You may wonder what the big deal about posture is when working out when you go to the gym to work out the muscles and not the posture necessarily!! I am going to explore what proper posture during exercise even means and how to have better back posture to save yourself from injuries.  

Why is Proper Posture Important?

When we are standing or sitting, gravity puts a lot of stress on our bodies. Our joints, ligaments and muscles are able to respond to the Brain center for an upright position (called PMRF) to keep us upright against gravity. However, what commonly happens is the lifestyle or previous injuries interfering with the Brain, body connection and the muscles not doing their supportive job. That is when we rely on ligaments and tendons for support when their job is NOT to support but to execute a movement. Proper posture affects your ability to walk or hold still so imagine what happens when you run, jump and lift weights. Proper posture plays a huge role with your breathing at a still position and certainly more crucial during exercise which impacts performance greatly. Proper posture is directly associated with: 

  • Self confidence: slouched posture is a sign of lack of confidence
  • Hormone function: better breathing impacts brain function, its communication with the body and hormonal balance
  • Digestion: proper posture removes compression of the digestive organs. This is one of the reasons why people with constipation, for example, are encouraged to be more active and practice deep breathing. 
  • Spine: proper posture decreases the amount of compression on the individual vertebra and enhances proper alignment of the spine which is the passageway between the brain and the body parts.

What is the Proper Posture?

Michigan State University recommends patients to:

  • Keep the neck in line with your spine
  • Be aware of keeping your ears over your shoulders, meaning do not slouch over and have your head bent in “text neck” position
  • Keep your back straight
  • Keep your shoulders relaxed and down. Sometimes patients will keep their shoulder in a shrugged position without even realizing it! Remember to relax your shoulders!
  • Keep your knees relaxed and do not lock them
  • Be conscious of keeping your pelvis tucked, and your belly button pulled back towards your spine.

I am a HUGE proponent of DNS or Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization and utilize the principles of Developmental Kinesiology on a daily basis with my patients and in practice. Here is a sneak peek of what that is about but you should check out my YouTube channel for more videos related to DNS.

The American Chiropractic Association or ACA for short recommends patients who sit down often for work to:

  • Keep your feet on the floor when seated
  • Do not cross your legs
  • Your knees should be below the level of the hips
  • Adjust your chair to improve low back support
  • Relax your shoulders
  • And avoid sitting in the same position for too long! Remember Sitting is the new smoking!

Different Types of Posture Dysfunctions

There are a few common types of posture dysfunction such as:

  • Upper Cross Syndrome: That is when the shoulders and head are slouched forward because of weak back muscles and tight Pec minor muscles which lead to rolled shoulder joint(s).
  • Lower cross Syndrome: This occurs when your abdominal muscles are weak, and your lower back muscles tighten up. This causes an excessive curve in the low back and can result in pain in the area! Patients will also typically have tightened or hyperactive Quadriceps muscles with this condition. 
  • Layered Syndrome: This is a combination of both upper and lower cross syndrome.

Who Is Likely To Get Postural Dysfunctions?

I see postural dysfunctions all the time, especially among students, receptionists, truck drivers, dentists, dental hygienists and so much more! So the answer is, these days, almost everyone! Basically, postural dysfunctions are seen with those who sit a lot for work, stand a lot for work or perform a repetitive motion over and over again due to their employment. I see postural issues in children more than ever before because let’s face it, there are so many that use a phone to watch or play games. It is interesting because we are now learning that sitting on an exercise ball shows better behavior in children with ADD or ADHD. Our world is becoming more sedentary and we are seeing the end result of it.

Proper Posture During a Workout

A few things to remember when performing specific exercises such as:

  • Squats- remember to keep your knees in line with your ankles and not over or passed your ankles and keep your spine upright while doing so. Don’t forget to engage your pelvic floor.
  • Sit ups- I absolutely am not a fan of sit ups and suggest holding the 3-6 month pose by DNS
  • Pull Ups: Unless you can hold your core and spine properly while moving your arms or legs, as mentioned above, you should NEVER do pull ups!! Don’t be uspet! You can do more damage than good and tearing a ligament is never fun!! Do the initial work correctly and then you can do all the pull ups you want!

Which Exercises can I do to Improve My Posture?

I get asked this question all the time! There are a few exercises that can help improve your posture. You want to make sure you start out correctly so we need to go back to the basics!! Typically by the time you read this, you know your posture needs help and so with that assumption, we need to go to bringing back the brain into the picture!! Read Brain-based Neurology and Posture to understand what I am talking about given that I don’t want to make this blog one about Brain-based Neurology and Posture. In short, if the brain has had to modify some of its posture-related commands because your lifestyle was not compatible with what it was programmed to do, we need to look at that first. Why? because your brain is the commander and the orchestra leader and controls everything in your body. if IT does not send the command, you can only think about holding your posture correctly for a few minutes before you have to do something else and down goes your posture! With that said, you need to be working the DNS exercises that work on revisiting how you, as a baby strengthened your muscles before you started to move. Sounds too basic but like I said, we need to go back to the basic to redo what was once perfectly done!

Now, if you can hold these poses and worked on improving the weak parts of your brain with regards to Posture, you are going to have the best posture without having gone to the gym once!!!

How Do I know Which Treatment is Best for Me?

You ought to use common sense to see what comes before what. When you see a physical therapist, they work on the muscles but not the brain. You see a chiropractor and they adjust the spine to free up the nervous system. You see a trainer and they help you ‘pump’ up those muscles and if you are not having a good posture or have a ‘pathological patterns’ of movement, loading your joints is the worst thing you can do. The treatment to me has to come from within and going back to the basics, like I mentioned above, is the way I see it done right!

Health is in movement and nature is the perfect designer of our body (to say the least). If we follow the basics of nature and creation and keep working on that, it is absolutely reasonable to think that the end result is going to be the one we are after. Your health is your biggest investment and it is not an event that happens over night.

Don’t hesitate to email me or contact the office if you still have questions.

Dr. Shakib