June 24, 2023 5 min read
Posture has been defined by one of America’s most influential physical therapists, Florence P. Kendall as “a composite of all the positions of all the joints of the body at any given moment.” Thus she concluded that adapting the ideal posture form enables the body to sit, stand and move with less effort and more efficiently. Therefore despite posture rarely being a priority for many at the gym, it perhaps should be.
Regardless of the sport, it is clear that maintaining good posture is beneficial in athletics. Many gymnasts and even football or golf players practise yoga to improve their posture, this is because it increased their ability to move more efficiently whilst reducing the risk of developing an injury. Moreover, posture has an overarching positive effect on life quality which is most obvious in decreasing the risk of adopting neck and low back pain.
Whilst many individuals look for a single exercise, stretch or therapeutic tool in order to resolve an issue, this is why many fail to achieve optimal body alignment. In a small number of cases, a single solution can work yet it is recommended that a multi-faceted approach is taken. Correcting postural issues can be a challenge however the longer these imbalances remain unaddressed, the longer it thereby takes to correct them. Following on from this below are clinically proven ways to correct them to three common postural faults.
Many types of knee injuries are often accumulated due to poor alignment of the knees. In recent years, knee replacement is deemed to be one of the most common types of surgery undertaken. About five years ago approximately 600,000 knee replacements were performed whilst in contrast one study has since suggested that this number will rise to 3.5 million by the year 2030.
Knee alignment is affected from both weaknesses the gluteus along with imbalances in the lower leg muscles. However it is also true that this relative weakness can easily be corrected through performing full range leg exercises; these consist of movements such as lunges and full squats. As well as completing these exercises, stretches for muscles groups such as the adductors, quadriceps and piriformis.
Another cause of faulty knee alignment is values feet which is a condition where the feet collapse inward. This means that the ankle does not rest directly over the foot and this rests in the bones the ankle to internally rotate. This in turn can cause misalignment the knee to take place. Valgus has three levels and the most extreme of these is considered to be flat feet. An approach to correct this condition is by using orthotics; this aims to reform the arch and thus the ankles once more rest directly over the feet. There are exercises which also help to reform the arch of the foot. The extensor hallucinating longus is the muscle which creates lateral tension on the foot and therefore is one of the most important muscle to aim to strengthen. Performing step ups whilst keeping the big toe up is an example of such an exercise.
The risk of lower back pain and disc degeneration is increased through an excessive arch in the lower back. This also affects the shock-absorbing qualities which are possessed in the spine along with adding stress to the hamstring muscles which can result in an athlete becoming more prone to hamstring injury.
To create a more natural posture of the lower back, athletes should incorporate exercises to strengthen both the abdominal and gluteus muscles. On one hand abdominal exercises include; planks, leg raises, gar hammer raises and variations of sit ups. On the other hand gluteus exercises consist of back extensions, dead lifts and pelvic tilts & using a glute ham raise.
Muscles such as the psoas flex the hip and these are the opposing muscles of the gluteus. As a result glutes can be inhibited should the hip flexors be tight. Pelvic tilts are an example of gluteus activation exercises that can help yet often the quickest way in which to regain optimal gluteus function is to stretch the hip flexors. When added to specific static stretches, dynamic exercises which activate the hip flexors via a large range of motion for example lunges, can be a beneficial step towards correcting this condition. Furthermore, avoiding chronic muscle tightness can be deferred by addressing the duration we spend sitting down; a worthwhile investment would be an adjustable standing desk to additionally help to avoid an excessive lower back arch from developing.
When considering hyperlordosis, body fat should be addressed because excessive belly fat levels can increase the arch in the lower back. Obesity and overweight numbers are growing worldwide and this is particularly prevalent in the USA; in which it is estimated that roughly a sixth of young people who are aged between 6 and 19 are considered to either be overweight or obese.
Exaggerated curvature of the upper spine along with forward displacement of the head are amongst the most common characteristics of round shoulders. This is usually caused as a result of a sedentary lifestyle, in addition to the added use of smartphones and computers. Whilst in terms of athletes, those who compete in sports such as swimming often show consequences of round shoulders as this sport significantly works the lats muscles.
Accelerated degeneration of the discs can come about from chronic misalignment of the upper spine. This is also associated with tension in muscle which externally rotate the shoulders. In turn this can result in both an increased risk of shoulder dislocations and also shoulder impingement.
Basic corrective exercises involve stretching the muscles which are tight as well strengthening those that are weak. In terms of round shoulders, it is the serrates anterior, mid-trapezius, lower trapezius, deep cervical flexors, terms minor, rhomboids and infraspinatus which often require specific strengthening exercises. Prone Superman, cable rows, face pulls and bent-over dumbbell rows are deemed to be a few of the most effective exercises which aim to work these muscles.
Whilst cervical flexors can be strengthened through the use of seated neck machines, there are other manual exercises which can be performed to work these particular muscles. In spite of this, it is advised that a professional is consulted who is trained in corrective exercises, for example seeking the advice of a physical therapist before attempting to perform any neck exercises is important due to the fact that an improper exercise form can easily result in injury in regards to these muscles.
The following muscles that are weak with round shoulders and therefore could benefit from stretching are: the levator scapulae, superior trapezius, scalenes, tres major, pectoralis major and pectoralis minor, sternocleidomastoid and latissimus dorsi. Coaches who have trained in sports such as gymnastics, dance and yoga are often advisable to consult when learning how to stretch the previously listed muscles. Additionally, personal trainers, chiropractors and physical therapists are also a good focal point for round shoulders expertise. In order to speed up the process, soft tissue work such as ART may provide an aid.