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Posture and Muscle Imbalances


How many times have you heard people say in response to back pain or tight shoulders ‘I have bad posture’ or ‘It’s because of my posture’? What posture is and how we understand it is the subject of today’s blog post.

One very well known figure in the health and fitness community, Paul Chek states that ‘Posture is the position from which all movement begins and ends’.

What is an ideal posture then? It’s when there is a good muscular and skeletal balance which protects the body against injury and progressive deformity, irrespective of whether these structures are at rest or working. In a state of ideal posture, muscles work and movement occurs most efficiently.

Poor posture not only takes away from aesthetics, it compromises how we were designed to function, eventually leading to pain and/or injury. The next time you are in a public place, have a look at the people around you and observe their different postures. You will most likely find that the majority exhibit poor posture. This is the result of a number of different factors, such as working in environments that are ergonomically incorrect, performing repetitive tasks with poor form or developmental dysfunctions during childhood. In my experience, a great deal of injuries that I see both as a trainer and in clinic could have been prevented if the individual had better posture.

In ideal posture, a line extending down the side of the body should run through the ear lobe, transect the shoulder, hip and knee joints and fall just anterior to (in front of) the ankle bone.

One of the best things that we can do to work towards achieving and maintaining good posture is to try and correct any muscle imbalances we have. There are many different imbalances that can occur (too many to go into in the scope of this blog) but one of the most common is associated with sitting at a desk for an extended period of time, something that is very common in many jobs nowadays. Long hours spent at a desk can lead to the shoulders rounding and the head migrating forward. Some practitioners know this as ‘Upper Cross Syndrome’. It is generally associated with some of the muscles in the chest becoming tight and some in the back becoming weak. If you work at a desk for a lot of the time there are a few things that you can do to help prevent this.

Firstly, stand up and have a quick shake about every 15 minutes or so. This in essence hits the ‘reset’ button in your muscles.

Secondly, stretch you chest a few times a day. One good way you can do this is to stand in a doorway, rest your hands on the doorframe and gently shift your weight forward until you feel a stretch in your chest.

Lastly, perform an exercise known as the prone cobra every evening. Lie on your front, place your hands a few inches away from your sides with thumbs rotated to the ceiling, and then lift your back up so that your chest leaves the floor slightly. It is important to keep your chin drawn back so that your neck remains straight and to draw your shoulder blades together (imagine you were trying to hold a pencil between them). Begin with holding this for 10seconds and then rest for 10seconds, repeating 6-10 times. The aim is to be able to hold this position for 3 minutes!

So how does one self-diagnose poor posture and muscle imbalances? Well, the best way is to have an experienced trainer or practitioner do a thorough asessment. They can then prescribe an individual set of exercises tailored to your individual needs, that will help correct any imbalances that may have developed.

Yours in health,

Doug

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