The Power of Posture

So, we all understand the benefits of correct posture, but do we the full extent of destruction that poor posture might be having on our health?

Remember when you were young and your parents told you ‘not to slouch’, well that’s because the implications of poor posture can have powerful negative effects on your health, fitness and life. Problems such as chronic back pain, joint pain and injuries are often caused from poor postural alignment.

The biggest cause of poor postural alignment is usually from hours of sitting and desk all day, then coupled with a sleeping position that reenforces this poor pattern. Let’s say you’re sat at work for 8 hours a day, your car journey was around 1 hour and then you get home and sit to relax for another 2 hours. That’s 11 hours on being in pretty much the same position, then you go to bed and lay in a ‘comfy’ position for another 7 hours. That’s around 18 hours out of 24 (75% of your day/week/month/year/life) where your body is potential in an unbalanced position which is a prime opportunity for injuries to crop up. The list goes on but it’s highly likely that shoulder, back, hip, knee pain could be caused from poor posture.

Now let’s throw in some FITNESS!

“But I don’t lift weights, poor posture is only bad when lifting weights right?”

Wrong.

Training is a golden opportunity to strengthen our ability to maintain good posture and prevent ourselves slipping into old habits. Whatever your fitness pursuits, you must be aware of your postural positioning and have a clear control of your movements. Regardless of exercise, your posture should stay relatively the same (for basic foundational movements; squat, pick up, carry, walk, run, jump, throw, push, pull).

Here’s a quick way we use to help our clients get into a good postural position.

Angry Cat – Slouch into closed position and push your back out (like and angry cat). This puts us in an extreme position of a common posture at a desk, slouched over a computer.

Happy Cat. Then we reverse it, so we open up the chest, essentially bending the complete opposite way. (kind of like a happy cat)

Neutral. Now the important bit, pull your tummy in slight below your belly button. This should slight align your spine into a neutral position. To maintain this, keep your tummy pulled in and slightly squeeze your gluten (bum cheeks). Keep your shoulders set back and imagine your standing up tall and proud.
  

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Here are some examples of how this position translates to two fundamental movement patterns. The squat and the deadlift aka sitting down/standing up and picking something up.

The Squat 
The subtle different in the 2nd and 3rd image is the the trunk hyperextension in image 2. This will reduce her ability move through a optimal plane of movement and when loaded will not allow for the load to be evenly distributed through her trunk, hip and overall system. Image 1 looks horrific.

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The Deadlift

Again a slight subtle difference in image 2 and 3. The key point to look at is the position of her chin. As soon as she begins to stand up and extend her hips (picking up the kettlebell) she’ll struggle to main her position. A neutral chin, seen in image 3 will allow her to create more tension and maintain a solid posture through the movement.   

 

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So here are 3 take away tips on how to improve your posture and try restore a neutral well-balanced spine position.

1. Be aware. Try to constantly remind yourself to sit up straight or refrain from slouching for too long. This will be hard at first. An alternative would be to go for a walk at regular intervals, then aim to sit in a good position on your return.

2. Try to avoid curling up in a ball when you sleep. The best position is to lay flat on your back, make sure your head is appropriately supported with a pillow. It may feel strange but you’ll start to feel the benefit.

3. Starfish. Similar to the sleeping position, around 20min before bed lay on a relatively firm surface. Spread out like a star fish and close your eyes. Start to relax and concentrate on the breaths you’re making. Aim to make the exhale twice as long as the inhale. Then start to imagine your belly button sinking down into the floor, then your whole body melting into the floor. This may sound strange but it could help you relax all the shortened/tight areas caused from prolonged sitting. (This should help prep you for No.2)