Remember this guy?
Good, then that means you’re a child of the 90s. If you don’t know who it is, we can’t be friends. Rocko’s Modern Life was a part of the Golden Era of Nickelodeon cartoons. An era that included Ren and Stimpy, Doug, and Rugrats. You’re not here to read about Nickelodeon’s heyday, though.
But, I do want you to take one more look at Rocko’s neurotic compatriot, Filburt. What do you notice about him? (Besides that he looks like Martin Starr in a turtle costume)
Filburt’s head is in a forward position; he has rounded shoulders; his chest caves in, aka, he has terrible posture.
You know who else suffers from terrible posture?
- People with desk jobs
- Truck drivers
- Internet entrepreneurs who spend too much time writing online (shit, that’s me)
- And YOU. If, you’re reading this on your mobile device right now. I bet you’re reading this and your posture resembles Filburts.
Bad posture not only weakens the muscles of your upper back and shoulders, but it can even impact your mental health as well.
Don’t believe me? Take a gander at this TED Talk about why posture, or your lack of good posture, is keeping you down mentally.
The first step to improving your posture is to remain cognizant of the position in which you stand or sit. Boring, I know. But it works.
Your second option is to strengthen the muscles of your upper back. But there’s one set of muscles I know for a fact you’re not training enough. And skipping this muscle group is not only preventing you from improving your posture, but it’s blocking you from leveling up your strength on the bench press.
Posterior Deltoid Force
The rear or posterior deltoids are one of the three muscles of your shoulders. You hammer the front and lateral heads of the deltoids with overhead pressing and lateral raises. But then you skimp or even outright skip — I’ll assume you conveniently “forget”— to train your rear delts.
I get it. Rear delts aren’t sexy.
Training the muscles you see in the mirror or that “pop” out of your shirt is awesome. But your rear delts are just as important as your biceps or pecs. Your rear delts assist or fire during a few different functions:
- Shoulder extension
- External shoulder rotation
- Transverse extension (think Captain America ripping apart wood)
- Transverse Abduction (think hugging)
The Body Affects the Mind
Before I go any further, I want you to feel the effects of poor posture on your body and mind.
Hunch over, right now.
Grab your keyboard or laptop, put it in your lap, and try typing. Over-exaggerate this posture and curl yourself up into the tightest ball you can. Spend 30 seconds in this position and try breathing. How’s it feel?
After 30 seconds, did you notice a sudden feeling of anxiety? Sadness? A general blah-ness?
Now. Sit up straight. Chest high. Push your shoulders back (externally rotate). And take a deep breath. Over-exaggerate this posture as well. Get up and walk around the room like you’re the King or a Greek God walking amongst the mortals. Now, take a deep breath as you walk.
Feels good, right?
You’re able to suck in a lot more air. With that breath, do you feel a power — a sense of widespread awesomeness flooding over you? Stay in that position. And keep breathing. All the stress and anxiety that you felt while hunched over floats off into the ether.
Improving your posture doesn’t only come from training your rear delts. You’ll also need to make sure you hit your traps and rhomboids. Hit those by adding in shrugs, batwing rows, T-Bar rows, or scapular push-ups.
Your rear delts, though, respond best to higher volume and lower weight. So if you’ve been awkwardly swinging 30-40 pounds while doing bent over rear delt raises, stop. Like immediately.
Because your rear delts respond best to higher volume, that means you can train them more than once a week.
“I can train my rear delts more than once a week?”
Yes. And you should. If not for the better shoulder health and strength gains. Do it for the pump: train them like a bodybuilder.
Training your rear delts like a bodybuilder leads to some astounding aesthetic benefits.
- Shoulders develop that three-dimensional pop
- Your back will look wider
- Larger rear delts make your triceps look more massive.
And who doesn’t want “more massive” looking arms?
A Back They’ll Never Forget
Since your rear delts function to assist in shoulder extension, that means you’ll work them any day you train your back. Rows, pull-ups, chin-ups, all of these will hit your rear delts.
Open your back day with 2 sets of 12-15 reps of Face Pulls. This will help get blood pumping into your rear delts before you start lifting heavy.
Finish off training back by hitting your rear delts again. Go for volume here, keep the weight low, and do 2-3 sets to failure of the Seated Rope Row to Neck.
The Bro’s Guide to Better Benching
Admit it: you start your week training chest.
Monday is International Chest Day, and since your rear delts act as stabilizers for the bench press, that makes chest day an excellent day to train these bad boys.
Warming up with a set or two of standard face pulls is always an option. Or, finish your workout with the supine version of the face pull. This version allows you to pull a bit more weight and it takes out any chance of you using your hips. Meaning that you isolate your rear delts more.
Traditionally, you’ll see people in the gym training rear delts on shoulder day. There’s nothing wrong with that, but since these muscles respond best to volume, why not train them more than once? If you decide to train them two or three times a week, keep this rule in mind:
Your back and shoulder days should be separated by at least 48 hours. This provides ample time for complete recovery.
On the day you train shoulders, in between sets of overhead presses, use a resistance band and do 10-12 reps of band pull aparts. Keep your arms straight and elbows locked to isolate your rear delts more.
If you can’t tell, I like finishing my workouts with a little rear delt work. And after a swoletastic shoulder day, this finisher is my favorite way to SMOKE my rear delts.
BONUS: If you have access to TRX or a suspension trainer, the exercise below is an excellent way to strengthen the external rotation function of your rear delts.
The Party’s in the Rear (Delts)
Fixing your Filburt like posture will take more than hitting your rear delts or upper back muscles. You’re gonna have to stay conscious of how you sit, stand, and carry yourself throughout the day.
At work, sit back in your chair, keep your chest high, and shoulders back.
When you get home and fire up your Xbox One or PS 4, don’t slouch as you game. Or do what I do and stand while gaming. Speaking of standing, when you stand, assume a power pose as you walk around the office or down the street.
Remember how great your posture is the day after you get laid? You walk around on cloud 9 with a shit-eating grin — carry yourself like that, every day. You don’t have to be 100% perfect with posture throughout the day. I’m not. But the more you break up those bad posture signals, the better you’ll feel and the more badass you’ll look.