laid out above. That is:
- Stretching and releasing tight muscles
- Strengthening weak muscles
- Raising daily postural awareness
Start working on your posture on all 3 fronts and you can quickly turn your posture around.
Start to feel the confidence and happiness that comes with confident posture. Start getting noticed and being respected more by other people. Start feeling better, stronger, and more free in your movement; without the niggling aches and pains.