Welcome to P.volve Unfiltered—your space for real talk, not girl talk. Throughout the month and beyond, we’ll talk all things female body: orgasms, periods, boobs, the pelvic floor and so much more. Best part is we’re doing it in the most honest, raw way so that you can get the answers to your burning questions (we can talk burning, too!) to better understand your body and your health with a team of experts on our side.
The P.volve method focuses on whole-body strength and postural stability, and the upper body is such a crucial part of good posture. Posture is important in maintaining symmetry in every plane of movement: front to back, right to left and top to bottom. Our muscles and joints are meant to work in good alignment; our workouts should be one way to make it happen.
Women, in particular, need to pay extra close attention to strengthening their upper body, and it’s all because of one word: BOOBS. We don’t need to think of our boobs as added weight, but instead as the body parts that shift our balance toward the front of our upper body. This shift in balance makes it so important to maintain good arm, back and core strength to support alignment and symmetry. And since we spend most of our time doing things in front of us, we tend to tighten our chest and wind up weakening the upper back, shoulders or scapular stabilizers.
It’s important to target this area no matter what stage of life you’re in, but especially so if breastfeeding. This beautiful and natural time as a mother comes with long periods of time spent in one position—oftentimes, with shoulders rounded forward and the weight of your little one in your arms. This, combined with increased breast size, can put more demand on your body than you prepared for. And that’s before the everyday activities that come with motherhood: holding, lifting and carrying your baby, car seats and strollers (the list goes on!)
Stretching and opening the chest and neck as well as working the muscles of the upper back and shoulder blades can help reduce the stress and tightness caused by these extra demands on your body and reduce or prevent pain in the neck, shoulders and upper back. But what about pain that pain you really never talk about? Countless women experience breastfeeding pain in the form of raw, leaky nipples, sore breasts or constant irritation from an infant begging for milk every hour. These things might not subside postpartum, but strengthening the postural muscles can lessen the symptoms and prepare your body for a full recovery.
Then there are large-boobed women—those susceptible to neck and shoulder tension due to carrying around more weight on the chest wall. This pulls the shoulders and neck forward, resulting in stress and tension on these areas. For these women, proper upper-body activation is just as essential as a good, supportive bra. Opening the chest wall by stretching the pectoral muscles and maintaining good mobility in the ribcage can help along with upper back strengthening to improve the support.
Lastly, aging boobs are inevitable, but come with a whole host of pains and difficulties. As we age, our spine will naturally become less mobile as the disc space between the vertebrae lose height and cushioning. Changes in the spine can cause a forward head, rounded shoulders and increased outward curve of the thoracic spine, called kyphosis. This is a natural part of aging, but it can be helped with exercise. Maintaining good segmental mobility of the spine, ribs, neck and shoulders can all help to improve mobility and therefore improve or maintain posture as we age. Women in this category are also susceptible to bone density loss after menopause, so strengthening with resistance-based exercise becomes equally important.
Maybe you fall into one of the camps above, or maybe you’re just looking for better posture from sitting hunched over your desk all day. No matter where you’re at, it can all be improved with a focus on your chest. Get the full run down below, or watch trainer Dani Coleman's step-by-step instruction on our IGTV:
Opening the chest and stretching the pecs is super important for larger chested women as the weight of the breasts tends to close off these muscles, causing them to get tight. By stretching open through the collar bones, you’ll be able to better balance your posture.
Starting in a p.sit position, reach arms forward with palms facing thighs. Stand tall and circle your arms back behind you while lifting your heart up toward the ceiling so you get a big stretch through the chest. Repeat 8-10 times.
The important thing here is to feel your shoulder blades sliding down your back and squeezing in together. This will ignite your lat muscles which are huge muscular sheaths that run down your back like wings and get stronger when aligned.
From a step back position, reach up toward the ceiling with palms facing forward. With your back heel high, bend your knees lowering your knee to the floor. Pull both arms down with your elbows toward your waistline by squeezing your shoulder blades together on your back. Repeat 8-10 times on both sides.
Step Outs and Squeeze
Each time the elbows press out straight, feel your shoulder blades pull together. You are strengthening your lats again but adding the triceps and back muscles as well!
Starting in a p.sit position, stretch arms into a long vertical line (T arms) from elbow to elbow. Squeeze your shoulder blades back, and alternate each foot stepping out to the side, extending through your elbows with each step. Bend elbows as you step back in, maintaining the arms in the same vertical line. Repeat 8-10 times.
Feel your chest open and your back body draw together on the row.
Starting in a step back position, reach your arms forward on a diagonal toward the floor, palms facing one another. As your back foot steps into a stagger stance, pull your elbows back as far as you can while drawing shoulder blades together. Repeat 8-10 times.
MEET THE EXPERTS
Dr. Amy Hoover, PT, DPT, is P.volve's Doctor of Physical Therapy and the
owner and operator of APHysio, LLC, a mobile physical therapy and wellness provider. She provides in-home specialty services, focusing on hands on manual therapy and individualized exercise prescription. Dr. Amy also has a special interest and expertise in women's health, including prenatal/postnatal care.
Antonietta Vicario is a mover and educator, a mother, and a lover of life among many other things! Currently the Vice President of Talent and Training for P.volve, Antonietta specializes in recruiting, training, and program development. She is in love with teaching the P.volve method, integrating functional training into a high-intensity, low-impact workout.
There's more unfiltered where that came from—stay tuned to learn more about the upper body and pelvic floor throughout the month. For more from P.volve Unfiltered, check out the women's wellness section on our blog or get started with our workouts with a 14-day free trial.