Our moms were right when they told us to “sit up straight and eat our dinner,” because poor posture is lazy and disrespectful to the others at the table. It gives the wrong impression, so sit up and eat your dinner, Junior! Mom probably didn’t have core strength in mind.
Nowadays, with family dinners on the decline and fast food on the rise, sitting at the table is often replaced by leaning on the counter or slumping behind the wheel as we scarf down our burger on our way to our next obligation. Posture is a distant thought as we collapse into our favorite chair to watch tv, or sit at our desk to check emails or surf the web. And while we’re standing in line, waiting for our ride, or just killing time, we’re hunched over our mobile devices, head down, spine curved, body bent.
Our lifestyle is giving way to gravity and that’s a heavy burden. Our postural muscles – the ones that work against gravity to hold us upright in the neck, back, and torso – are almost completely disengaged during our daily activities. This is wreaking havoc when we need to call on those muscles for support and stability to execute any movement using our limbs.
Bodies hunched at the shoulders and caved at the waist require all kinds of compensatory work by the rest of our body, just to keep our balance. Then add the pushing and shoving of a match and the quick stop/start of the game, and we’re wobbling, toppling or injured.
“Proper posture is a major factor when it comes to preventing injuries on and off the field, says John Galucci, MLS medical coordinator, in his article on Goal Nation. Just look at Clint Dempsey and Cristiano Ronaldo, he advises. They don’t slouch, so you shouldn’t.
So if we can look more like them, will we play more like them? Good idea, but not so fast. Professional athletes train those neck and back muscles, so their “upright” is part of how they move naturally. Now that’s worth imitating.
Three Steps to Activating Perfect Posture
- Find your perfect posture.
- Train the postural muscles that “hold you up”
- Remind your postural muscles to keep working
Find your ‘perfect posture’
…by standing with heels, hips and shoulder blades pressed against a wall. Tighten the abdominal muscles to press as much of your lumbar (lower) spine and hips against the wall as you can. Then, take one step away from the wall. Can you hold your ‘perfect posture’? Feel the muscles working to maintain that posture. These are often neglected in our workouts.
Train the postural muscles
…with forward planks and side planks. Pay attention to which side is “harder” and be sure not to sink or sag. Once you can keep your body in alignment in the standard position, you can add difficulty by lifting the top arm or the top leg.
Train the postural muscles
…using an exercise ball which is both fun and challenging. (workout starts at 3:45 in the video)
…or a new device called the Body Bandit, developed by physical therapist and 3 time world champion rower, Bob Kaehler. Here he demonstrates the standing row and straight-armed pull down.
Remind your postural muscles to keep working
- Sit to the front of your chair with back held straight to activate and engage your postural muscles.
- Be aware of your head and neck position at the computer. The best screen position is even with line of vision.
- Limit time spent reading mobile devices, and bring the device up to your eyes to read. **You’ll find this so annoying and others will find it so rude, you’ll self-limit almost immediately.**
- Tip books and tablets upward to read them. Don’t lay them flat.
Prevent the relapse
- Notice your posture. Poor habits are tough to break. Keep correcting.
- Cue your abs to save your back. Contract abdominal muscles to support the lower back, align the pelvis and take some tension off of tight hamstrings.
- Do posture checks throughout the day. Use the “wall check” or glance in the mirror to remember what healthy posture looks and feels like.
BONUS: Good posture is more than good manners; it anchors stronger and more graceful movement, prevents injuries and sends a message to colleagues and opponents. I treat my body right because I MEAN BUSINESS!