Posture is your biggest predisposition to injury and your biggest indicator of success. Whether you’re lifting a weight, running, having a baby or even sitting at a desk working, your spine needs to be in its optimal position in order for the rest of the body to function ideally.
However, our culture often sets us up for failure. Our society does not even support basic human movement or function. As a society we have lost what it means to move freely.
Babies are placed in strollers, where they are kept in a constant ‘C’ position, and their neck muscles, along with the rest of the associated spinal muscles, do not develop and strengthen as designed. From the time people enter grade school they are forced to sit in a desk. This does a number of things to de-condition the body. Decreasing hip range of motion, encouraging psoas tightness and inactivating glutes are the biggest hazards. Then when we start exercising, a trainer escorts an individual through bicep curls or leg extensions and never engages the full body.
Needless to say, our ancestors would be in shock.
As Americans, we spend a ton of money to treat back pain. In fact, back pain is one of the leading reasons that people miss work. Believe it or not, people often pay $10,000-$15,000 on back surgeries that may or may not work.
Many cultures that engage in physically demanding tasks insist on correct posture because movements and productivity are more sustainable with biomechanically correct posture. Throughout history people used to consider the squat a comfortable resting position. Women used to be competent in lifting their children and not just three-pound weights. Throughout history and in other cultures, people moved, rather than machines.
The most fundamental of all movements is your posture. If your shoulders are rolled forward, then you will have shoulder issues, if you don’t already. If you cannot squat properly, as in below 90 degrees, then you will have lower-back issues and/or knee issues, without a doubt. Knowing how to establish proper posture before a movement as well as throughout your normal workday is a vital component to your health and longevity.
Establishing correct posture can be done through the standard Western approach through Brugger’s exercises. Or, it can be done via the Gokhale Method, which is a primal posture for pain relief.
My tips for perfect posture:
- Stand with feet shoulder width apart. You should be able to feel the ground with all aspects of the foot — the toes and the heels.
- Engage your glutes by externally rotating your femurs (hips). This will lift the arch of your feet and prevent valgus strain on your knees.
- Set your scapulas down and back. Basically, think of placing them in the back pockets of your jeans. This is the ideal starting position for all shoulder-associated movements.
- Lead with your chest ever so slightly. This will you cause to lean forward a bit and engage core and glutes even more.
- Breathe into and expand your ribs from side to side rather than front to back.
- Your head and neck should basically fall into place directly over your shoulders.
Every individual is different. The cues that work for me to correct my posture may not work for the person beside me. If you can connect your solid posture to the start of a lift or a push-up, then you will be moving injury-free for a long time.