When we see someone with perfect posture, we might interpret them to be more confident, powerful and poised. But there’s actually more to posture than what meets the eye. Did you know your posture can make you more prone to injury? Poor posture promotes maladaptation which is the first step in becoming injury prone. If you have poor posture and you decide to start running or lifting weights, it can lead to injury because your body is not prepared to adjust for the new movements and stressors. Here are some tips to help you achieve perfect posture and avoid the pitfalls of bad posture habits.
First, let’s define what a proper posture actually consists of, from the ground upwards. A proper standing posture means that there is equal weight on both legs, pressing firmly down into the ground through the arches of the foot symmetrically. The legs are beneath the body, about hips-width apart. The knees are soft, never hyper-extended, and the leg muscles are gently activated. This means the quadricep muscles are engaged in the front of the thighs to help to support the knees and draws the knee-caps upwards. The gluteal muscles are activated in the buttocks region to support the lower body and trunk. A decent cue for this is to try to “hold onto the winning lottery ticket” with your buttocks cheeks. I know it’s corny, but now you won’t forget it! I bet you’re smiling now too.
Moving upward from there, the abdominal muscles are pulled inward toward the spine, as if one has “zipped up tight pants” in the front of core. The shoulder blades are pinched together and downward, toward the back pockets to open up and retract the shoulders. The front of the trunk and chest are open and broad with space for expansion across it. Shoulders rotated externally (outward from the body) allows for more expansion and causes the palms of the hands to face forward. Lastly, the head is on straight in line with the spine, chin level with the ground and slightly retracted. An important cue is to think of a string pulling one’s top of the head upward toward the sky. THIS is perfect posture in the standing position.
Knowing is half the battle. The other part is correcting one’s self when you are in a poor posture.
The top five most common mistakes in posture that I see are:
- Hyperextension of the knees, AKA “Locking them out.” Ouch! Very tough on the knee joints and thus causes increased wear and tear and potential pain and injury over time.
- Hyperlordosis of the lumbar spine, AKA this looks like too much of a curvature in the low back and the pelvis dips forward while the buttocks sticks out posteriorly. The core is not well engaged and the spine is not supported and aligned, which again leads to issues and pain.
- Protracted shoulders and scapulas. This looks like the shoulders coming forward of the body, chest closed off and shortened, and rounding of the thoracic spine (mid back). Also very detrimental to our spinal alignment and does not allow our muscles to do the work, thus putting undue strain on other structures such as ligaments.
- Forward head position. This is when the chin juts forward and the head and neck are not aligned with the rest of the spine. Many issues with neck pain can result from this.
- General slouching of the body. Often, people are just not actively engaged in their posture and proper stance. They do not have their musculature active and it appears as though their body is not strong and aligned because of this.
In conclusion, we can all achieve proper posture. You now have the tools and knowledge on how proper posture is defined, as well as the tips on the most common mistakes in posture so that you can avoid and correct this. The more you focus on reaching this goal, the easier it will become and you may just notice that it is your “new norm” after a while!