If I told you that there is one very simple change that you could make which would lead to a significant increase in your muscular strength, would you be willing to do it? If so, consider correcting your postural alignment. Our mothers were always pestering us about standing up straight and they were definitely aiming us down the right path in terms of our structural integrity!
Your skeletal structure has many functions. However, one of the primary functions is to support all of the soft tissue and viscera throughout the body. Without a solid foundation, the muscular system is unable to operate efficiently. The levers and pulleys (think bones and joints) must be located in mechanically correct positions to apply the force production necessary to move the body through space and time efficiently, effectively and safely.
Most humans have postural deviations of some kind—usually a spectrum of very minor to very serious deviations apply. However, taking into consideration your deviations, you may still be able to “stand up straight as possible based upon your limitations” even if you ignored your mother in the past! And, the better your postural alignment, the better your ability to move your body, and the better your ability to move your body, the more effectively you will be able to strengthen the body. Therefore, please consider the following five postural alignment guidelines and you may begin to experience increases in your strength. As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.
Postural Guideline #1
Yes, stand up straight! What does that mean? Think of “stacking your joints” and major body parts one on top of the other. Your head/neck/ears, shoulders, hips/pelvis, knees and ankles aligned as if you had a plumb line dropping from the ears to the ankles. Shoulders are rotated back/ down, rib cage is lifted, navel pulled toward the spine, the pelvic floor muscles fully engaged, knees relaxed/weight equally distributed through your feet. This position allows for more efficient power and energy transfer throughout the body. The better the power and energy transfer, the more force production you may have access to resulting in fluid, continuous and strong movement patterns.
Postural Guideline #2
Core stabilization—what does that actually mean? You cannot become mobile if you are not stable first. And, without structural integration, you will lack functional strength. We often say that your core is everything from your nose to your toes. However, the internal obliques, external obliques, serratus anterior and rhomboids create a natural belt around your body. Therefore, training these muscles regularly, in functional positions and movement patterns, may improve core stabilization and lead to improved posture.
Postural Guideline #3
Avoid allowing the chin to drop to the chest when performing movement patterns. If the head/cervical spine are out of position, so goes the rest of the spine (i.e., your head/neck are the “roof” on your “house” and your feet are the “foundation”).
Postural Guideline #4
When preparing the body for movement, initially keep the scapulae in neutral! From this position, the scapulae are free to stabilize or permit movement efficiently, whichever applies.
Postural Guideline #5
Establish standard protocols for posture when training, sitting at the computer or performing your recreational activities. Run through your postural checklist as often the postural alignment has deteriorated and this may be leading to poor performance.