The Importance of Posture

Posture.

Bring mindfulness to your posture throughout the day.

  • Are your feet pointed straight forward and parallel to each other, shoulder-width apart, and directly under your hips? 
  • Is your spine and lumbo-pelvic-hip complex neutral?
  • Are your shoulders level and scapulae parallel to each other?
  • Is your head in neutral position?

If not, strive to adopt this position at all times.  In a neutral position, the body is at its most stable.

Proper posture maximizes your highest level of functional strength, keeping muscles at their proper length, allowing them to work together correctly, ensuring proper joint motion, maximizing force production, and reducing the risk of injury.

Without proper posture, the body degenerates and experiences altered movement patterns and muscle imbalances.  These deficiencies can lead to common injuries, such as shin splints, IT band syndrome, lower back pain, and plantar fasciitis. 

HOW POSTURE DECLINES

An Occupation or Hobby That Requires Extended Periods of Sitting

When people sit for prolonged periods of time throughout the day, the hip flexors (rectus femoris, tensor fascia latae, and iliopsoas).  The problem is further compounded, especially when seated in front of a computer or hand-held device.  There is a tendency for the shoulders to round forward and the head to protrude forward. 

High Heels

Shoes with a high heel puts the ankle and foot in a plantarflexed (toe pointed) position for extended periods of time, leading to tightness of the calf (gastrocnemius), soleus, and Achilles tendon.  Decreased dorsiflexion (toes pulled up) and overpronation result from this postural imbalance, resulting in flattening of the arch of the feet. 

Flip Flops

Walking in flip flops requires the big toe to clench to keep them from slipping off.  When this occurs, the plantar fascia and tissues in the arch get shortened, altering the proper function of the foot.  The heel cord is shortened, the Achilles tendon is affected, the arches are stressed, resulting in pain. 

Sitting with Legs Crossed

Aside from temporarily raising blood pressure, sitting with legs crossed introduces muscle imbalances that result in poor posture.  Prolonged sitting in this position leads to a rounding of the back.  When the back is rounded, shoulders roll forward, the chin juts forward, and the lumbar lordosis (i.e. small of the back) is minimized.  This posture stresses the spine and increases the pressure on the gluteus maximus.

A study performed by the University Medical Centre in Rotterdam replicated different sitting positions by embalming pelvises. They found that the piriformis muscle in the buttock was tighter by 11% in the group that crossed their legs at the knee compared to the group that kept their legs uncrossed.  Piriformis syndrome is when the piriformis is tight and spasming, causing low back pain.

Pelvic Imbalances

The pelvis is the body’s center.  When in the neutral position – the middle position – not tilted forward or backward (lateral view) or uneven (anterior view), the spine assumes a natural curve.  When the pelvis is tilted or uneven, the center of gravity changes, creating muscle imbalance.  When one part of the body doesn’t work correctly, other parts have to compensate for the weak point. Weakness of supporting muscles causes superficial muscles to be overworked, which may result in pain, excess muscle tension, and spasms.

Carrying small children on the hip, weak core muscles, and standing with weight distributed on one leg are all sources of pelvic imbalances. 

HEIGHTENED AWARENESS

Identifying improper patterns of both static and dynamic posture in an athlete is the starting point for improving posture. The question of how imbalances originate is one that requires examination of form compensations listed above. As athletes increase their understanding of proper alignment, their postural awareness begins to improve greatly. The more proficient athletes get in thinking about their body positions and mindful movements, the easier it becomes for them to identify good and bad alignment and make corrections.

BENEFITS OF A POSTURE ASSESSMENT

 Completion of a postural assessment identifies muscle imbalances that lead to faulty movement patterns and decreases functional strength.  Identifying overactive and underactive muscles associated with poor posture allows a Certified Personal Trainer, chiropractor, physical therapist, and other professionals to create a program that strengthens underactive muscles while lengthening and stretching overactive muscles. 

Practicing mindfulness to your posture throughout the other hours of the day you’re not training – running, strength, etc. – will make you a better overall athlete.  The more you practice proper posture throughout the day, the more likely you are to maintain it during activity.

The result?  Smarter, stronger, and faster runners.

If you’d like to complete a postural assessment, please contact Coach Stephanie Harboe @ coach@ssfrunning.com for more information.

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