We are really excited to bring you a new series of blog posts titled “Human Performance”. The first post comes from Dylan Smith. Dylan is the Assistant Director of Performance at Saddlebrook in Wesley Chapel, FL.

Freeze where you are. Check your posture. Without even realizing you are deconstructing one of the most important traits of healthy well being.

Here’s the take home message, I’ll give it to you here just in case you choose to stop reading at any point. If you train with good form for 5 hours per week and you move like cr*p the other 163, your not helping yourself out. It’s as simple as that. Educate yourself, take control. The precise movement that you can control, as simple as sitting and standing with “good” posture  will single handedly make you feel and move better. For the sake of making this post simple, we will assume good posture is the ability to control the movement in and out of what our society considers neutral alignment (head in line with upper back in line with low back in line with hips). Now do yourself the favor and — read on.

Ask yourself this,

  • How long do you spend in a seated position each day?
  • How long does it take you in that seated position for you upper/lower back to feel “tight and achy”?
  • Do you constantly complain of having “tight” hamstrings?
  • Do you have neck pain and/or frequent headaches?
  • Do you have shoulder pain?
  • Do you have pain back or front of your thighs?

What is the tell tail sign that your doing something wrong in regards to stagnant posture? Any slight or excessive Hunchback of Notre Dame thing going on. Don’t be a cavemen sitting at a fire. What about a big bump on the lower portion of the neck (known as Dowager’s hump). We sit there for hours each day with the back rounded, shoulders and shoulder blades rolled forward, and the head sitting inches in front of your torso looking too far up or too far down.  This may be, more likely then not, how you are currently sitting (unless of course you tried to sit up tall because your reading a post about posture).

We’ll chat about the two main posture based issue we deal most often with: upper cross syndrome and lower cross syndrome.

Lower cross syndrome deals with the everyday sitting around the a joint that pretty much effects all other joints of the body, the hip joint.  In the body you can have “long and weak” muscles as well “short and weak” muscles. Excessive sitting without proper mechanics can often result in:

  • Short/tight Hip Flexors (psoas, reclusive femoris, TFL)
  • Long/weak Glutes
  • Long/Weak lumbar/core stabilizers

When standing after excessive poor sitting posture, these two bullet points cause the hip joint to “anteriorly tilt.” For a visual, an anteriorly tilted pelvis is best described with a tight, arched lower back. When your pelvis tilts forward for an extended period of time the glutes have a much harder time doing their job to contract fully.  Inefficient glute activity often results in the low back (erector spinae and quadratus lumborum) and hamstrings to overwork.  These overactive muscles do the work the glutes should be doing, causing them to complain, creating pain. So is the problem the spots you feel pain? Or is the problem the underactive muscles that need to be addressed? (I hope you know the answer by now)

Tight Hip flexors → Weak Glutes → Overactive Hamstring & Erector Spinae/Underactive core stabilizers → Pain

Upper Cross Syndrome is a similar short/tight long/weak relationship between the upper body. The rounded, forward posture created excessive tightness in the front of the chest, including the pec muscles. The back of the neck is also short and tight. The front of the neck is long and weak as well as the upper back muscles between the shoulder blades being long and weak. For the most part, we need to lengthen the chest muscles and strengthen the upper back muscles for you to be able to sit in more upright, neutral position.

From a training perspective, there are multiple things we do as a staff to address this issue.  We perform different activation patterns, as well as mobility exercises that target the issues I have stated in this post.  It is important to realize that form in the gym and the rest of your day’s movement are two huge factors. I can help you control your form and movements inside the weight room but the rest comes from you! Help me help you.

Below are 3 things to incorporate daily to improve your stagnant posture.

Shoulder Retraction

If seated for greater than 15-30 minutes, do the following

  • Sit to the front of your chair.
  • Place your arms down by your side, palms facing out
  • Pull your shoulder blades back and slightly down

When in doubt, stick your chest out (without arching your low back).  Go ahead, try it now!

Hip Flexor Stretch

  • Get down on one knee with the other knee up (half kneeling position).
  • Squeeze your glute of the side that the knee is on the floor. As you squeeze, your hip should slightly tilt backwards flattening the lumbar spine.
  • A slight push forward with the hip should allow you to feel a good stretch in the front of the hip and may even go down in quad.

Door Way Chest Stretch

  • Find a doorway, stand inside of it
  • Make a 90-degree angle or less, with your hands now on the door frame.
  • By pulling your shoulder blades together, lean into the stretch and push against the frame, hold for 10 seconds
  • Lean into the stretch more.  Perform 3 sets of 10-second holds!

Stretching and Mobility Work: As strength training is super helpful, it happens to only be about one third of our solution.  We must hammer stretching and mobility of the antagonist muscles (chest, shoulder internal rotators, hip flexors.)

Stay tuned for more posts about how you can develop ways to move better, stay training and see results not only aesthetically but results in your every day activities!