Your posture is important, however, it is thought only about 2% of the entire population has “perfect posture” where the human body is in complete alignment from the tip of the head to the base of the feet. However, posture changes.. Your body will change to the natural movements, you can not remain completely upright all the time when you are moving, walking, running, in the gym. Usually these postures are not harmful as you are not in them for a long amount of time, however, you see it all the time, people with poor posture. Head forward, shoulders rolled forward, hips out of alignment.
The problem with poor posture is that for you, it is normal so it doesn’t feel wrong. However, over time this poor posture will put tremendous strain on your joints and muscles. This will lead to either tremendous injury or you can get things like headaches or your breathing can be off.
I’ve had my fair issues of postural issues. I had extremely tight hip flexors that wouldn’t even let me sit down without any pain. I sit down too much and the next day I definitely feel my hips and shoulders feeling a little bit too tight. I also find because of a few years of kickboxing and being left footed in football, I tend to favour my left side slightly in squats so I turn a little bit. Again, for me, it doesn’t feel off because it’s natural for me. However, over time I will be favouring the weight on one side more than the other so naturally, this will cause issues. Think of it like always dragging one shoe on the floor and picking the other one up. One will wear out a lot faster than the other, this is similar to my joints when one side is favoured over the other. Your body is amazing at maintaining balance, this is why your posture changes. Your body works best when the head is straight and your eyes look forward to the horizon. So, certain habits are detrimental to the health of your posture.
First off, we need to find what is poor posture. There are different types of postural issues and this will definitely not cover them all. But the big 3 are as followed:
Lordosis – Think of Donald Duck. Sticking your bum out backwards and curving the spine excessively inwards which sticks the bum out. This is often seen in people who have a bit of a belly which pulls the spine forward. Pregnant women get this a lot of the time too. Due to the position of the spine the abdominals and glutes get looser, the erector spinae get tight and so do the hip flexors.
Kyphosis – This is more and more common because people are getting less active and sitting at a desk more (which I am doing more and more often). The head is pulled forward in front of the shoulders and the neck. You’ll also see the shoulders rolled forward. Because of these, you will find your chest (pectorals) getting tight, the front of the neck (sternocleidomastoid) muscles will be tight too, it’s also common to see people have their shoulders shrugged up due to tight trapezius muscles. These cause the opposite in the back of the neck, back of the shoulders and part of the trapezius (it has a few different functions, some functions are inhibited, some are not).
Scoliosis – This isn’t necessarily an issue of habit for the spine. You can be in accidents or even inherit some issues for scoliosis. However, there are things you can do to aid this. Scoliosis is a lateral curvature of the spine. Basically, your spine will bend to the side. This can even be caused my sitting on your wallet or your phone in your back pocket causing your hips to shift to one side, your shoulders have to shift to the other side to make up for this.
This is by no means a definitive list of what postural issues you can get. Think of these 3 as the tree and all other issues will branch off of this. Some of these issues take years and years to build up and it will not be an easy fix to sort. My hips took months of daily stretching and strengthening to even begin to feel a difference.
What can you do?
It is always worth seeing a physical therapist to gain a better insight into what is causing your postural issues. Sometimes having a bad ankle overtime will cause one of your shoulders to be raised up. So this can make it difficult to make a template for everyone to follow.
None-the-less, there are a few things you can do right now to help your posture:
Fix your glutes!
Most of the issues of modern day postural issues are caused by weak posterior chains. The main way to start strengthening this you need to get your glutes firing. This will not only ease the tension on your lower back because they are actually doing their job but will also start to free your hip flexors because you can get into proper hip extension. To do this, get a resistance band around just above your knees and think about forcing your knees out. Even if you don’t have a resistance band, next time you’re brushing your teeth, stand on one leg and really squeeze your glutes. You’ll definitely start to feel them firing then! If you want to read more about this, start with the book “true to form” by Dr Eric Goodman.
Think stability, not hypertrophy.
Next time you are working your core, forget the sit ups. Doing your big compound/multijoint exercises like squats and deadlifts will grow your abs enough. To really work your core, you need to focus on your stability. This doesn’t mean standing on a Bosu ball doing bicep curls. Yoga and pilates are great for working on this. Doing your planks, side planks and single leg work is a great place to start. You can also make certain things more difficult to work your core more efficiently, for example: when doing you’re doing your planks, work on picking up one leg and alternating them. You can also do different forms of animal crawls.
Push your head back.
So this is one that I have had fun playing around with lately, as I said for the kyphotic posture the head becomes forward. After sitting down for a long time the muscles at the back of your neck get weaker. So when you are driving, or sitting anywhere with a head rest. Try to push your head back into the seat for rounds of about 15-20 seconds.
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