The Best Posture-Fixing Guide On The Internet - This Advanced Methodology Can Fix You From Head-To-Toe

Dec 18, 2023
fix posture uneven shoulder hips pelvic tilt

When the body and it's posture becomes imbalanced, everything is affected. The head all the way down to your toes will be influenced and likely compensate in some way.

To my knowledge, no one has ever put together a comprehensive guide to assess how the body does this.

My goal for this content is to give you the tools to:

1. Understand the position your body is in

2. See how it affects your movement & range of motion

3. Use exercises to help improve the root cause, which address the body from head-to-toe

If you would rather watch than read, see below:

Understanding & Defining Imbalanced Posture

To understand how to fix a twisted body, we must first understand what that even means.

The good new is, when a body becomes imbalanced, there are predictable patterns in which this occurs.

The bad news is, there are a lot of different variations of those patterns.

However, more good news: I am going to give you the tools to see the common themes and learn the "big rocks" (most important aspects) of what influences your body's posture.

As I've discussed in other content, all posture is essentially a representation of how your body is controlling your center of mass. Look at all these postures - they are all trying to organize the spine and rest of body so that there can be relative balance down the midline of the body:


We will compensate into variations of this from front-to-back and side-to-side depending on:

  • Genetic biases
  • Previous injury
  • Lifestyle
  • Exercise/sport demands

And other variables, but those are the main ones.

When we compensate into a "twisted" posture, we are going to have the body's larger structures oriented to either the left or right side.

For this article, I want you to consider three different areas:

  • The head/neck
  • The ribcage
  • The pelvis

All of these, or a combination of them, can be turned to the left or right side. This gives us 6 potential options.

In basic circumstances (and more simple cases), the head, ribcage, and pelvis are all turned to one side, such as the left or right.

Every human, unless you have very abnormal structure circumstances, is biased towards a posture where things are turned to the right side. If you want to learn more about this, see my content here on what we refer to this as, which is the Left AIC.

In this case, the head, ribcage, and pelvis are all turned right:

In more complex cases, we can have these areas turned in relatively different directions. Keep in mind I said relatively because you could be turned overall to the right side in your entire body, but your head can be relatively turned to the left. This doesn't mean it's fully facing the left side, it's just not turned to the right as much as the structures below it to a meaningful and measurable extent.

For example:

  • Head turned left
  • Ribcage turned right
  • Pelvis turned left

  • Head turned right
  • Ribcage turned right
  • Pelvis turned left

...and so on. There are 6 potential options and combinations of this. We aren't going to get into this in maximum depth because that would take, well, a long-ass time. But if you want to learn as much as possible about this, check out my Biomechanics Course!

Defining "Turned" and "Twists"

When we are "turned" towards one side, we are biased towards leaning on it more. The best way I like to think about this is to compare it to the movement (gait) cycle with mid-stance phase of gait.

When we are walking through the world, we are alternating loading our bodyweight on one side, then the other. When we have one leg off the ground and the other is in "swing" phase of gait, we are obviously weight-bearing on the stance leg in mid-stance.

Visually, we will have a relatively higher hip on the stance-leg side and lower shoulder on that side as well. The head will be side-bent to the other side:

The head, sternum, and pelvis will be turned toward the stance, weight-bearing leg. This is reflective of a full, complete lateralized pattern and is the key to remember for exercise selection.

This requires internal rotation of both the hips and ribcage.

How Twisted Hips, Shoulders, and Necks Develop

The reason we are talking about gait is because our static posture is a representation of how much we are weight-bearing and turned towards one side.

Let's take the most basic example of an individual who has their head, ribcage, and pelvis aligned in a posture that represents being lateralized towards one side - the right side.

This would mean that:

  • The right hip is higher and turned to the right side
  • The right shoulder is lower and turned to the right
  • The head is side-bent left, but turned to the right

Because we are leaning more on the right, the foot arch will be higher on the right and the lower on the left:

However, not everyone will be this straightforward. Many people, as discussed above, will have the head going in one direction, the ribcage oriented in the opposite direction of the head, and the pelvis in the opposite direction of the pelvis.

There are several combinations.

However, we can measure this objectively. Let me teach you how.

How To Assess Imbalanced & Twisted Posture

Remember how I said that there was a way to reliably measure how you are twisted? This is how.

Here are the key principles that will allow us to understand what measurements will tell us:

Head/Neck Assessments

When a head/neck is turned towards one side, it will have an easier time side-bending to that side and turning away from that side.

Ideally, the head and neck in particular are best assessed passively. I would be lying to you if I said active assessments on your own is extremely reliable, especially for this area. However, I understand many people don't have the opportunity/can't afford to work with someone one-on-one. So, at your own risk, you can try these. But I am including them for educational purposes only:

Cervical Lateral Flexion (Side-Bending): This will be easier on the side you are lateralized away from (i.e. it will be easier bending left if you are lateralized right)

Cervical Rotation: This will be easier on the side you are lateralized towards (i.e. it will be easier rotating your head right if you are lateralized right)

Ribcage Measurements

When a ribcage is turned towards one side, it will have more external rotation-based measurements on that side and more internal rotation-based measurements on the other side it is turned away from

Shoulder Internal Rotation: This will be easier on the side you are turned away from:

Shoulder External Rotation: This will be easier on the side your ribcage/sternum is turned towards

Shoulder Abduction: This will be easier on the side your ribcage/sternum is turned towards

Pelvis Assessments

When a pelvis is turned towards one side, it will have more internal rotation-based measurements on that side and more external rotation-based measurements on the other side it is turned away from

Trunk Rotation: It will likely be easier to turn your knees in the direction your pelvis is naturally turned. For example, if my pelvis was turned right, taking your knees right will be easier than pushing them left.

Straight Leg Raise: This will be easier on the side your pelvis is turned towards

Hip Flexion: This will be easier on the side your pelvis is turned away from

The major key point and benefit of these exercises is that we will be able to use these as objective landmarks to determine if our interventions are successful. Posture changes take a while to stick and form over time, but these assessments change instantaneously.

If you are doing the right exercise with the right execution, these assessments will improve. It will both feel and look better.

If you didn't pick the right exercise and/or screwed up the execution, these assessments will get noticeably worse.

As we measure them, we can plot them on a chart which will allow us to see the bigger picture:

This sheet is inspired by James Anderson and Mike Cantrell of Applied Integration Academy. I have permission to use this sheet and modify it slightly (as I have for this content) for use in the general public.

Let me give you a few examples of how I would interpret this.

Because there are several tests for each area, we want to make our determination as to which direction a given area is facing based on the majority of tests indicating that direction.

For example, there are 3 pelvis tests. Everyone will have 2 or more tests indicating you are either turned more right or left. Go with that to determine which exercises you use.

The ribcage has 3 tests. Go with the side you have 2 or more tests indicating you are turned towards that side.

The head has just two tests. Ideally both will indicate one direction, but some people will be split with one test telling them the head is turned one direction and the other test the opposite. In this case, use cervical rotation as the tie-breaker.

Here is an example sheet:


We can see that:

  • The head is representing a right-lateralized posture, or a head that is turned right
  • The ribcage is representing a right-lateralized posture, or a ribcage that is turned right
  • The pelvis is representing a right-lateralized posture (turned right).

This is what we will most commonly see because of that aforementioned Left AIC pattern. This is what we would refer to as a fully "In-Tact" pattern

Here's a more complex one:

We can see:

  • The head is clearly oriented right
  • The ribcage has 2/3 tests indicating a right lateralized ribcage, so we will presume it is turned right
  • The pelvis has 2/3 tests indicating a right lateralized pelvis, so we will presume it is turned right

Because this person has all three areas (head, ribcage, pelvis) showing a right lateralization, this person is still an "in-tact" pattern.

And here is one that is even more complex:

We can see that:

  • The head is representing a left-lateralized posture, or a head turned left.
  • The ribcage is representing a right-lateralized posture, or a ribcage turned right.
  • The pelvis is representing a left-lateralized posture.

This person is more "twisted" than the first examples. This is what we would refer to as an "Incomplete Pattern".

The Best Exercises For Fixing Asymmetrical & Imbalanced Postures

The biomechanical methods and positions of fixing these imbalances is:

1.) Pelvis: Turn it (your "zipper line") towards the side you want.

This can place in standing, sidelying, or other positions, but it's most easily visualized in standing:

This will help is also put us in a position to activate the muscle we want, which is external rotators (muscles of late stance on the side we are turned/lateralized into, and internal rotators (muscles of early/midstance) on the side we are turned/lateralized away from.

To do this, we can utilize the following strategies:

  • Teach our glutes & external rotators on the side we are turned towards to work with the foot arch on that side (example exercise here)

These foot contacts are essential because remember, the foot is more supinated and the arch is higher on the side we're turned towards. We're stuck in "mid-stance" on that side and we want to educate the body to better push out of that side into more of a "late-stance" position.

  • Teach our hamstrings, adductors, and obliques on the side we are turned away to work with the heel on that side (example exercise here)

The connection between those muscles and the heel is essential because remember, we are pushed more forward on the side we are turned away from. We want to improve the ability for us to "shift" into more of an early/mid-stance position and in the gait cycle, that starts with the heel striking the ground.

2.) Trunk/Ribcage: Turn your sternum in the intended direction with an arm reach

For example, if I wanted to turn my trunk to the left, I would reach my right arm ahead of me. That would turn my sternum to the left, and also my head would be likely to move with it:

3.) Head: Turn the head to the limited direction (relative to the position of the trunk)

The cool thing about this is that we can just allow the head position to be dictated by the position of the ribcage and how we are reaching. This is because if we are intentionally reaching to turn the ribcage/sternum to one side while the head doesn't move, the head will be relatively turned in the other direction.

For example, if I want my head to turn right, I can reach my right arm forward to turn my sternum/ribs to the left and not let my head turn with me (i.e. keep your eyes straight ahead). That would mean my head is turned relatively to the right while my sternum is turned left:

If I wanted to turn both the head and the ribcage in the same direction, you would just turn the pelvis away from that side and not turn the ribcage or pelvis with it. Don't add anything additional, because your pelvis will be turned to one direction, meaning your head and ribcage will be relatively in the opposite direction.

Let's give you a fully integrated example. Let's say I wanted to:

  • Turn my pelvis to the left - I would turn my zipper to the left
  • Turn my ribcage to the right - I would reach the left arm forward to turn my ribcage right
  • Turn my head to the left - I would keep my eyes looking straight ahead and not let my head follow my hand, so this way my head is going relatively left while my ribcage/trunk turns right

Exercise Selection For "In-Tact" Patterns

If you have all of the head, ribs, and pelvis indicating you are shifted into one side, then these exercises will be an ideal starting place for you. Here are some exercises implementing the strategies from above.

It's important to note that execution is absolutely key to the success of these exercises. You can know exactly what to do based on an assessment, but if you don't use the exercises correctly, this is all a massive waste of time. If you are serious about improving your body, take the time to watch each video and the common mistakes mentioned at the end.

The reason these exercises are more complex than you are used to is because they are truly addressing the body from head-to-toe and fixing the root cause. Be patient and take your time.

I would recommend only doing as many "breaths" per set of these exercises as you can while doing them 100% perfectly. Quality over quantity. More reps/breath cycles is not always better. Stop the set if you feel like you are going to lose feeling something you should, or something is going to engage that shouldn't.

This is most often going to be the neck or low back, which should be 100% relaxed at all times during all of these exercises, no exception.

The last thing I will say about these is the more effort is not better. More effort = more strain and much higher likelihood of you engage musculature we don't want involved. We want to show your body this is a safe position for you to be in and adapt to, not a threat. Many people will try way too hard on these types of exercises and get nowhere with them because of that. Try 2-3/10 effort level.

Exercise #1: 90/90 Hip Lift with Hemi-Bridge

The leg on the wall should be the one you are turned away from. For example, if you are lateralized to the right, put the left leg on the wall.

Exercise #2: Sidelying Adductor Pullback

Do this lying on the side you are turned towards, using the top leg actively on the side you are turned away from. For example, if you are turned towards the right side, do this lying on your right side using your left adductor.

Exercise #3: Sidelying Glute Max

Do this lying on the side that you are turned away from, using the glute of the side you are turned towards. For example, if you are lateralized to the right, lay on your left side and use your right glute.

Remember, if you do these properly on the side you need them on, you should absolutely see an objective improvement in the assessments. 100% of the time. The amount they improve is relative to the individual. Some people need 15-20+ degree improvements to feel better. Others, generally more "locked up" people, can benefit a lot from just 5-10 degree changes.

Exercises For Incomplete Patterns

If you are more "twisted", then you need to "untwist" yourself so that way you are more overall aligned to one side. This is a more complicated situation, and something I address in great deal in my Biomechanics Course, but to keep things simple, I recommend that you work to "untwist" yourself in the direction you are already most shifted towards.

Everyone will have at least 2/3 segments (head, ribcage, pelvis) in one direction. If you have 2/3 segments indicating your are right lateralized, do exercises that complete your right lateralized pattern. This means you would do exercises that take all three segments into a right lateralized position.

If you have 2/3 segments indicating your are left lateralized, do exercises that complete your left lateralized pattern.

For example, if you had the following situation:

  • Head/neck indicating you are lateralized right
  • Ribcage indicating you are lateralized left
  • Pelvis indicating you are lateralized right

Then work on aligning everything to the right so everything is more "in-sync".

For example, in this case, I would do an exercise that helps me keep my head and pelvis in a right lateralized position, but also make sure my ribcage is turned that way as well.

I can do that with exercises like this:

Exercise Progressions

I am going to review a few key progressions, but keep in mind this is by no means "thorough". If you want that, check out my Biomechanics Course or, if you're not a coach/practitioner, look into my Beginner Body Restoration program. This is designed for nearly anyone to be able to progress through these concepts with minimal equipment and daily time commitment. There is even a section on how to use it to improve your specific asymmetrical pattern:

Check it out by clicking here.

The key progression would be to incorporate all of these principles of turning the head, ribcage, and pelvis to one side.

At this point, you should overall present like most of your tests are indicating you are lateralized overall to one side (i.e. the head/neck assessments, 2/3 or more ribcage tests, and 3/5 or more pelvis tests) indicate you are shifted right or left.

If you are lateralized right, I would do this lying on your left side with right leg on top. The inverse would apply if you are lateralized left.

This is the standing progression:

You will know you are ready for these progressions once you:

  • Have done the initial variations for a minimum of two weeks daily
  • You can easily find and feel the right muscles and joint positions and hold them without compensation for sets of 10 breath cycles, without any compensatory muscles turning on
  • You try the progression and your assessment measurements continue to improve. If they get worse, you either didn't do the progressed exercise properly, or you're not ready for it

Here are a few more upright progressions that take into account all of the key principles:

This exercise is a ideal to get someone to shift fully into the side that is closest to the table. So if I was right lateralized, I would do this with my left foot back on the book and holding the table with my left hand:

This one will be fully integrating "stance" mechanics on the side you do it on. Make sure to do this on the side you are shifted away from (i.e. the left side in a right lateralized pattern):

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