What Is Posture?
Posture is the positioning of the bones and joints while standing still (static posture) or moving (dynamic posture). An optimal posture ensures optimal weight distribution across different parts of the skeleton and allows for sufficient space for the internal organs. The interrelation between different joints in the body is called a kinetic chain. When all major joints in the kinetic chain are aligned, the load is optimally distributed without overly stressing a particular part of the body.
Why Is Posture Important?
When I was pregnant with my daughter, she would kick me under the ribs each time I would crunch my back while sitting at a dining table. I was joking that she was my posture corrector. Yet, there was a big part of truth in this joke. Essentially, when I was crunching, she had less space inside my belly and was demanding more to feel more comfortable. This was a very physical way for me to experience the effect of the compromised posture on my internal organs.
As I was learning more about body functioning, I came to know that what I had experienced with my daughter was just one of the three important effects of a compromised posture on our bodies: the effect on our internal body systems. Further on, as a fitness professional, I became more concerned with an area that is directly within my expertise: the proper load distribution on the skeletal system, and a proper muscle balance.
The Three Effects of the Optimal Posture
Or why our parents were right when they were asking us to keep the back straight...
Why Posture May Be Compromised?
There may be several reasons why posture may not be optimal. They include genetics (specific physique, length of bones, etc.), age (developmental changes in the muscular and skeletal systems happening with age), previous injuries and compensation mechanisms related to them, environmental factors (culture of work-related repetitive moves, also known as pattern overload), emotional state, as well as a simple lack of awareness around own body moves. Holistic medicine doctors even include emotional factors that contribute to posture distortion, like prolonged feelings of sadness.
As a fitness professional, regardless of the reason behind the compromised posture, my focus is on muscles and the kinetic chain, as well as my client's awareness of those. If certain muscles work too much during job or fitness training without proper stretch, they become too short and pull. On the opposite side, if muscles are not used, they become weak and too long. This disbalance between the muscles where one side becomes short and the other long, also known as muscle imbalance, is the scope of my work and the area of correction.
Regardless of whether posture correction is indicated as a concern by my client or not, some improvement happens during training. This is due to proper cueing to assume a starting position before each exercise (static posture), cueing on how to move correctly during an exercise to ensure proper weight distribution, and adapting excercises as needed when excessive crunching or core instability is observed. Moreover, because I focus on well-rounded physical development, the imbalances that cause a poor posture get addressed to a certain degree and some postural improvements are being achieved over several months of training, especially with a due awareness of the client.
With more specific posture improvement requests, my corrective program includes:
Targeted stretching excercises to improve flexibility in the muscles that are too short and tense.
Educating on the proper alignment of the entire kinetic chain (head, shoulders, pelvis, knees and feet) statically and dynamically.
Educating and building muscle memory around functional movements with proper posture (sitting, weight lifting, walking up the stairs, etc.)
Body awareness techniques to notice and release tension in the body.
Photo: Josseph Amado
Improving muscle balance through training and stretching, along with the body awareness both in static and dynamic states is the key to improving the posture. Those efforts may be a part of well-rounded fitness program or a targeted posture-correction intervention.
References: Dr. Gill Solberg Ph.D., Postural Disorders and Musculoskeletal Dysfunction. Diagnosis, Prevention and Treatment.