I’ll admit it: until recently, I had the impression that a suit is a suit. Sportcoat, pants, maybe a special vest. Some shiny shoes. And a tie if things get really monumental. You get the idea.
Then I discovered the difference between any random suit from an off-the-rack sale at your local department store and an actual real suit that fits like a glove and looks like a million bucks thanks to NASA inspired technology and salespeople and tailors who know their product inside and out.
Fact is, if you’re serious about showing up confident to a wedding, a job interview, a hot date or any other situation where you could literally be judged by the clothes on your back, then you better know not only how to wear a suit, but you also better know which workout routines will give you a body that cuts an impressive figure in a suit, which suit fabric will make or break your luck, and how to ensure a suit doesn’t turn into a giant, stinky, sweaty full-body sauna.
You’re about to discover exactly how to rock your suit in style and confidence. Let’s jump right in.
Suit Confidence Tip #1: Mind Your Back
Back when I was a bodybuilder posing on stage, it was tempting to simply pay attention the front of my body: the shoulders, the chest, the abs, and the front of the arms. These areas don’t involve rocket science to tackle with efficacy. But I quickly learned that to look good, you also need to pay attention to your backside, which can be a tougher nut to crack.
When you’re wearing a suit, the most important part of your back to target is the part that literally gives you “wings” under each armpit: your lattissumus dorsi, AKA your “lats”. Two of my favorite exercises for the lats that spark an enormous amount of muscle fiber recruitment in your back include:
–Deadlifts: Most people know how to pick a heavy object like a barbell off the ground, and that movement, called a deadlift, is great for the butt and hamstrings (your primary hip extensors). But to really get your lats involved, you must squeeze the shoulder blades back and do a slight “mini-shrug” at the top of each deadlift.
–Pull-ups: Do copious amounts. Seriously. I have a pull-up bar installed in the door of my office and follow a special rule that I must perform 3-5 pull-ups every time I walk under it. The best style of pull-up for your lats is thumbs-off, wide grip, fingernails facing forward.
Suit Confidence Tip #2: Work On Your “V”
Even if your lats are suit ready, you simply won’t look good in a suit if it’s not hugging your waistline nicely, if you are sporting muffin tops or a beer belly, or if you aren’t working your full spectrum of stomach muscles.
If you really want a tighter tummy, you need to incorporate exercises that create a “belt” of muscle that encompasses your entire mid-section. This belt serves to draw in the waist, keep the stomach flat, and keep your stomach looking good in suit.
To work on all the stomach muscles, you need to include the following four movements:
- Abdominal flexion, which will tighten the “rectus abdomonis”, or sheet of muscle tissue that is directly on the front of your stomach.
- Rotation, which will work the internal and external oblique muscles that are on the sides of your stomach
- Waist extension,which will incorporate the low back muscles to improve posture and allow you to keep your stomach sucked in
- A planking exercise, which will allow you to tone each of the muscles listed above in one all-encompassing exercise.
For a stomach workout that suits a suit, try to put together exercises from each category as a circuit that you repeat 3-4x through with minimal rest, such as a crunch variation to a twisting variation to a low back extension to a plank, with 10-30 repetitions for each.
Suit Confidence Tip #3: Target Your Traps
Even if the rest of your body looks good, it can still be unflattering and asymmetric if you have a skinny neck that sticks up out of your suit. But if you have a skinny neck, the trick to get a muscular defined neck is not to work the neck muscles, but rather to target your trapezius, or “traps”. The traps are primarily responsible for “shrugging the shoulders”, so you’ll want to include exercises such as dumbbell shoulder shrugs, dumbbell or barbell deadlifts, farmer’s walks, or walking lunges. When you perform these exercises, make sure that you are allowing your shoulders to drop, but instead imagine the tops of your shoulders touching the bottom of your ear lobes, which will help you to keep your traps contracted.
Suit Confidence Tip #4: Squeeze Your Shoulders
If your shoulders are slouched or slumped forward, you might look just fine from the front, but a side shot of you in your suit may look more like a hunchback. If you sit at your computer for long periods of time, ride a bicycle in a hunched over position, swim frequently, or have a combination of tight chest muscles and weak shoulder muscles, then you probably already have at least a slight upper back hump, also known as “kyphosis”.
To address this issue, you need to include exercises that make you squeeze your shoulders back, such as seated rows, standing rows, pull-ups, pull-downs, and super-slow pushups (drop down for a 1-2-3 count, then push-up for a 1-2-3 count).
When you perform these exercises focus on keeping the shoulder blades aligned and the shoulder blade muscles contracted, the abs tight and “sucked in”, and the back straight. You can also improve posture by breathing in as you do the weight lifting portion of the exercise and then breathing out as you return the weight to the starting position.
Suit Confidence Tip #5: Fix Your Posture
This is a biggie. No one wants to look like Quasimodo in a fancy suit. Curious if your posture sucks? Try this 30 second wall test to check your posture:
-Stand with your feet flat on the ground, with your heels about 6 inches away from the wall.
Put your back flat against the wall.
-Then place your head against the wall as well, and tuck in your chin.
-Raise your arms out to shoulder height and bend your elbows. The tips of your fingers will be pointing forward, and your elbows will be straight out from your shoulders.
-Now rotate your arms upward at the elbows, keeping them bent, and try to touch the back of your wrists to the wall.
-If your back arches, or you can’t get your wrists to touch the wall, that indicates poor posture.
OK, so let’s say you discover you have poor posture. What can you do about it?
First, in the excellent book Deskbound, CrossFit San Francisco Founder Kelly Starrett teaches how quickly get into good posture while on your smartphone or computer. This is accomplished by extending your arms to the sides and then rotating your palms upward. This rolls your shoulders back. Then you can bend your elbows to type at the keyboard or hold your phone up in front of your face. When you're sitting, pull in your abs to about 20 percent of full strength, so that sitting becomes an active activity, apparently.
Second, start doing 5-10 minutes of “Foundation Training” every morning. This form of training, which I describe in detail in my article “How To Turn On Your Butt, Activate Deep Breathing & Decompress Your Spine (And Why I’ve Completely Changed My Morning Routine).” helps improve posture, alleviate back pain, and enhance biomechanics by engaging the major muscle chains in your body and helping you identify and utilize proper movement patterns that pull you out of poor posture or slouching. I swear by my daily Foundation practice.
Finally, to put the icing on the posture cake, learn a special form of myofascial stretching called “ELDOA”. ELDOA normalizes disc bulges, reduces scoliosis, delays disc degeneration, increases disc hydration, relieves chronic neck and back pain and tension, and massively improves head, neck, back and full body posture. ELDOA myofascial stretches are very specific and complex techniques that require strong attention to form and correct progressions, and you will likely need to learn from a certified ELDOA instructor. Once you learn it, you can squeeze in throughout your workday quick myofascial full body stretches that 30 seconds to 5 minutes. You’ll instantly feel half a foot taller, and also feel proud, tall and confident in any suit. Want to see what ELDOA looks like? Here a recent Instagram post showcasing me learning the ropes from an ELDOA instructor.
Suit Confidence Tip #6: Get The Right Suit
The final key to looking good in a suit is to choose a style of suit that actually looks good on you and that breathes and moves the way it should. Most people wear suits that are either too large, or made of material that doesn’t breathe, and that leaves you instead pitting sweat out the pits and emanating some serious body odor after a day in your suit.
So why do I like the AWEAR-TECH technology so much? In a nutshell, the patented “37.5” fabric maintains an optimum microclimate for your body, and removes moisture at the vapor stage, before sweat can form. It acts like a thermostat by removing moisture when you’re hot and retaining warmth when you’re cold, it absorbs and traps odor molecules that are washed away when cleaned, and, from liner to mesh to exterior, it easily layers with other 37.5 pieces to work as a system that allows for movement and comfort.
So basically, the fabric in this suit has the same stuff that’s used in athletic gear, which means it can help control your core temperature and sweat. I recently started wearing this new fabric in a suit from Men's Wearhouse, and trust me, it makes a night and day difference in suit comfort when your suit breathes and moves the right way (even when you're swinging a yellow kettlebell in your front driveway).
Plus, 1% contribution from every single one of these suits purchased is donated to Hire Heroes USA, which helps veterans find jobs, and Help USA, an organization that supplies housing to those in need. So you can look good and feel good about looking good.
So that’s it…
…mind your back, work on your “V” shape, target your traps, squeeze your shoulders, you’re your posture and choose the right suit, and you’re guaranteed to rock your suit with style and confidence.
As for the tie? Well, that’s your choice. Just remember: the fact that your favorite aunt gifted you with a Christmas elf tie does not require you to add it to your suit setup.
But perhaps that’s a topic for a future post. In the meantime, check out the AWEAR-TECH technology and to learn more about the Kenneth Cole suit garment technology, and leave your questions, comments and feedback below.