Yea, you. What are you doing right now?
While reading this article, chances are that you’re sitting or standing in a precarious position, putting strain on certain muscles in your body.RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
Look at your posture right now, are your shoulders hunched over your keyboard or worse, your phone, with your head down? What this does is lead to tension through your neck, shoulders, and back. Or maybe you’re sitting slouched in your chair, just relaxing, not even realizing the tension you are putting into your lower back.
Over time this can cause not only muscles to become imbalanced, but joints as well.
The body is incredible when it comes to adapting to change. Sit in a certain posture for long enough, and it becomes the new norm.
Certain muscles shut down, become weak, overstretched, and inactive, while others become tight and full of knots & trigger points. You see, the body wants to remain in neutral. Neutral spine, neutral pelvis, neutral body position.
If we’re not putting ourselves in a good position, then our body will do it for us by creating some of the adaptations listed above.
That doesn’t sound comfortable does it?
So here is what we’re going to do. We’re going to go through a few postural exercises you should do every day, especially if you find yourself sitting at computer or a desk all day.
Then we’re going to go through several reasons why you need to do them every day. Because going through life with poor posture is just not living. We don’t want to end up looking like Quasimodo.
Thankfully, some of our postural challenges from day to day life can be combated with a few quick and easy exercises and/or stretches.
Activations and Stretches
Chest Stretch with Trap/Rhomboid Activation– Focus on engaging the muscles between your shoulder blades as you push the elbows out. Try to squeeze your shoulder blades together.
Pec SMR with Ball w/ Door Stretch– Lean into the ball and search for any tender areas and hold till you feel it dissipate a little. Follow up with a simple door stretch while keeping the elbow at 90 degrees.
Hip Flexor Stretch– Push your hips forward till you feel a little tension in the front of the leg. Make sure you are also engaging the Glute on the kneeling leg to ensure the pelvis stays in alignment.
Thoracic Mobility– Use your opposite hand to prevent the legs from moving as you rotate away, opening up the chest, shoulders and upper back.
Glute Bridge- Squeeze your glutes in the bottom position, then slowly start to push the hips towards the ceiling. Hold for a few seconds before coming back to start. Be aware of what is contracting as it is easy to perform using just the lower back and ignoring the glutes.
Why should you do them?
Simple, they can:
– Alleviate Pain
– Engage Weak or Inactive Muscles
– Avoid Muscle Imbalances/Injury
– Improve Mobility
– Make Day to Day Tasks Easier
Have you ever felt as if you need to stretch the muscles between your shoulders blades after a long day?
Chances are you don’t actually have to lengthen those muscles, you’ve been stretching them all day by rounding your shoulders forward. The uncomfortable pain you feel running through that area is actually your muscles trying to contract.
Humans in general spend too much time in a hunched over positions thus causing overstretched muscles. When muscles are overstretched then tend to weaken.
The muscle would rather contract and keep its normal length than stretch, so it is constantly attempting to contract.
If we perform postural exercises daily, we give that needed strength and length back and then pain will be alleviated.
Engage Weak or Inactive Muscles
Like I mentioned before, being in compromised positons for hours a day can lead to certain muscles “switching off” or becoming inactive due to the muscles being overstretched.
The biggest perpetrators of this? Around the hips and shoulders, leading to postural changes in the glutes and upper back muscles. Performing some of the exercises listed above can help restore function & strength to muscles that were previously not firing.
When you learn how to properly engage and activate these muscles it will not only improve our posture but your daily life as well. Your body is a tool that is used every minute of the day to accomplish tasks.
If a tool is properly cared for and maintained, the tasks we use it for becoming easier to complete. You will move better, easier and faster.
Avoid Muscle Imbalances/Injury
Think about your anatomy. You can draw a line directly down the center of the human body and produce a mirror image of the skeletal and muscular systems.
That means that even though we have two of everything, in most cases, we can move either side independently.
Each side is meant to move that way, but what happens when we ‘favor’ a side for one activity over another. Some people are born left hand dominant and other right hand dominant.
When a body part is repetitively used for a task it will gain strength in that activity, causing the opposing side to weaken due to neglect. It occurs in every joint and unfortunately leading to an imbalanced posture.
Once our posture is misaligned, performing tasks we once thought easy can lead to injury.
Well, why is mobility so important? Each joint is designed to carry out certain functions. If your joints cannot perform its specific function or functions, how can you do simple everyday tasks?
Those who have had rotator cuff injuries have suffered loss of mobility in their shoulder.
This means everyday tasks such as washing and brushing their hair, putting on a shirt, reaching for items on shelves, have become difficult, painful and in many cases impossible.
Going back to previous sections, keeping our joints healthy and in the right alignment allows our muscles to function properly. This is accomplished by doing some of the postural exercises on a day to day basis.
Remember, mobility isn’t necessarily having more flexibility, but about having control over your joints throughout a specific movement. If the movement is off, then mobility is off.
Make Day to Day Tasks Easier
Think about what would happen if had less pain from poor postural habits, combined with added strength and mobility in areas that you previously didn’t. Wouldn’t that make your life and the things you do easier?
My guess is that it would. For example, if you were to do the hip stretch combined with the Glute bridges, your squats will likely get easier, which will make it a whole lot easier to lift things off the ground.
So instead of bending & lifting from the back to get that box, now you’re squatting efficiently to pick it up.
Talk about easier.
Improving your posture starts with being conscious of how you sit and stand throughout the day. If you feel yourself slumping into old habits, give yourself a break to stretch or even to just move around.
Following some of the exercises in this article will help improve how your body functions on a day to day basis.
Like it was said before, doing these daily exercises can alleviate those nagging pains through the avoidance of injury and imbalance, but also through improved mobility and muscle engagement.
Remember, your posture isn’t something that is static. It is always changing depending on the forces acting on your body, how you’re positioned, to how you’re breathing.
The body is going to develop the most efficient pattern necessary in order to complete a task. Sometimes it is an optimal pattern or posture, and other times it may be sub-optimal. The key is figuring out if what you are doing is hurting you in any way.
Be patient with your progress. Your poor, or sub optimal, posture didn’t happen overnight. It was the result of years and years of poor placement.
It is going to take time to correct, but as long as you are consistent with the exercises, and you remain conscious about your positioning throughout the day, there’s no telling where your posture will be in a few months.
Don’t wait till your poor habits lead to a problem, get out in front of them and save your body in the long run.
Try to make time now, before it’s too late.