Phoenix Ignition Fitness Company

Fitness by the Fire: Proper Posture for Performance

by Ron Kennedy • January 22, 2019
Individuals pursuing a fitness lifestyle have numerous reasons for dedicating themselves to the goals they pursue. Most have a passion to the aesthetics provided by the body changing, some wish to accomplish a weight loss mile stone, others for sport performance such as golf, basketball or competitive body building. As a fitness specialists, I feel it is not my job to tell our clients what they should do with their bodies, rather guide them on the most effect way to pursue and accomplish their fitness goals quickly and effectively. What you want out of health and wellness is up to you, but one element that is too often over looked are the benefits of proper posture and the negative effects it has on not just the muscular system, but your general, over-all health.

Posture is defined as the position in which someone holds their body while standing or sitting. 2. A particular way of dealing with or considering something, an approach or attitude. As a fitness enthusiast, as well as a professional, I believe proper posture not only shows that your body is in a reasonably good condition but displays a certain silent confidence that is highly sought after in the professional world. Look at the evolution of man, and I don’t mean to offend any creationist, but I am a science major after all. We can track our evolutionary progression from a hairy hunched over omnivore, to a less hairy UPRIGHT more advanced species. Our own scientist have based their entire theory of human progression on proper posture!

So what causes poor posture, assuming I need to improve it?

Day to day we position ourselves in muscular positions we sub-consciously are not aware of. From a muscular point of view, our daily tasks require the same blood flow and contraction as isolated muscle group training (working out). The primary difference between those muscular contractions and ones we put ourselves through in the gym is concentration. The problem is that when you adjust your body to a comfortable position that you are accustomed too, unlike an isolation movement where your brain tells your body to contract said muscle then release that contraction, there is no intention of release. Let me give you a simple example; Take a dumbbell shoulder press as your focused concentration movement. When you pick up the dumbbells you are automatically sending signals from the brain, through the nervous system, to the shoulder muscles informing them they are about to be contracted. You then send blood flow to those muscles via resistance (lifting the dumbbells) which triggers the muscle to contract and respond accordingly. Now take a muscular contraction that is not focused (not set in motion with a start and stop point) like leaning to the right with your hips when you stand. It feels very natural, but in actuality your brain is sending signals to your legs to shift your weight to accommodate the instability YOU have told your body to accept! The problem is, that most of the time you don’t even realize you are doing it!

Unlike most of us, my daily work routine doesn’t involve a large amount of computer time. Sure, I track data, send emails, write blog posts etc., but I don’t spend hours non-stop plugging away on spread sheets or coding for a program like others do. Yet, I developed horrible posture in my mid-twenties from computer use! How you ask…?

Online video games.

As much as I hate to admit it, I have a weakness for complicated engaging online computer games. I am not talking candy crush saga or words with friends, oh no. I mean highly competitive, highly skilled multiplayer games that demand hours and hours to develop that skill. So, what did I do? I played and played and played and played! Not only did I commit a good number of hours every week, but I was fully immersed in these games which often meant getting as close to the screen as possible, leaning forward in the process. Then the “comfort” positions started to form. Knowing I would be in said position for a few hours, I found myself placing my arms on the rests in a certain way so I could lounge while I played, eat while I played, watch movies on the other monitor while I played, and every adjustment was another step towards poor posture. When the damage was done, both of my shoulders were permanently rolled into a forward position. My trapezius on the left side of my torso was two times the size of its counter part on the right. This was caused from holding my left arm in an unusual position to better navigate the keyboard, while (in contrast) my right arm was fully extended to reach the mouse. One side tight and upright, the other extended and lose. I looked like I had been biting by an atomic mosquito on one side of my shoulders and deflated on the other.

Here is a list of common poor posture positions that I am certain you have experienced one if not most of them:

Slouching in a chair: Takes strength away from the core, buttock, and lower back muscles.

Sticking your bottom out: Hyper Lordosis is a common cause of this posture which causes a pronounced curve in the lower back.

Standing with a flat back: This is caused from the pelvis being tucked in, but the lower back remaining straight, making it difficult to stand for long periods of time.

Leaning on one leg: This pose looks sexy for photo shoots, but instead of using your buttocks and core muscles to stand upright, you are placing an immense amount of pressure on one side of your lower back and hip.

Hunched back and “texting neck”: This is caused by a tight chest and weak upper back muscles. Very common for men who use heavy weights for chest workouts and do not properly stretch and or avoid developing proportional back muscles. (guilty)

Cradling your phone: Holding your phone between your ear and shoulders puts massive strain on the neck, upper back, and shoulders. Neither muscles are designed to hold this position for any length of time.

So, what is the solution?

For starters, be self-aware. If you don’t accept that you have poor posture and consciously strive to correct the issue your posture will not improve. Remember, your body gets into these comfortable positions not because it is good for it, but because you have told it to do so! You need to give your body a different message. That said, here are a few exercises to begin your fitness training to do so:

Wall Angles: Stand next to the wall, keep good posture, and raise your arms up the wall while keeping your core tight and ribcage down. Your spine should remain neutral, even as your raise your arms up. You should be able to extend your arms fully overhead while still touching the wall, without arching your back. If performed correctly, you’ll feel the middle of your back and your abs contract to stabilize your spine.

Over Head Hip Hinge: The emphasis here is on movement and flexibility. Performing the hip hinge with your arms overhead will stretch out your thoracolumbar fascia in the mid-back while challenging your core. The cues I constantly repeat for this exercise are, “Hips back arms up!”

Standing Horizontal Abduction with Resistance band or TRX cable: The goal here is to strengthen your mid-back and shoulder blade muscles by opening your chest and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Make sure not to flare your ribs out. Keep your core tight the entire time. You can perform this exercise with a resistance band, or a suspension trainer like the TRX. Stand tall and keep your head and neck in a straight line throughout the entire movement.

Farmers Carry: This exercise is one of the most important. Most people will self-correct their posture if you put something on their head. The same thing happens when you carry something heavy. Carrying heavy things with bad posture is uncomfortable, and you won’t be able to do it for long.Do a farmer’s carry with a heavy weight, focusing on standing tall, keeping your shoulders back, and minimizing any spinal movement. This exercise teaches you just how tall you can be and need to be when lifting heavy weights. Remember this feeling as you go through all of your other exercises.

 Single-leg Bridge Hold: Finish your posture-fixing workout by challenging your posterior muscles. Progress to the single-leg bridge once you’ve built up your strength and endurance. Not only will this exercise improve the endurance of your back muscles, but you’ll also strengthen your glutes.
If you mix this workout into your routine 2-3 days per week, you should see improvements in your posture. But the goal is to have this carry over into your daily life – when you sit at your desk, when you’re standing and talking to people, and in your other workouts.