The Myth, The Misalignment, The Solution
The modern power stance: unable to leap tall spines in a single bound
Somehow in our recent past (perhaps around the 1970s), we began to see more and more of the “power stance”. Superheroes like Superman and Wonder Woman stood with feet apart, hands on hips, chest sky high and shoulders thrust back. In 2012, a viral Ted Talk promoted “power poses” as a magic posture pill for success in life and work. This original research has now been retracted by one of its co-authors. From a physical well-being point of view, modern power poses present a falsehood: instead of making us taller and more powerful they are actually creating compression in our spines, overusing our muscles, and weakening our bodies.
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Breaking down the modern back-breaking power stance
Today, men tend to tuck the butt under, moving the front of the pelvis toward the sky as seen with this Superman figurine. This causes body weight to move forward while flattening the lower back. The spine is now in a backbend, which gets even more exacerbated by the lifting of the chest. Still, the head needs come up in order to see, so the muscles must force the upper spine into a hump to move the neck and head upright.
Woman tend to forcibly push the butt back and up, turning the front of the pelvis down more than usual as seen in this photo of Wonder Woman. This causes a big dip and spinal compression in the low back. Coupled with a lifted chest, the body is now in a deep sway back.
In either case, the muscles have to work extra hard to keep each position in place. What happens next? Tired, aching muscles from head to toe give up and the body goes into an inevitable slump, creating “bad posture”.
The Safe-for-You Power Stance From Previous Eras
These three photos (left to right: 1912, 1903, 1940s) show the power stance before it became a cultural phenomenon. With each man, the front of the pelvis is gently sloping down between the legs. The chests are relaxed, thus maintaining spinal column integrity as seen in the lifeguard whose column is one even depth and is one tall line. The shoulders are in place without force and weight is in the heels. The bodies look strong, yet not overly muscular.
More posture myths
Just like the power stance, there is a lot of mumbo-jumbo out there about posture and back pain. We turn the tables on 15 posture myths, such as:
- A hunched back is inevitable as you grow older.
- You should lift with your knees.
- Strong abs are vital to back health.
- It’s OK to tuck your tailbone.
- Buying an expensive ergonomic chair will reduce your back pain.