Those who train with me will undoubtedly be hearing my voice in their heads repeatedly chanting “shoulders back, engage your tummy!“…ie: the importance of good posture when exercising. (And believe me, I have to keep reminding myself about it as well, because it is so easy to fall into bad habits).
The reason I stress posture so often is that it plays such a major part in our general wellbeing; not just in our fitness classes but also in everyday life. Poor posture can lead to all sorts of problems with muscles under tension, joints out of alignment, and resultant pain.
Medical practitioners, particularly Musculoskeletal specialists, emphasise the part that good posture plays in the basic health of the human body. As far as they are concerned it plays as vital a role in maintaining your health as a nutritious, healthy diet, quality sleep and regular exercise. But how do you ensure that you maintain ‘good posture’ during workouts and throughout the day?
Four things I find help me:
Reduce the anterior pelvic tilt: a large amount of back and hip pain can come from an exaggerated lordotic curve (ie, hips pushing forwards, curving the lumbar spine and sticking the bottom out). Commonly in pregnant women and those with increased abdominal weight, this can be corrected with practicing pelvic tilting, drawing the tummy IN and UP and tucking the bottom UNDER. Lie on the floor and practice your pelvic tilts, and then repeat this same movement standing. See how your spine flattens out and tummy pulls in!
Draw shoulders back and down: Upper back tension and neck pain? Check your shoulders aren’t up round your ears. Think about rolling the shoulder blades together and then SLIDING them down the back. This helps keep your shoulders stacked above your hips and more of a neutral spinal alignment, and helps prevent and even correct a kyphotic posture (hunch back).
Soften the knees: particularly when standing, we can lock out the knees and push the hips forward (think ‘grumpy teenager’). Not only does this put pressure on the lower back (see above) but huge tension on the knee joints, ligaments and tendons from a near ‘hyper extended’ position. When we soften the knees (ie, gentle bend, just short of straightening), we take the body weight in the muscles of the upper leg – away from the joints.
Imagine string pulling at the top of your head: Got neck/shoulder/upper back pain or tension? Have someone take a profile photo of you. Does your chin stick forward beyond your chest? Look at the angle on the back of the neck. Did you know the average adult head weighs 5kg and balances on 7 vertebra. The force exerted on the neck joints and muscles increases massively if you tilt your neck forward (looking down at your phone?!) – in fact, a tilt of just 45 degrees can increase the force as if the head weighs 22kg…! From learning various dance forms when younger, I never forgot this image: Drawing yourself up through the top of the head, as if with a piece of string, elongate the neck and draw the chin BACK to a straight cervical spine.
Here is a link to the NHS UK website with some useful information and helpful tips about how to improve your posture.
Needless to say, I will be happy to chat with you have any questions re posture correction 🙂