The appeal of a good posture lies in the balance and symmetry it represents. Modern lifestyle is a lifestyle of extremes. If you do a certain activity repeatedly, soon enough, it starts showing on your body.
Standing straight with the head held high, shoulder blades relaxed, chest slightly out and abs braced defines an ideal alignment for the human body. However, the ravages of physical and emotional baggage can weigh your body down and you soon find yourself with various kinds of postural strain.
We unravel the reasons behind some of the most common postural problems and offer a possible solution to fix the incorrect body mechanics. All you need to do to analyze the health of your natural alignment is to take a deep breath, exhale, relax your shoulder blades and right at that very point, get a picture clicked from the side.
- Forward Head
One of the most common postural strains people are inclined towards is the forward head. It causes stress driven headaches, knot like tightness in the neck and between the shoulders, corrupts quality sleep and sometimes, is even responsible for tingling or numbness in the arms or hands.
- Prolonged sessions of reading or typing, that keeps the head in a downward position
- Long hours of driving without using the head rest for support
- Frequently slinging a heavy backpack or a purse on one shoulder
While strength training, Yoga or Pilates would go a long way in creating self awareness and better posture, Dr Otto Janke recommends three very simple stretches that should be done several times every day to reconnect with correct alignment especially in between stressful working hours. These stretches are simple enough to do anywhere and require no equipment.
- Rounded shoulders:
This kind of strain exhibits a pronounced curvature in the upper back and leads to significant loss of upper back extension along with restricted breathing, as the rib cage is not able to expand to its full potential.
- Constantly walking with hands in the pockets
- Carrying heavy back packs
- Weak or shortened chest muscles due to long hours in front of a computer
- Muscle imbalances caused by frequent chest training favoring only pushing movements without supplementing with corresponding pulling movement oriented back exercises
If you make the time for exercising in the gym, it is of paramount importance that you train the front and the back muscles of your body equally. Train your chest and back equal number of times in a week. Remember to exercise your rear deltoids as much as, the front part of your shoulders with reverse fly on shoulder day as well.
While it is possible that one may forget to arch their back correctly while performing any kind of rowing exercises, it is literally impossible to go wrong with inverted rows. One simply cannot bring their body close to the bar without engaging their shoulder blades to the best of their ability. Perform the exercise on a Smith machine bar in the gym. To make it easier, increase the height of the bar and to make it harder, lower the height of the bar.
If you are a Yoga enthusiast, then you may request your Yoga teacher to incorporate plenty of back bends in your routine. The deeper your back bends, the stronger your posture is likely to become. The following images exhibit a few popular back-bending postures.
Those who are lacking in strength or are new to exercise may relieve themselves of tightness in the chest and strengthen their back by doing some of the exercises recommended by strength specialist and fitness model, Reece Tomlinson in the following video.
- Anterior Pelvic tilt:
When it comes to any explosive movement, like jumping, running, squatting or ddeadlifting a major amount of power generation comes from hinging the hips. Hence, poor hip mobility is likely to create significant restrictions upon the natural motions of the body. An anterior pelvic tilt, which is usually a direct offshoot of simply too much sitting and leads to tight hip flexors often serves as a major obstacle in attaining strength, stamina and endurance for many people.
- An extensively inactive routine which includes several hours of continuous sitting
- Muscle imbalance caused by over-training the quadriceps and under-training the hamstrings and glutes.
- Tightness in the lower back, caused by excessive training of the lower back muscles coupled with no training to strengthen the rectus abdominis.
The following image demonstrates the worst-case scenario where the anterior pelvic tilt will worsen enough to cause chronic back or knee pain. In the following case, the abs, glutes and hamstrings ought to be strengthened with resistance training while the lower back and quadriceps should be repeatedly stretched. Doing the opposite might wreck the alignment even more. That is, frequent stretching of weak abdominals and hamstrings and excessively training the quadriceps and lower back.
To check for tight hip-flexors or tension in any part of your quadriceps you may run the simple Thomas test in the comfort of your home. The following video explains how to go about it: