Optimal posture creates a platform for movement. It is best described as the ability to breathe freely and move easily. Poor posture is not the preferred platform for quality movement and athletic performance.
Most people’s lifestyles do not support good habits around posture.
Examples of poor posture can easily be found in those who sit at a desk looking at a computer screen for most of the day or the individual constantly checking their phone while standing or sitting aka “smartphone hunchback”.
Athletes involved in elite sport have an additional challenge in their quest to become the best in their field. Training demands that movements are repeated in large volumes, at high intensities, over long periods of time.
The habitual activities that are a necessity in high performance sport result in overuse, compensation, muscle imbalance and postural changes that can lead to dysfunction, pain and repeated injury. Worst of all, for the athlete these changes to posture have a negative impact on performance.
The challenge we all face is that it is unlikely that exercise programs are of sufficient duration and frequency to induce adaptive changes in muscle length and function that promotes optimal posture.
“Any adaptations in posture from exercise intervention would likely be offset by daily activity”.
(Hrysomallis, C. & Goodman, C. 2011)
So how can we improve posture and maximise the time we put into exercise?
Any purposeful movement involves good posture and a stabilising function first. Once optimal posture has been obtained, muscle activation will become easier and higher quality movement can be achieved.
Training that will help improve posture involves focusing on body segment alignment and breathing mechanics for the best results. Follow these simple steps:
- Stand or sit tall. The head should be an extension of the spine, i.e. create the feeling that you are being pulled upwards by the crown of your head
- Relax your neck and shoulders. The shoulders should sit below the ears; not forwards or backwards
- Pull your stomach inwards just below the belly button
- Practice breathing from the lower abdomen and not through the chest and armpits. Follow a tempo of four seconds of inhaling and four seconds of exhaling
- Distribute weight evenly across both feet. Imagine that each foot has three points of contact like a tripod; the heel, inside and outside midfoot. When seated, distribute weight evenly across your buttocks, i.e. a balanced bum!
- Keep your feet evenly spaced directly under your hips while standing
Perform these steps at every opportunity, e.g. while waiting in line, working at a desk, chatting with friends, etc.
The road to better posture is all about creating good habits via repeated performance.