Do this quick test: stand with feet pointing forward, at shoulder width or less, and get down in a full squat. All the way down, until your knees can’t bend anymore.
Have someone take a side angle photo of you or be next to a full length mirror. Is your back pretty straight? Or is it hunched over your knees? What about your head? Is it in line with your spine, or bent forward or backward?
Make sure your feet are planted from heel to blade to toes. Use your feet’s grip on the ground to support yourself, and try to straighten out your torso. You want your shoulders back and head in line with your spine. Possible? Or not even a bit?
Okay. If you had a lot of trouble lifting up your torso, you probably have stiff chest, shoulder, and bicep muscles. I get this after bench press sessions, lots of sitting, and lots of walking with a heavy pack when traveling. In all these scenarios, I’m straining forward or in a position that gets the front muscles short and tight.
The result is forward hunching. My favorite remedy is shoulder dislocations. Do three sets of ten of these, and feel the crazy tightness loosen up. It will open up your squat, but it will also help with long hours sitting at work and in traffic, standing taller, and easing upper back and neck aches.
When you think of squatting, the upper body doesn’t seem to be involved. But the mobility of your torso actually affects your ability to squat.
It’s not always necessary that you are in the full squat with a straight spine. Lifting something heavy is a different story, but when you’re just getting into a squat, you can have a rounded back without harm to yourself.
The extent to which your back is straight or curved is, though, an indicator of your mobility. If your back is very hunched, it could mean that the tissues of your abdomen, ribs, chest, and shoulders are tight.
If the front of your body is tight, it’s going to pull you forward and make it hard to straighten up. Work on your normal sitting and standing positions. If you’re slouching, get yourself upright. Open up the chest and shoulders, and stretch out your biceps. And squat every day to test yourself.
It’s a constant work in progress for me. The more I’m able to keep my torso aligned, the better time I have living each day free of aches, kinks, and pain.