Primary systems of posture

Posture or how we carry our bodies is much underrated in society today. We have chronic shoulder, hip, and knee issues on a daily basis and it is accepted as normal because it so common. Many of us that don’t have active jobs, like a tree worker or a construction worker, sit all day.

We sit from when we wake up to when go to sleep. We sit for breakfast, we sit driving to work, we sit at work, we sit driving home and we sit for dinner and watching T.V. All of this sitting creates short, tight and overused muscles which naturally creates long, weak and underused muscles. With no preventative or corrective exercise creates chronic illnesses.

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How can bad posture create illness?

Bad posture not only looks terrible, but causes chronic pain and illness. This is not OK or acceptable in any way shape or form. Bad posture can cause digestive issues, migraines, sexual dysfunction, nervous system dysfunction and many other problems, all of which lead to injury and higher risk of disease.

This is all because we are not in optimal spinal alignment for our central nervous system  or CNS to send the correct signals to the right places in the correct sequence to create optimal performance.

Whether it be in normal life or a particular sport or event you participate in, whether you are a runner, soccer player, golfer, playing with your grandkids or just to be pain free while sitting at your desk, the goal is to reduce the risk of injury and reduce and eliminate pain. (Pain = Not Normal). Not matter what your goal is, good, proper back posture is essential to sustainable health.

What is posture?

We have 2 systems in relation to posture.

We have the Tonic System which is responsible for stabilization, aerobic activities like walking, jogging, swimming etc. The tonic system has a higher percentage of slow twitch muscles which equates to longer periods of work.

Then we have the Phasic/Dynamic System which is the short bursts of movement like sprinting, Olympic lifts etc.

In the exercise world, there has been a large focus on the phasic system recently and we seem to be forgetting about the tonic system. The tonic system is what keeps us upright and mobile. If we do not take care of the tonic system first, then the phasic or explosive system will suffer and result in injury.

This is why, Crossift has such a high injury rate. In my experience, Crossfit gyms with inexperienced coaches, go straight to the explosive stuff, like box jumps and cleans etc. because it looks good. We are forgetting about the stabilization or tonic phase of training. This has to change. Without training the phasic system we are doomed for a life of injury and pain.

How do we create a pain and injury free posture? (The Sorenson Test)

If you are already exercising or looking to begin exercise as part of your dream to be a better version of you, this assessment is a great way to develop your posterior chain or the back or the body (calves, hamstrings, glutes, and low and upper back)

The Sorensen Test

Find a way or wallow in your excuse, but go to a place where they have a GHD or Glute Hamstring Device to perform this test to see how well you posterior chain development is.

This assessment is really simple. Put your hips right in the middle of the padded area, fully extend your body with a neutral spine and the hands by your side. The goal is to hold it for 4 minutes. If you cannot hold it for 4 minutes, your posterior chain is weak and needs developing.

How to develop the posterior chain?

proper back posture_2

The wonderful thing about the Sorensen Test is, it can also be used as an exercise, not just an assessment. Hold as long as you can, rest for half the time you held it and go again. Do 3 sets at the end of a session, as it uses all of your stabilizer muscle to perform the test.  (You will need those stabilizers if you program properly)

Posterior Chain development

Other ways to develop the posterior chain are exercises like deadlifts, rows and any other pulling exercise that creates thoracic extension and hamstring recruitment.

Other ways to assess the posture

The Plumb Line Test (or use the Posture Screen Application).

Functional posture

Ears, shoulders, hips and slightly in front of the ankle should line up. (Looks like I have a belly. It’s the shirt, that makes the belly look big, I swear)

proper back posture_3

This natural standing posture, gives us a look at a balance between flexor/extensor systems and or phasic/tonic system, energetic dysfunction, circulatory and soft tissue dysfunction. 

Dysfunctional Posture

From sitting, we tend to reach the neck forward and for reasons of maintaining a horizontal plain for vision and we end up with hyper kyphosis and hypo lordosis. We then end not being unable to rotate efficiently because of the thoracic spine locking up.

proper back posture_4

Because there is an increase in tension in our postural muscles to fight against gravity there is a 50-75% decrease in blood flow to those areas which again leads to a multitude of issues like trigger points, fibrous tissue and muscle actually gluing together by a process called syrus fibrinous exudate.

Moral of the story?

Pay attention to how you sit, drive, sleep, breathing patterns etc.. If you find you have pain, ask a professional to assess your symmetries/asymmetries and together you can develop a stretching program for tight or overused/overactive muscles (based on your daily activities) to eliminated pain and create functional flexibility/mobility.

There is so much more to be said about posture, so the next article/blog will cover breathing and how breathing affects the posture.

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