Spine of Steel

Straighten up with a lesson from Superman's posture coach


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HOW DOES THE WORLD’S GREATEST SUPERHERO pull off blue tights and a red cape without looking like a Renaissance-fair reject? Posture. He stands tall and moves with authority. And though Superman’s hypermasculine aura may seem reward enough, his impeccable stance also yields health benefits—a strong core, better balance, and an optimization of muscle biomechanics—useful for everything from skiing to kayaking to cycling. For Superman Returns, actor Brandon Routh, 26, worked with Hollywood movement coach Terry Notary to transform himself into a straight-spined world-beater. “Twenty-six-year-olds tend to slouch, which is the opposite of the poise, elegance, and innate balance you need to portray Superman,” says Notary, 37, a former UCLA gymnast and Cirque du Soleil acrobat. “The key is in finding that physical centeredness and uprightness without looking like you’re self-consciously straining.” Follow his tips and stop shuffling around like a mild-mannered stooge.

Know Your Core
Strength here is crucial, but you also need an awareness of what these muscles do. Notary suggests playing tai chi–style catch with a “simulated ball of energy.” Start all movements from your core, absorbing the ball and then whipping it back with a turn initiated from the base of the spine. Do this on both sides and concentrate on your abs, obliques, and lower back.

Stand Tall
Moving through the world like you own it begins with a good stance. Start with your spine curved naturally and knees slightly bent. Engage the muscles in your legs, rather than just using them as stands to prop up your body. Concentrate on releasing tension and lengthening through the neck, shoulders, ribs, and lower back. “You’re not flexing any muscles,” says Notary. “You’re just thinking, Lengthen and widen.”

Discover Your Rhythm
Because moving gracefully is about listening to your body, Notary recommends a series of sprints culminating in what he calls “stopping in time”—pacing down from a full sprint to a gradual, graceful stop, rather than letting your mind tell your body to slam on the breaks. The idea is to drill into your mind and body the knowledge that if a movement feels jarring, you’re doing it wrong.