Most people exercise to feel, look, and perform better, and to improve their health and fitness. Improving posture does not always make their list of objectives. However, improving our posture can often support all of these goals, and diminishing posture can certainly hinder them. Most exercisers do not consider ways they may be able to enhance their posture with their workouts, and unfortunately many exercise routines can actually make our posture worse.
There are many different postural deviations that can cause different pain symptoms as well as hinder optimal function and performance. A common example is Kyphosis which is characterized by a rounded upper back and forward head. Ironically many exercises, especially if performed in excess, such as bench presses, pull downs and crunches, can cause or predispose us to this condition. While these exercises can have value, we consider them to be potential postural “closers” because of their influence on the shoulder girdles internal rotators. While we may still use some of these exercises in our programming for some clients, we are sure to counter them with more “openers.” Openers will promote more retraction of the shoulder blades, lengthening of the pectorals, anterior deltoids and internal rotators, and greater mobility of the shoulder blades.
Some exercises, such as dead lifts, can be “openers” when done properly but can become “closers” if done too often with poor form. Also, some exercises that have the potential to be “closers,” such as pushups, can be much better for us if performed in a better postural position with retracted shoulder blades and a neutral neck position.
Cycling is another example of an exercise or activity that can have very negative effects on posture. Many triathletes spend hours every day in a kyphotic position. It is very important for these athletes to also include strategic flexibility exercises and lots of “opening” strength exercises into their training.
At One To One we have some clients, who came to us in chronic pain due to dysfunctional posture, who are on corrective exercise programs with the primary objective of improving posture and thus reducing pain. However, even for our general fitness, weight loss, or athletic performance clients, we are sure to design programs that will promote good posture which in turn will help them better achieve their other objectives.