Before you design an exercise program, conduct a series of functional assessments to identify any current alignment issues. Chapter 7 in the ACE Personal Trainer Manual, Fourth Edition, will walk you through a complete series of posture assessments and includes helpful checklists for each one. For example, the static postural assessment involves using a plumb line to look for major discrepancies in body symmetry and right angles created by weight-bearing joints relative to the line of gravity, checking anterior, posterior, sagittal, and transverse views.
Once you’ve identified deviations from normal posture stemming from feet, hips, shoulders, head, and back, select appropriate functional exercises. Generally, the first step in improving posture is to place the client in positions of good posture and begin with isometric contractions of 2-4 repetitions, 5-10 seconds each. For example, the client with forward-rounded shoulders could lie on her back on a mat and perform reverse flys against the floor to strengthen the weakened posterior deltoids and rhomboids.
Because postural muscles primarily consist of type I fibers, focus on volume training instead of heavy workloads to improve posture. Gradually progress to more dynamic exercises through a controlled range of motion, aiming for 1-3 sets of 12-15 repetitions.