Athletic performance and posture go hand in hand
Without optimal posture, optimal performance cannot be obtained. This is why proper alignment and form is so critical when performing loaded exercises. We as human beings do a great job at adapting to whatever habits (good or bad) that we express to our bodies. These habits make up the majority of the foundation of how we express our posture thus how we express our movement as well.
If a person is primarily seated at a desk on a computer the majority of the day with little to no exercise, this habit will accordingly result in poor posture and subsequently affect how the person moves athletically. If a person has an active job that requires them to move around on their feet the majority of the day while also participating in exercise 3-5 times a week, the result of these habits will display a more functional posture with a positive effect on athletic movement.
These scenarios could be considered extreme opposites on the activity spectrum. One is sedentary while the other is very active. However, what about the people in between?
The office warrior who sits at their desk all day but heads straight to the gym once they get off. Or the studious bartender who works odd hours while being a full time student, but keeps a regular exercise schedule as well.
People can have great habits but still present other lifestyle factors that can negatively affect their performance and posture. What can be done to correct the lifestyle factors you ask?
5 daily habits to counteract diminishing posture & enhance athletic performance.
- Squeeze your butt
Your glutes are the biggest muscle group in your body. They make up the majority of the musculature surrounding your hip complex which makes them a significant muscle group to influences posture. These muscles tend to get dormant in most athletes due to the quad dominant nature of life and sport.
Because the glutes play tug of war with your hamstrings and quads around your pelvis, they need a large amount of stimulus in order to counterbalance the strength of their antagonist muscles. Squats, lunges, deadlifts, and step ups won’t be enough to stimulate total activation due to the multi joint-multi muscle execution of these movements. In these movements, force and tension is dispersed throughout the body, taking the path of least resistance. Meaning if you have overactive anterior hips/quads, your glutes will get little to no stimulation.
This is where isolation exercises for the glutes are necessary for glute strength assistance. Glute bridges, clam shells, reverse hypers, and other glute isolation exercises are all great and should be included in your training protocol. Even just simply squeezing your butt cheeks together for an extended time can help wake up those silent giants!
Try this: Stand up with your feet about shoulder width apart (squat stance), squeeze your cheeks together as hard as possible while trying to tilt your pelvis up towards your face, hold this position for 30 seconds, rest 30 seconds, then repeat that process 2 more times!
Get to squeezing!
- Crucifex pose stretch
The skeletal system is manipulated by the musculature system. The body position we spend the majority of our time in will influence how our muscles manipulate bone positioning thus how we express our posture.
Tech neck, hunch back, and rounded shoulders, are all postural consequences of how our body reacts to us being seated for long periods of time along with allowing the effects of gravity. Whether sitting or standing, posture is just as much conscious as unconscious.
Have you ever tried to stand taller by rolling your shoulders back and extending your neck? Well this is actually a conscious effort to correct your posture, and if done on a regular basis will have long term effects on how you express your posture unconsciously.
By performing the crucifex pose stretch you preserve posture by stretching shortened muscles and strengthening lengthened muscles at the same time. This in turn transfers over into better postural habits unconsciously.
Try this: Stand tall and place your arms out to the sides. Simultaneously extend the spine by picking your chest up and externally rotate your shoulders by pointing your thumbs behind you. Keep your head and neck in a neutral or packed position (which resembles a double-chin). Hold this position for 3 seconds and repeat 5-10 times per day.
- Squat deep
The squat is one of the most functional movements and enhances performance and can increases longevity. Whether you’re trying to jump higher, run faster, or simply maintain the ability of getting on and off the toilet without assistance, performing deep squats are essential for hip function.
If you’re a lifter or an athlete, you want to retain your deep squat ability as it’s been shown to lead to a greater vertical jump transfer, quadriceps and hamstring hypertrophy, glute activation, hip extension torque, postactivation potentiation, and deep squat strength as compared to shallower squatting.
Try this: Performing a 30 second deep squat stretch daily can increase range of motion and hip function. When doing this squat stretch, sit as deep as you can while keeping your feet straight. Avoid excessive external rotation (toeing out) with your feet. It is acceptable that your back rounds over in the stretch but do not let this back position transfer to loaded squats.
- Hinge to stretch
Tight hamstrings is an epidemic in the majority of recreational athletes. Being seated for long period of time can exacerbate this problem due to prolonged knee flexion. This is why it is a good idea to get up and stretch your hamstrings and hips at least every 30 minutes if being seated for long periods of time.
Hinging at your hips to stretch your hamstrings is the best way to elongate your hamstrings without affecting your back. Your lower back (erectors) and hamstrings are connected, so when doing the typical bend down and touch your toes stretch, your lower back gets that majority of the stretch if your hamstrings are already excessively tight.
Try this: Hinging at your hips while keeping your back flat, and chest up as if doing an RDL or good morning. This position protects your back as your erectors create tension to pull up on the hamstring muscles causing an intense stretch. A slight knee bend is warranted as knee hyper extension (knee locked out) is a jeopardizing position for the lower hamstring tendon thus weakening the knee. Try doing this hinge stretch with one foot elevated on a bench. Maintain a slight knee bend as you push your hips back, and try to create tension with your erectors as you lean forward. keep your chest up and push hips back until you feel that stretch. Hold for 1 minute.
Yoga is a great way to increase mobility, recovery, posture, and well being. A lot of practices include diaphragmatic breathing, planking, hip and hamstring stretching, glute strengthening, and balance. These are all factors that I have talked about for enhancing posture and performance.
Of course a lot of us don’t have access to daily yoga studios because we like to lift weight instead. You can always incorporate a 10-20 minute individual practice after your lifting session or on your off days. If you have trouble knowing what to do or just don’t want to do it at the gym, youtube.com is a great yoga tool or you can try this 10 minute yoga video.