Article by Lucky Gidda, Lead Practitioner at Upright Posture ~ I have a very strong interest in the function of the human body, and especially how that translates into athletic performance. Many people are now aware of the importance of mind-set, training type/intensity/duration, nutrition, rest, etc as essential factors to achieve maximum performance. Yet there is a simple factor at the core of physical training that is missing from your routine – your posture.
As apes we have no tail, but we are unique in the way we walk and run upright, giving advantages but also drawbacks. The main one being that we only have a small base on which we stand. Therefore, we are heavily dependent that our skeleton (frame) remains the correct shape to stay balanced on this small footprint (think of a pencil standing on its end).
When we are born, we have the potential to grow a skeleton that is perfectly balanced. However, due to sitting for thousands of hours, falls, injuries, accidents, mental, social and toxin stresses, our skeleton can either develop crooked or become crooked even after maturity (about 25 years old).
Common physical signs that you are crooked are:
- Foot deformity (flat/high arches, internal/external rotation, bunions, corns, pain, tendonitis, etc)
- Spinal deformity (scoliosis, flattening or reversal of curves, increase of curves, forward head/text neck, shoulder protraction, pelvic tilt, etc)
- Joint stiffness (especially of the spine)
- Recurrent or chronic injuries
Can you see how these problems will change your posture and move your body away from perfect balance?
This accumulation of damage to your frame presents as falling forward with a twist, so our posterior chain has to engage to hold us up. This means that if you are even slightly crooked, your posterior chain is ALWAYS engaged – this is why most injuries occur in this chain of muscles.
A simple test you can do is the slump test; stand up, exhale and let your body fully relax. There should be a straight line through your ear, shoulder, hip, knee and ankle, without any tipping of the pelvis. However, many of you will drop your head, push your pelvis forward or collapse.
So if your posture is crooked, you are; inhibiting your anterior chain, over-activating the posterior chain muscles causing failure, repetitively straining tendons and ligaments and wasting energy that should go into your lifting. All of this ultimately means that you will not perform to your potential.
This is why massage, stretching, rehabilitation exercises, etc help you to cope with your crooked skeleton but will never fix it. The only way to do that is to work on the bones themselves. You may be thinking, “Well why don’t my muscles just pull the bone back into place?” Well your muscles can and they do; all the time. However, they cannot PULL in every possible direction and it is these bones that cause the problem.
Posture problems commonly show up in the gym as:
- Difficulty with barbell press – resulting in shoulder issues and hyperextension of the lumbar spine.
- Deadlifts can commonly cause lumbar and sacroiliac sprains.
- Deep squatting results in loss of form or needing to hyperextend. Top tip: standing with your heel on of a small plank helps balance a poor posture resulting in a better squat.
- Your hamstrings and calves will be tight and will need constant stretching/soft tissue work. (I have not passively stretched for 18 months and my hamstrings are getting longer and longer.)
- As your body is under constant stress, you will not be fully engaging your parasympathetic nervous system when resting, so you will not repair at the optimal rate.
- Areas of your body that are under the most strain (just from standing up against gravity) will be prone to injury.
So if you think that getting treatment is just to get you through injuries, you are mistaken. For those looking to be the best and get the most out of their training and general health, you must address any damage to your frame. The test to make sure your therapist is actually changing your posture is that you should stay perfectly upright when RELAXED. If this isn’t happening, they are most likely just training you to actively hold yourself up which is the wrong way.
A passively better posture not only is more efficient, but can take more resistance before failure, is less prone to injury, will recovery faster, and lets you enjoy your training.
My motto is “Posture dictates function.”
I am Lead Practitioner at Upright, Selly Oak, Birmingham, specialising in rapid pain relief, mobility problems, postural correction, neurological conditions and elite performance. My training as an Engineer and Chiropractor, gives me a unique perspective on maximising human function. I’m the guy to call when everyone else fails to help you and get immediate changes from the first correction.