As a girl I did Physical Culture which is all about deportment, disciple and maintaining correct posture. Some may say "as we grow older......”, I don’t believe our posture starts faulting from when we start work or grow older but from an early age while we are developing. Our children are sitting at school desks on chairs that are not necessarily ergonomically sound, they are on computer games with their chins touching their chests and/or they have extremely heavy school bags taht are weighed down but ridiculously heavy text books so as their young bodies grow, their posture is fundamentally formed incorrectly
During exercise our posture and neutral spine is of utmost importance and that is what I would like to discuss this week so we can start correcting our bodies alignment. Posture can be described of as the position or alignment of the body at any point in time. Good posture helps us stand, walk, sit and lie in the positions that place the least strain on supporting muscles and ligaments during movement and weight-bearing activities.
Postural abnormalities may be congenital, meaning that the condition was present at birth or developmentally inevitable or they could be functional which the body has adapted to functions or positions that it may have been exposed to repetitiously over time. Abnormalities can feature in the feet (pronation or supination); the legs (bow legs, hyperextension or knocked knees); hips (medial or lateral rotation); pelvis (anterior, posterior or lateral tilts); the neck (forward head and lateral tilt); shoulders (winged, elevated and protracted scapula along with rounded shoulders or “office shoulders” as I call them)and then there is lumbar and thoracic vertebrae abnormalities (lordosis, flat back, kyphosis and scoliosis).
Knowing your body and the way it aligns is important so injury is avoided.
For Personal Trainers, Physiotherapists, Osteopaths and Chiropractors, there are 3 objectives when presented with postural abnormalities
If it is tight – stretch it
If it is week – strengthen it
If it has poor control – stabilise it
Concentrating on the neck, shoulders and spine, let’s look at the neutral spine position. A neutral spine or good posture refers to the "three natural curves that are present in a healthy spine. Looking directly at the front or back of the body, the 33 vertebrae in the spinal column should appear completely vertical. From a side view, the cervical (neck) region of the spine (C1-C7) is bent inward, the thoracic (upper back) region (T1-T12) bends outward, and the lumbar (lower back) region (L1-L5) bends inward. The sacrum (tailbone area) (S1-S5 fused) and coccyx (on average 4 fused) rest between the pelvic bones.
Now we know how to stand with a neutral spine, how do we exercise with one? With every exercise you do, you consider what your posture and spine is doing.
The Push Up is a perfect example: we keep our neutral spine by having our graze roughly forward of the fingertips – not chin dropped so we are looking at our feet or looking ahead to the horizon. As we lower our shoulders and chest toward the ground we continue to keep our alignment with the neck and spine with the assistance of our slightly forward gaze. Just because the upper body lowers, doesn’t mean the chin or head lowers. In our standing neutral spine position, we don’t walk looking down at the ground with our chin dropped or up at the sky with our neck arched….we would run into things!
When doing exercises, there are some key points of posture alignment to set before proceeding with the exercise so your technique is set-up correctly from the get-go:
* Soft Knees (for standing exercises)
* Square Pelvis – hips are level
* Neutral Spine and you abdominals are braced (think about bringing your ribs closer together)
* Shoulders are back and sit down
* Chin is slightly tucked in
If you want to have a postural check ask your trainer, physio, oesto or chiro, or you could partner up with a friend and get an little indication using a Postural Chart. If there are any uncertainty or something looks really out of alignment, contact one of the above to get a formal assessment.
Your body is the essence of your being therefore we must look after it.
Stay Active (and upright!) in the Season you are in