Most people don’t have great posture these days or even if it is decent, our posture is drawn down by looking at phones and computers. Any time we slouch or bring our head forward or down, the muscles of our spine and head have to work much harder to hold our head and body upright. During this time, our spine is also rounded forward, which can be excessive, and cause unnatural curves in our spine. Let’s look more into how our posture can affect our muscles and spine.
Muscle and Spinal Strain
An article looking at: Armrests and back support reduced biomechanical loading in the neck and upper extremities during mobile phone use by Kartheek Reddy Syamala demonstrated that a chair w/ head support and armrests decreased muscle activity and the gravitational moment at the head and neck. This evidence tells us that the amount of muscle control required when we have a phone in our hand and our heads are forward and/or looking down at them is increased and would cause more strain to our postural muscles.
You can see in the image to the left, the top 2 incorrect postures show a head that is in front of the shoulders, the middle back has an increased arch or is rounded vs the lower 2 postures show a natural curve at our low back and necks with a relatively straight line down from our neck to our bottom. The more upright posture decreases the amount of muscles that have to work for longer periods of time and decreases the amount of strain placed on each vertebrae.
Muscle Endurance and Core Control
Improving your muscular endurance will help you tolerate upright posture better, and longer. To increase your endurance you need to focus on increased reps at a moderate weight as well as utilizing these muscles as frequently as you can.
More than likely when working on your posture you will forget every 5 minutes, sometimes less, as your brain begins to think about something else and notice that you are back to your slouched positioning. The more frequently you can think about and correct your posture, the quicker the postural and core muscles will gain endurance to tolerate it better. However, if you aren’t frequently utilizing these muscles and positions, your body will resort to the easier route and slip back into old patterns. Once you create a new movement pattern and position the body will remember it and then it becomes easier to remember and maintain throughout your day.
Posture and Sports
Our posture is important for our sport also. If we have slouched, forward head posture all week and then try to hit a volleyball at practice and in the game you could develop shoulder, back, elbow, or neck pain over time. These parts of our spine and arms are strained by not having good posture or being able to recruit the muscle control from the postural muscles to take off the strain from our shoulder and elbow when we swing to hit or serve.
Another example of how bad posture can limit your performance in your sport is when we go from bad posture all day to needing to be upright to jump, block, run, and even play defense. Our spine will have a hard time being upright for these activities when it is used to being curved. The muscles that hold you upright will be weak and not have the endurance needed to maintain being upright for a full game.
Make sure you are incorporating postural and core strengthening in your training to not only help you throughout the day, but when you get into game-like situations. You will have much more mobility to move and endurance to maintain as long as you need.
How Can You Learn More?
If you have more questions or don’t feel like you know where to start or how to progress in postural awareness, control, and strengthening, you are not alone! I’ve created a Facebook group where you can come learn, ask questions, see new research, and try exercises with other athletes, just like yourself. I would love to have you! Click the link here to join: Strength & Conditioning Performance for Metro Atlanta Athletes.