Many times people will overlook the importance of good posture because either they don’t realise the benefits of good posture, or they’ll assume that their incorrect posture is due to genetics and therefore that they cannot change.
It would be a mistake to adopt either view because there are many benefits to correcting your posture and also, bad posture can be corrected. If you do wish to correct your posture then it’s vital you identify correctly which type of incorrect posture you have developed.
In this post, we are going to take a look at what is known as swayback posture.
What is Swayback Posture?
Swayback posture is what you most probably think it is… it’s a type of posture, however, it’s not the type of posture that you want to have. I was unfortunate to discover that this is a type of posture that I have/had but at the same time, it’s comforting to know that it is a recognised posture as I thought that it was something unique to myself.
Swayback (hyperlordosis), can give even a slender person the look of having a belly as well as a forward head posture.
In some circles, swayback is known as the ‘lazy posture’ as the person with such a posture wants to use as little muscles as possible when holding themselves upright.
I can attest that this is true when standing in front of a kitchen counter or desk I used to always press my belly against it to rest and support myself. People with swayback will often lean or rest on anything they can find.
Let’s Get Specific: Symptoms and Signs of Swayback Posture
The most notable feature is that the hip bone will be in an advanced position, in other words, the hips will be swayed forward in addition to having a posterior pelvic tilt.
If you imagine looking at ourselves from the side, proper posture is where the head, ribs and pelvis are all stacked on top of each other with the ears in alignment; imagine a long ruler running through all these points.
With swayback, the hips will be out of alignment in front of all these points.
A quick way to check for swayback, is to ask yourself where are your hips in relation to your ankle bone? If it’s in front of the ankle bone (or ear) it’s likely you may have swayback.
The body is a smart piece of equipment and it will adapt in any way it can to compensate for your swayed hips.
Most noticeably the upper back will round (kyphosis) and the head will move forward to maintain a sense of balance and equilibrium.
There are a couple other things to look out for:
- Posterior pelvic twist – this is a reduced curve (no arch) in the lower back, or rather a flat back.
- Gluteal muscles will be shut off and not activated.
- Knees hyperextended
- Tight and short hamstrings
- Weak hip flexors (Hips extended)
- Tight lower abdominal muscles – which will pull the pelvis up into the posterior pelvic tilt
- You may have lower back pain – since the body weight hinges off one or two points in the lower back.
As you can see swayback comes with a lot of things that need correction.
Lucky for you and me, through stretches and corrective exercises all these effects can be revered.
Video Overview of Swayback Posture
For an overview of everything about swayback posture, from what it is, to how to identify it including corrective exercises watch the highly recommended video above by GuerillaZen.com. All exercises listed in this article are from this video.
What Causes Swayback?
You weren’t born with bad posture which means that something is causing your swayback posture. Here are a few things that could cause it:
- Sleeping on your front – The effects of this may vary depending on how hard or soft your mattress is; but if you sleep on your front and have your head on a pillow, propped up with your arms, you are likely to push your hips forward and be reinforcing swayback. It would be better to try to sleep on your back.
- Sitting in a posterior pelvic tilt position – If you sit with your butt tucked under you and with the front of your pelvis tilting up you will be reinforcing the tissues to adapt and hold this incorrect shape.
- Constant standing in the incorrect position – make sure to stand properly at all times. Pull your hip bone until it is in alignment with your ankle bone. Incorrect standing will only make your posture worse.
- Too much stretching of the hip flexors – In swayback, your hips are already stretched so if you continue to do hip stretches you are overstretching which only makes them weaker.
- Weak muscles – when my swayback was at its worst point I was not exercising and had not done any exercise for years! After learning healthier habits and starting an exercise regime the muscles that were weak started to strengthen, naturally pulling my body into a better posture.
Swayback vs Anterior Pelvic Tilt (Lordosis): Is it Really Swayback?
People seem to get swayback confused with having an Anterior Pelvic Tilt.
It’s imperative that if you are looking to correct your posture that you receive the correct diagnosis as to which one you have. Do you have swayback or is it an anterior pelvic tilt?
If you do think you have swayback posture, make sure you are certain, as doing corrective exercises for swayback when you, in fact, have an anterior pelvic tilt could make things a lot worse.
You’ll want to make sure you don’t have an anterior pelvic tilt which is characterised by the pelvis tilted forward, with the back of the pelvis being higher than the front.
The back will also be arched rather than flat like in swayback. If you are unsure which you have watch the video above to double check.
How to Fix Swayback posture
The first thing you want to do is to stop doing the things that are causing it. Any time you are in a swayback position you are only reinforcing the posture.
As discussed before a few examples to combat this was to sleep on your back and to sit and stand correctly.
Personally, I find that the main problem for me is sitting incorrectly with my pelvis rounded forward. To address the situation, I do two things:
- Stand up every 25 minutes and walk around – When I am at my desk sitting down I always set a 25-minute countdown as soon as my butt hits the chair. As soon as the 25 minutes is up I get up and either go to the bathroom or top up my glass of water. You don’t want to be sitting too long in one position because the body may start to adapt to that incorrect position. By standing up and walking around you break up the pattern.
- Stand up to work – From time to time I will take my laptop and put it on a countertop or shelf that is a perfect height to work from. This could also be achieved via a good standing desk.
As well as sitting in the incorrect position I would also stand in the swayback stance with my hips swayed forward which didn’t help matters. I continually remind myself to pull my hip bone back so it is in alignment with my ankles.
Gradually over time, I have noticed that it gets easier to remember to stand in this way.
Once we’ve addressed what is causing the swayback and have put in preventative measures such as mentioned above, we can begin stretching the tight muscles and strengthening the weak muscles that cause us to stand in a swayback position. The exercises below are a list of exercises found in the main video above.
Before we start any strengthening exercises we first want to make sure we are stretched out properly.
Stretch 1 – Hamstring Release
Before you start any of the other stretches you first want to use a small hard ball (softball works well) to release tension and tightness in the hamstrings.
With the ball under your hamstring press firmly down and start to roll the ball down the butt and towards your knee. Repeat this for 1-2 minutes on both legs.
Stretch 2 – Hamstring Stretch
Now that your hamstrings have been loosened, get on your back, hold one leg up by the calf and kick downwards with force. Relax then pull your leg in closer. Do 5-7 rounds on each leg.
If you’d like more stretches to try out see this page for more hamstring stretches.
Stretch 3 – Spine Mobilisation
People with swayback often will find they have a stiff spine from the rounding posture of their upper back (kyphosis). By using a foam roller you can gently do some spine mobilisation manoeuvres.
First, put the foam roller on your upper back area, and with your hands behind your head, lift upwards bending at the upper back. Keep your stomach in and remember to be gentle. Do 20 reps.
Stretch 4 – Stability Ball Abdominal Stretch
If you have swayback your lower and mid abdominal muscles are tight so you will need to stretch them.
Lie down across a stability ball and create as much length as you can between the ribcage and the pelvis. Hold this stretch for 1-2 minutes.
Stretch 5 – Pec Stretch
People with swayback often have rounded shoulders because their shoulders are being pulled forward by tight pec muscles.
The exercise above stretches the pec muscles on each side. If you don’t have a ball you can also do this exercise by standing in your doorway, known as a doorway stretch.
Now that the muscles have been stretched, it’s time to strengthen the weak muscles that are common with swayback. There are two things you must do before attempting these exercises.
- First, make sure you have done the above stretches!
- Make sure that when you do these exercises that you are not in a swayback position i.e. pelvis forward.
Exercise 1: The Plank
Get on the floor and hold a plank position for 30 seconds. As mentioned above ensure that your pelvis does not sag down into a swayback stance. Make sure you know how to do a plank.
If you do this incorrectly, you will only enforce your swayback posture more. Do 5 sets of 30 seconds each.
Exercise 2: Side Plank
Make sure to add the side plank to your exercise regime. A side plank will activate the obliques which are likely to be underdeveloped in someone who has swayback. Like the original plank in exercise 1, you’ll want to do 5 Sets of 30 seconds (on each side).
Exercise 3: Flapjack/Karate Chop
This is another exercise to strengthen the obliques, however, this exercise also activates the glutes and hip abductors. Lay on your side, raise your leg up and karate chop down, then release. Do 4 Sets of 15 on each side.
Exercise 4 – Ball Jackknife
This exercise trains the spine and pelvis to become more stable.
To do the ball jackknife, draw the ball inwards without changing the position of your pelvis and lumbar spine. Hold it firm and in place, then draw the ball back outwards. Do 4 sets of 20.
Exercise 5 – Hip Circles
For this exercise, you will need a band. Place the band around your legs and just above your knees. Lunge forward at 45-degree angles, one leg after another whilst walking forward. this exercise will create some hip flexor activation. Do 4 sets of 20 on each leg.
Exercise 6: Farmers Walk
Hold a dumbbell in one hand and keep your core tight. The idea behind this exercise is to keep your torso as vertical, upright and straight as possible. Don’t allow the weight to pull you down to one side. Keep your stomach sucked in. If done correctly you should feel some oblique activation. Do 5 sets of 30 seconds.
Fixing Swayback is Not an Overnight Thing
Your swayback posture took years to develop as you placed your body into unnatural positions and as a result, you won’t see positive changes happen overnight.
From my own perspective, however, I have noticed that within a year my swayback posture has almost disappeared. Whilst these exercises are great and work well, I found that what cures it the fastest is developing healthier habits, in particular standing more and adopting more intense exercise and activity into my regime.
Make sure to do exercises that work the whole body and more importantly remember to avoid standing in a swayed position! For additional insights into how to fix swayback, be sure to check out my ‘how to fix a posterior pelvic tilt’ post.