With his arms stretched wide and long, dark hair resting on his shoulders, 26-year-old Hampton Liu presses his back against the wooden siding of his house. Whether he’s in pain or not, his face remains stoic as he exhales and reaches his hands toward the heavens. Liu doesn’t do this for glory or gold, but for the health and wellness of his common man. He is, after all, the “Posture Messiah.”
It’s been barely a year since the Arkansas native posted his first workout video to YouTube as a “side project,” and yet, in that short period of time, he’s been named one of the platform’s “Creators on the Rise,” and amassed nearly two million followers across it, TikTok and Instagram.
Though it can be hard to pin down why YouTubers become overnight successes, the driver of Liu’s meteoric rise is perhaps most evident on the subreddit r/PosturePals, a community of 15,000 people hoping to improve their posture and the group that first looked to Liu as a savior, dubbing him the “Posture Messiah” in the process (they’ve also called him a “gem,” “legend” and “the Bob Ross of working out”). There, redditors post pictures of themselves slouching, debate posture-fixing products, encourage each other with reminders to sit up straight, and most of all, worship the teachings of Liu.
Starting every lesson by looking into the camera and addressing the audience as “my friends,” Liu explains that “good posture isn’t just something we do, it’s something we build.” To that end, videos from false posture prophets promising a straighter comportment through chin tucks and chest lifts work great, “until you’re not paying attention and then you’re slouching again.” Because humans have traded in a life of honest, upright work for sedentary worship of technology, “almost everything we do has us leaning forward, [so] the muscles on our back have become weak and lazy,” he explains in one of his videos.
“When doing work or playing on our phone, we often find ourselves looking down, our shoulders collapse and our back begins to round,” he continues. “Now because people can’t really see like this, we have the brilliant idea of craning our neck to look up — this leads to ‘nerd neck’ or ‘text neck’ that some people think is ugly. I disagree because you’re beautiful the way you are, but let’s fix it to avoid pain.”
With that, Liu cuts to himself inside of his house, his back pressed against a doorway and his arms holding the door frame. “Now if you can’t get it right away, don’t worry,” he assures, a calm confidence in his voice. “You’ll get it with time, you’re doing well.”
It’s not just that Liu’s body-weight exercises for a straighter spine have a low barrier to entry, his approachable, easygoing teaching style is perfect for beginners, too. “The [Posture Pals] subreddit tends to get spammed with YouTube videos, but I think what stood out about Hampton’s video is that he very much comes across as a regular guy,” says Alison, a 29-year-old Posture Pals member. “He doesn’t seem like a typical exercise influencer who’s got all the equipment and tries to sell you supplements; he just seems like a dude who fixed his posture doing certain exercises, and walked out onto his porch to share that knowledge.”
“Even though posture is so important to back pain and all sorts of other stuff,” she adds, “following a perfectly-toned lady in yoga pants rip through core exercises can be kind of embarrassing when you’re just trying to sit up straight.”
As for Liu being deemed the “Posture Messiah,” she can only laugh: “I wouldn’t go that far, but people really do love his workout videos.”