Stand up straight!

Proper posture is essential in life and exercise

Posture during exercise will greatly affect not only your endurance, but other aspects of your life as well. Poor posture pits your own muscles and physiology against yourself – you fight your own body! 

Take for example, a woman doing a right bicep curl: she contracts her right bicep, which bends the elbow, to lift the weight. If she flexes her neck forward, hunches her back and leans to the right, then she is actually strengthening her body’s ability to remain in a hunched position – not good. Consequently, straightening her back to a normal position ends up being a fight against her own body. 

Similarly, if those runners among us run with shoulders forward and/or raised up, we are promoting the tensed position that causes stiff necks and shoulders, leading to headaches and much more.

In general, most people have weak and stretched out hamstrings, gluts, abs, rhomboids and posterior neck muscles. It can be a sad sight to witness a guy leg-extend 100 pounds and only be able to do 10 pound leg curls. 

That was me, 13 years ago, when I began to address my own imbalances after pulling a hamstring during intrasquad flag football. In addition, my rhomboids were very weak and my shoulders rolled so far forward that my pecs vanished into the nether; friends called me “No-Pecs.”

After strengthening my hamstrings and rhomboids, my posture improved drastically. I then discovered an issue with my lower back, a rectus abdominus imbalance. I spent six months strengthening my abs and further improved my posture.

Our bodies have many joints that rotate, flex, slide and extend. Muscles should hold those joints in neutral positions while standing, sitting, working, running, sleeping (yes, sleeping) and exercising. Our muscles tend to use less energy when our joints are in neutral. Therefore, when you exercise or work, if you tend to hold uninvolved portions of your body in poor posture, intentional or otherwise, then you are expending unnecessary energy and promoting poor posture. Sometimes the amount of unnecessary energy spent is so significant that you will gas out embarrassingly prematurely.

So, what areas of the body should the average person focus on keeping neutral? When not in direct use, the lower back, upper back, neck and shoulders. 

Typical muscles that need to be strengthened to maintain good posture are the hamstrings, gluteus maximus, rectus abdominus, rhomboids and neck extensors. 

Muscles to avoid strengthening completely, or at least before you have addressed the previous muscles, are the iliopsoas (a.k.a. hip flexor or lower abs), the lower back, pectorals and forward neck flexion muscles. The normal routines of life will typically strengthen these muscles and, if more strengthening is added, an imbalance often occurs.

As you get out there and stay active in your everyday life, remember to maintain good posture and, if necessary, strengthen the muscles that promote an active lifestyle.

For questions concerning posture or overall health and wellness, give my friendly staff a call at A-Line Chiropractic in Paso Robles. We will be happy to answer your questions and partner alongside you in your fitness goals.

David Z. Agueda, DC - A Line Chiropractic, 2138 Spring St. Ste C, Paso Robles, (805) 226-5900