Learn how to maintain proper alignment of your posture throughout a movement/position

If you have taken a class where I have been the coach, you have probably heard me refer to the term “postural integrity”. This term refers to maintaining proper alignment of your posture throughout a movement/position. This is extremely important not only for you to get the correct benefits of the exercise but to ensure you do not promote muscle imbalances. With the primary population of members at LivAthletic being working class people, poor posture is very easy to achieve with all the forces being distributed on the body. In most cases a lot of these people typically have sedentary dominant jobs or are seated at a desk the majority of the day. Unless an individual consciously maintains spinal stiffness and optimal posture throughout the day, especially when seated, they are susceptible to sustained poor posture over long periods of time. This sustained posture can then compromise overall posture, which may lead to dysfunction and hinder their ability to reach their fitness goals. One of the main side effects or compromises that poor posture can develop is upper crossed syndrome (UCS).

I have observed UCS in a lot of the members here. UCS is described as a muscle imbalance pattern located at the head and shoulder regions. It is most often found in individuals who work at a desk or who sit for a majority of the day and continuously exhibit poor posture. In UCS, tightness of the upper trapezius and levator scapula on the dorsal side crosses with tightness of the pectoralis major and minor. Weakness of the deep cervical flexors ventrally crosses with weakness of the middle and lower trapezius. This pattern of imbalance creates joint dysfunction, particularly at the atlanto-occipital joint, C4-C5 segment, cervicothoracic joint, glenohumeral joint, and T4-T5 segment (Janda 1988). What does all this mean? Basically, it means that when 4-5 muscle groups get too tight it can lead to a chain of events that can create shoulder instability, dysfunction and eventually pain and injury. UCS could also be a factor in why you can’t get into a proper overhead position such as a jerk or over head squat without bending your elbows to some degree.

Observations in which you can dictate UCS are:

  • Forward head posture – Protruded head
  • Increased cervical lordosis and thoracic kyphosis – The hunchback.
  • Elevated and protracted shoulders– Forward shrugged shoulders
  • Rotation or abduction and winging of the scapula

One or more of these symptoms can mean that your shoulders are unstable and therefore at risk for injury. Or that some areas are overcompensating for the dysfunction, causing damage. Or that because some areas are overcompensating, they are turning off other areas that should be working but aren’t, which causes instability. Or maybe your shoulder girdle is just weak. Whichever it is, the issue is definitely something you want to address. Whether it be taking time from class and focusing on your imbalances, or utilizing an individualized training approach that I can assist you with, but you don’t want this to go unhonored or an array of other problems could arise along your kinetic chain. One of the main issues that could arise is lower crossed syndrome which actually involves the musculature around the hips.  I won’t go into LCS as that will take a whole other blog, hence why this is “part 1”!

In the mean time, what you can do in order to prevent yourself from acquiring these issues is to really focus on your postural integrity and form during all exercises. That means shoulder blades pinched back, chest up, lower back flat, and limit any shrugging with traps when doing pulling movements. Also mobilizing your pectorals and upper traps while strengthening your mid to lower traps and lats will increase your ability to stay away from any imbalances associated with UCS. Another tip is to make sure you get up and walk around every 30 minutes after sitting. Stretch out your quads and hips and just move! Your stiff for a reason, because your cramped up in the same position for hours on in! No Wonder! You gotta move!See you in class!