Thursday, 7 January 2010

Don't slouch, sit up straight

This blog is intended for educational purpose only. The reader should be cautioned that there is a risk of participating in any form of physical activity. Those participating in exercise programs should check with their physician before applying the following activities. The participant must understand that any exercise can be dangerous if performed incorrectly and should seek out a fitness professional, like myself. I assume no liability for injury, this is purely and educational blog.

At the end of last year I wrote the blog 'How is your posture holding up?' Moving onto this second part, I will be covering the implications of what poor posture can have on your health and what exercises can be done to help improve different problems.

Now, I am not going to be able to cover all the corrective exercises for the many different postural problems as this would require me writing an entire book or dvd about it. I will be covering exercises, which will help with some of the most common problems I come across. The problems I am going to look at are:

- Excessive Thoracic Kyphosis
- Abducted Scapular
- Anterior Pelvic Tilt
- Posterior Pelvic Tilt

Implications of poor posture can have an effect on your health. Most pain, such as knee, ankle, hip, shoulder, neck will come from poor posture. Pain is a symptom that something is wrong and that although you might be experiencing pain in say, the knee, the cause of the pain could be due to problems elsewhere in the body (4).

For example, an anterior tilt to the hip increases tension on the hamstring. This can make a person/athlete more vulnerable to a hamstring strain (2). The anterior position of the hip will also mean that it is placed in hip flexion, adduction and internal rotation, which can increase the possibility of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury and anterior knee pain (3).

An anterior pelvic tilt can also cause an excessive lordotic curve to the lumber spine. This can cause compressive issues on the intervertebral discs in the lumber region. The disc is in a more prone position to bulge posteriorly putting compressive stress on the vertebral facets (5). The nerve roots that exit from the vertebrae can be compressed and this can lead to pain (5).

Looking at the most common postural problems then, here are some exercises for those who suffer from the following defects.

Excessive Thoracic Curve
I see this problem a lot, both from fellow weightlifters and from everyday people. This is where the back raises up, which will cause the chest to become vertically aligned if viewing from the side. The upper back may be visible from the front. The head will move forward, causing a forward head posture, the shoulders tend to round and the arms internally rotate.

This posture is a result of certain muscles being too long and others being too short as a result of daily activities, an imbalanced training program and the body being in one position for too long e.g. sitting at a desk. This is very common with desk bound people and weight trainers who know nothing else but to train the chest, front shoulders and biceps.

Exercises to help maintain good thoracic posture and correct excessive thoracic kyphosis (1):
- Foam rolling the thoracic spine
- Bent over thoracic spine rotation
- Quadruped extension rotation
- Point extension rotation
- Yoga push-ups

Abducted Scapular
This is when the scapular wing out away from the spine. The scapular should rest against the rib cage. If the scapula moves forward, this may indicate that the anterior shoulder girdle has shortened and the scapular musculature has lengthened (1).

Exercises that will help adduct the scapular back into their proper position (1):
- Forearm wall slides
- Split-stance broomstick pectoral mobility
- Supine no money drill with band
- Scapular wall slides
- Reach role and lift
- Prone trap raise (Y)

Anterior Pelvic Tilt
The anterior pelvic tilt is where the hip structure tilts forward at the front, causing the backside to stick out. This also causes an excessive lordotic curve in the lumber spine. This can also cause lower limb problems like valgus knee. An optimal pelvic position will have a slight anterior tilt to that of about 10 degrees (1, 5).

Exercises that help bring the hip structure back into optimal positions are (1):
- Pulsed hip flexor mobilisations
- Wall hip flexor mobilisations
- Overhead lunge walk
- Reverse lunge with posterolateral reach
- Gluteal bridge raise
- One leg gluteal bridge raise

Posterior Pelvic Tilt
This is the opposite of the anterior pelvic tilt, where the pelvis drops backward. This causes the lower back to flatten out and cause flat back syndrome. The hamstring muscles become very short and tight and the hip flexors tend to lengthen out and become weak.

As with the other problems, this is completely fixable. One client came to me with with flat back syndrome and could only manage 30 degrees in the supine straight leg raise. Within 6 weeks, the client could raise it 90 degrees.

Exercises that can help pull the pelvis forward, anteriorly again (1):
- Supine straight leg raise
- Kneeling role backs
- Lying psoas march
- Yoga press-up

For more information on postural correction or you would like help with postural correction and you live in the Guildford, Surrey area, you can contact me at or phone me on 07826 846 201
  1. Cressey, E. Hartman, B. Robertson, M. Assess and Correct. 2009
  2. Hennessy, L. Flexibility and posture assessment in relation to hamstring injury. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 27(4): 243-246. 1993.
  3. Loudon, J.K. The Relationship Between Static Posture and ACL Injury in Female Athletes. Journal of Orthopedic and Sport Physical Therapy. 24(2): 91-97. 1996
  4. Scannell, J.P, McGill, S.M. Lumber Posture - Should it, and can it, be modified? A study of passive tissue stiffness and lumber position during activities of daily living. Physical Therapy. 83(10): 907-917. 2003.
  5. Zatsiorsky, V.M, Kraemer, W.J Science and Practice of Strength Training. Human Kinetics, Champaign, Il. 2006.

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