Below is information regarding proper posture and how it relates to progressing with your fitness. Please read this thoroughly and think about yourself in regards to the information provided below. Moving forward, proper posture during casual/rest time in the gym must be maintained. Poor posture will not be tolerated. Do NOT make me push and pull your body into position.
Why is proper posture important?
“The body functions best when it’s segments are in a balanced, neutral alignment. The nerves are unobstructed, the blood flows more efficiently, and the muscles work to their full potential. This position also relieves stress on joints and the skeletal structure. In contrast, poor posture is biomechanically inefficient and can contribute to poor performance, increasing fatigue and the potential for injury during activity.” (1)
Basically, proper posture can help keep you from avoidable pain or injuries. It will help you move better and keep you in efficient position for lifts and movements. This equates to less wasted energy and bigger, faster, more powerful movements and lifts.
What are the characteristics of neutral posture?
“When assessing an athlete’s alignment, there are a few key points to look for.
From the front:
- The point between the eyes should line up vertically with the chin, breastbone, belly button, mid-pelvic area and midpoint between the knees and ankles.
- The height of the eyes, ears, shoulders, hips and knees should be level.
From the side:
- There should be three natural curves in the spine, slightly forward at the neck [cervical vertebrae] and lower back [lumbar vertebrae], and slightly backward at the upper back [thoracic vertebrae].
- The ears should be aligned vertically over the shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles.” (1)
What are some indicators of poor posture?
anterior head carriage (AHC)
- Imagine a line drawn from the top of the head (along the side of the body) through the ear hole, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles. AHC is diagnosed when the top of the head and ears are held in front of the shoulders and upper back. Holding the head (which weighs about the same as a bowling ball) outside the rest of the body is akin to passing the barbell away from the body during any power or Olympic lift. It is incredibly inefficient and uses excessive energy to hold it off center of gravity. In this case, the muscles in the upper back and neck are under constant tension and because of the change in positioning in front of the body’s center of gravity, the change in leverage increases the effective weight of the head. AHC is almost always associated with kyphosis as well.
- Kyphosis is also known as a rounded upper back, hunchback, or slouching. It is characterized by over-curvature of the thoracic vertebrae. Forward shoulders and/or hollowed chest are indicative of some degree of kyphosis. This condition is likely due to over-developed or shortened pectoral and/or anterior deltoid muscles. This is one of the most common types of poor posture positions.
- Lordosis is also known as swayback or saddleback and is characterized by inward over-curvature of the lumbar or cervical vertebrae of the spine. Lordosis can be caused by tight lower back muscles, weak hamstrings or hip flexors, or excessive weight held in the abdomen either via visceral fat or pregnancy. This condition is often also associated with anterior pelvic tilt (protruding backside).
anterior and posterior pelvic tilt
- Anterior pelvic tilt is due to shortened hip flexors pulling the front of the pelvis down and lengthened hip extensors (glutes and hamstrings). The backside typically sits high or juts out in this condition.
- Posterior pelvic tilt is the opposite of anterior pelvic tilt and is characterized by sliding of the backside under the body. This could be indicative of tight hamstrings or glutes.
inward knee bend/dive
- An inward knee bend or inward knee dive could be indicative of weak glutes or weak hip flexors. Despite these muscles being on opposite sides of the body, either one could contribute to the knees not staying out during walking, running, squatting, or jumping. Additionally, a long history of crossing your legs while sitting could contribute to shortening of the hip flexors.
What benefits can be achieved due to proper posture outside of the gym?
“Studies show that first impressions are formed within 30 seconds of acquaintance, with body language as a major determining factor. Strong, neutral posture can contribute to:
- Improved Appearance
- Increased Confidence
- Improved Social Skills
Alternately, a person with poor body posture can send a signal of weakness.” (1)
What can be done to correct poor posture?
Listen to your coach! Seriously though. Please do. Working hard to force yourself into proper positioning throughout every gymnastic/bodyweight movement, power lift, and Olympic lift no matter how uncomfortable it is is paramount. Gaining depth via a tall chest, tight back, and fully planted foot during a movement as “simple” as the air squat is crucial! Make it hard on yourself. Cutting corners will never get you anywhere.
Daily activities such as standing, walking, and sitting should be accompanied by the description of neutral posture above. For many of you this means drawing the shoulder blades down and back with the chest up and through the shoulders to fix AHC and kyphosis. There is no excuse for poor posture as an adult. And now that you are performing advanced movements, you should be doing whatever you can to facilitate the correction of your posture. If you know you have poor posture, do something about it. I will help you. Heck, I’ve probably already brought it up with you.
After reviewing the indicators of poor posture above, as simple as it sounds, do the opposite of what is causing it. If you have some level of kyphosis, you need to stretch out your pecs and anterior delts and stand tall. If you have some level of AHC, be aware that you are protruding your neck forward. Pull your head back throughout the day. Don’t look like a turtle. If your knees dive in during knee flexion (i.e. squatting, deadlifts, Olympic lifts, jumping/landing during box jumps, etc.) and especially if they make contact, be diligent to push them out!
Half the battle of improving your fitness is not only doing what you are told/expected of and challenging yourself but for you to learn more about your own body. Body awareness and control are key aspects which are learned by athletes as they progress through sports from childhood to adulthood. Often this is what has prevented many from becoming star athletes growing up. Where those who never excelled in sports may have said “I can’t do this” or “I am not good at this”, the athlete will have thought to themselves, “How do I get better at this?” or “What is limiting me from getting better?”.
Be the latter.