How many times have you heard from someone at the gym, from friends, colleagues and relatives about back problems? ? What is the underlying reason for this? One could argue that there are several reasons, like for instance, little or no exercise, poor lifting technique, an overall a poor management of posture, inactiveness, sitting down and so on.. How can we solve this? And how can we achieve perfect posture in all situations?
When I wrote the post on the top 5 positive effects I get from training, I stated that one of my goals when starting training was to achieve a good posture. Why?! This explained in detail in the post but also highlighted:
“your body is the billboard of your personal development…what is it communicating?”.
A good posture signals control and awareness. However, I must admit that I had forgotten about that goal for a long time, which simply highlights that we (normally) don’t get a great posture in “for free”. In our society there is so much sitting and we are so focused on “getting the job done” (task completion) instead of doing the movement of completing the task correct. To always have a perfect posture is therefore almost always a conscious choice.
What does it mean to have a perfect posture?
Your body will last longer-First and foremost a perfect posture means that your body will last longer. If you sit/stand/run/lift correctly , you will “hurt” your back and your body less than doing it in an overextended or overly flexed position.
More FORCE-You will be able to lever more FORCE – when in competition, in battle, or whatever situation, you will be able to deliver force. What you have trained at the lab (the gym/box) you will use in a “real situation.
More Choice – You will have the choice, by being aware of what you should do , you will be aware of the risks when not having a perfect braced position. An example is when lifting heavy during a competition. In this case you might want to skip your posture to be able to win that competition. But you will know that it is a conscious choice from your side.
The more aware you are, the more options you have, the more options you have, the better choices you can make, the better choices you can make, the better results you can create.
Kelly Starett has written an excellent book called: Becoming a Supple Leopard. In the book he discuss something he calls “the bracing sequence”. We will use those steps as a base in this article but my advice is that you buy it – it might just save your life!
The book explains 3 Movement principles
- Midline Stabilizations and Organisatoin (spinal mechanics)
- One-Joint Rule
- Laws of torque
Kelly explains that movement principles are the master blueprint for creating safe and stable positions for all human movements. In the book you learn to maintain a good posture during loaded, dynamic movements, AND how to create stability in your joint to generate: Maximum FORCE POWER & SPEED
The 4 simple steps for perfect posture!
Step 1. Squeeze your butt as hard as you can.
This will put your pelvis in a neutral position, keep your feet directly under your hips, keep them parallel. DON’T think about anything else then squeezing the butt. Most people think that just tightening the abs is enough, it is almost impossible for abs to control pelvis.
Step 2. Pull your rib cage Down!
Listen to arnold: put that cookie down! But let the ribcage down instead! 🙂
Pull your lower ribs in and balance your ribcage over your pelvis. ALWAYS keep your ribcage an Pelvis ALIGNED, like two bowls of water with surface tension.
Step 3. GET YOUR BELLY TIGHT
LOCK your pelvis and ribcage in place with your abs. Kelly mentions:
Glutes set the position, abs brace the position.
By tightening the midline – you create a higher “intra -abdominal” pressure around your spine – creating an very firm lever.
Step 4. Head in neutral position and shoulders in a stable position
Centralize your head over your shoulders and gaze forward. Align your ears over shoulders. Draw the heads of arm bones back. Release your shoulder down. Keep thumbs pointing forward and think hard about aligning your body.
BURN THIS SEQUENCE into your MOTOR PROGRAM!
One of your goals in life should be to reproduce same stable position in any situation in any environment.
THIS TAKES TIME!
Tip: have the mindset that anything that is not a braced spinal neutral position is probably going to kill you. Want to know how to live forever? Check out this post .
Kelly Starett gives more amazingly simple, useful and practical tips in the book, like the “two hand rule”. Get the book here. A commercial video about the book:
Kelly also has a great site focusing on preventing pain, increasing your results in training and in life by increasing your mobility, range-of-motion, and being able to diagnose and be pro-active in training. mobilityWOD.com.
Sitting is the new smoking!
While we are on the topic of posture, please stand up more ! Why? Check out this TED Talk by Nilofer Merchant
Some scary numbers from an article on CrossFit Anitas: Sit less perform better:
Sitting more than 6 hours day has some scary consequences including:
- The risk of heart disease increases by up to 64%
- Your life expectancy drops by 2-7 years.
- You increase your risk of colorectal cancer and breast cancer (they estimate 90,000 new cases a year are from sitting)
- For every 2 hours you spend sitting down, your chance of contracting diabetes goes up 7%,
- You are more likely to have insomnia and depression
Read more in this article: sit better, live better on Bodybuilding.com. Lastly: IF we start chasing performance first, we will get injury prevention in the bargain. IF you are really serious about posture, contact a serious PT, take a course in posture and use this sequence in your everyday life and especially in training. Once again this is not easy, it takes time. Kelly mentions that it might take “20-30%” of your MENTAL RAM – but I would guess 40-50% in the beginning. Try it out and let us know what you think!
Sitting is death – Dr. Kelly Starett
Mastery takes practice