by Kulraj Shergill, Registered Physiotherapist
Your posture rarely gets the credit that it deserves when it comes to training and performance. Posture isn’t sexy or exciting. Working on your posture does not invigorate you the way adding pounds to your squat or completing your first muscle up does. That being said, the reality is that with poor postural alignment, all of those things become immensely more difficult. If your alignment is off, your movement patterns become detrimental to your progress. On the flip side, if you put the work into improving your posture, your mechanics and your progress can improve dramatically.
These are some of the most common postural issues and how they may be impacting your training and performance:
Sitting May Lead to Shortening (your hip flexors)
A majority of the most common postural issues, and also some of the most easily reversible problems, come from sitting for prolonged periods, which put the group of muscles responsible for hip flexion in a shortened (tight) position. This can be especially taxing on the body when coupled with rolled shoulders and a hunched back- typical of desk/ computer jobs. Your body will adjust to any demand you place on it and in this scenario, all it’s doing by shortening these muscles is helping you maintain the position you’ve demonstrated you really like being in. If your posture is off from hours of sitting, you’re setting yourself up for a long list of injuries ranging from strains to impingements to tears. If you fix your postural alignment, you will jump higher, run faster, hit harder and help prevent a plethora of injuries that could keep you from accomplishing your goals.
Anterior Pelvic Tilt Ruins Your Core Control
When your hip flexors are tight, it throws off your pelvic position. Once standing, your tight hip flexors will pull your pelvis forward into an anterior pelvic tilt (APT). Having your pelvis tilted this way will lengthen your core muscles into a weakened position, which can lead to poor core activation/ stabilization and a whole lot of stress on the lower back.
Opening your hips quickly and powerfully is critical in almost all explosive movements in athletics and weightlifting. Tight hip flexors and a pronounced APT will make you run slower, jump lower, and leave you with olympic lifts that are way below your potential. On top of lacking the range of motion required to reach full extension, if you continue to not fully extend your hips, then this will become habitual. As a result, your glutes and hamstrings will not reach their full potential.
Posture and Shoulder Position - Got Monkey Arms?
The second largest set of issues resulting form poor posture is at the shoulders. Want to do a simple test? Stand up and let your hands hang down naturally by your sides. Now look at your palms. Your palms should face each other. Your thumbs should point forward and your palms should face the midline of your body. If your palms face backwards, your shoulders are internally rotated, thus being in a suboptimal position.
This issue is often the result of leaning forwards with your upper back hunched and your shoulders rounded for extended periods of time. Internal rotation is basic motion at your shoulder, but when your shoulders sit in this position, then the muscles responsible for producing that motion (lats, teres major, pec major, subscapularis, and anterior deltoid) suffer a similar fate to your hip flexors in chronic flexion. They get shortened and locked down at that length because it’s the easiest way for your body to maintain that hunched position.
Why Does Passive Internal Shoulder Rotation Matter?
Well, you’re probably missing end-range flexion and external rotation, which will make it harder to brace your shoulders and get them into a healthy position for any type of pressing or overhead motion. The position of highest stability for your shoulders involves scapular retraction and external rotation. If your shoulders are passively internally rotated, the muscles responsible for scapular retraction and external rotation are likely lengthened, weak, and firing poorly. Are you starting to see the trend? Scapular mobility is a huge part of shoulder integrity and athletic performance. Poor posture sabotages your scapular mobility, and therefore any performance related to upper body. And we haven’t even broached the issues that poor posture can cause in your neck and upper back. (Hint: more pain, weakness, and loss of mobility.)
How to Have better Posture Right Now
Often when dealing with pain or weakness, we attack the joint and the associated muscles without attempting to understand the causes that led the muscles and soft tissue to get tweaked in the first place. The first step in treating poor posture is learning proper posture. Further stretching and corrective exercises to help achieve the right positions are necessary, but I believe the best fix for poor posture is forcing yourself to maintain a good position and being aware when you’re not. The only way to get to that point is by practicing good posture over and over until it happens naturally. This is the basis of motor patterning and proper habit development.
Bottom line: if your posture sucks, your movement suffers and you might get hurt. Fix your posture and you’ve just taken a huge step in unlocking your body’s full potential, while minimizing your risk of injury along the way.
Want to know exactly how YOUR posture can improve? Come and see me the next time you're in the gym, or better yet, book an Initial Assessment today…