Quit slouching! Stand up straight! Do you remember your mum yelling those orders at you when you were a teenager? You would stand at attention and pull your shoulders back for about 30 seconds only to slouch into your relaxed teenage posture once again. As we age and start to deal with neck and back pain, we reminisce and think perhaps our mothers were on to something!
What is Posture
According to good old Webster posture is "the position in which someone holds their body when standing or sitting." Good posture is important for proper function of our body. This means that optimal alignment of our muscles, bones, and joints will allow for normal and efficient function.
When we have faulty posture it puts our musculoskeletal system out of alignment. This leads to unnecessary stress, strain, and tension on our muscles, bones, joints, and ligaments. Our muscles like to work in harmony and balance. When this doesn't happen some muscles become shortened and tense while other muscles become elongated and weak. This can lead to chronic neck and back pain among other issues.
For example, the muscles in the front/anterior area of the hip area (iliopsoas, rectus femoris) oppose the muscles in the back/posterior area of the hip area (glutes, hamstrings); as do the muscles of the chest opposing the muscles of the upper back. If we participate in a sport or occupation where a lot of sitting is involved we will begin to see shortening of the anterior musculature and lengthening of the posterior musculature which can create the perfect environment for upper and lower back pain as the neck, shoulders, hip and pelvis are pulled forward. These muscle imbalances pose significant issues for activities or sports where proper, effective posture is imperative for performance (equestrian & golf are two sports that come to mind).
Factors affecting Posture
There are factors that affect and influence posture that we can correct and others we cannot. Let's look at the differences:
Correctible postural factors include: side dominance, lack of joint mobility or stability, habitual or repetitive movements, and improper strength training & flexibility programs. Factors that are out of your control to correct include: certain pathology or disease, musculoskeletal traumas, congenital conditions, or significant structural irregularities.
Working on our correctible factors can help us achieve our ideal posture. This means committing to a regular and deliberate flexibility, mobility, and strength routine to promote muscle symmetry, strength, and balance.
There are many different strength exercises to help improve posture, but I have narrowed them down to my top 3. If you are looking to improve your posture to look and feel better, decrease neck & back tension, and to help perform optimally in your sport click on the infographic below to download our free PDF printout. This free printout will instruct you on how to perform these 3 specific postural exercises to work on the strength and stabilization of the scapular, upper back, and lower back muscles.