Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Using Visuals to Understand Poor Postures

With the ever increasing awareness of joint dysfunction and mobility, tightness/weakness and everything else in between, it has been surprising that some still haven't caught on to the idea that tuning the engine makes the car run better. Too many lifters are still interested in the car's exterior--making sure that the car's body is washed and waxed; or the most expensive rims are in place; or the satellite radio is installed. However, we fail to realize that it is the engine of the car that controls the speed, power, and ultimately, the dependability of the car. Ever have one of those days when you wake up after a good night's rest and get ready for work. You have the day planned in your head and you made a great lunch. Suddenly you sit in your car to start the key and nothing happens? Yep...its going to be one of those days. The same circumstances can sabotage your workout. You go into the gym planning to try a new personal record, and suddenly, you feel tired; weak; or your back begins to kill you. Your workout becomes as useful as a box of crooked nails.

The idea behind activation work is to engage muscles that normally stay dormant during movements. The goal is to engage these muscles on a regular basis through planned movement prep work (usually integrated into a warm-up), then we can prevent injuries from occurring. Now, it doesn't necessarily mean injuries won't occur, however we greatly reduce the likelihood of them. If we can decrease your chances of being hurt, a few things will result:

1.) You will hit the gym more and follow more structure.

2.) You will continue to increase strength and endurance.


3.) You will continue to burn calories at an alarming rate.


So how can we spot an environment for joint dysfunction? First we look at static and dynamic posture. There are 4 types that are easy to identify and I have included some visuals to help you recognize them.
1.) The "J-Lo" Posture
Some women may think this is not entirely that bad, as it give them the famous "booty", but this posture can lead to common injuries. Anterior pelvic tilt (APT) is usually caused by tight or overactive hip flexors that pull the pelvis down anteriorly. 
Tight back muscles, specifically the lats can also contribute to this. Typically weak or dormant muscles are the glutes and hamstrings. These muscles are usually compensated for when lifting. I have usually seen this posture in desk jockeys or gym-fanatics that perform countless ab crunches on a daily basis. So why do the glutes 'stick out' so much if they are under-active? Well, if the front of the pelvis is rotated down, the back end rotates up-wards which places the glutes in a "high" position. Not a bad position to be in if you are a pole dancer, but the low back is stressed repeatedly if the intrinsic muscles of the core are not trained. STRETCH: Hip flexors & Lats STRENGTHEN: Glutes & Erectors

2.) The "Freddie Mercury" Posture (Posterior Pelvic Tilt)

You gotta love the rock band Queen. Freddie Mercury was Queen. Period. He gave us inspirational lyrics and motivational vocals. He also gave us an idea of what a posterior pelvic tilt (PPT) looks like. This is basically the opposite of having accentuated glutes. 
When you exhibit a low back that tends to round very easily, the hamstrings and adductors are typically tight. We usually see this in people with poor office ergonomics and cyclists. When I worked in a corporate fitness setting, my job was to visit the endless rooms of cubicles and observe everyone sitting slouched in front of their computers. This done over a period of time weakens the core muscles, glutes, and back erectors. If you know of anyone who works as a secretary (administrative assistant), phone operator, or IT specialist whom has been working at their job for 10+ years; ask them to stand up and look at the absence of an ass they will have. STRETCH: Hamstrings, adductors, & abdominals STRENGTHEN: Back erectors & glutes

3.) The "Betty Boop" Posture (Lateral hip shifting)

This compensation is usually spotted when people are walking or squatting. Very pronounced asymmetrical hip shifting is common in weak squatters. Anytime an external load is introduced, compensations appear. However, most lifters will dismiss a compensation for poor form. 
 
Ultimately, it is poor form, but not out of ignorance, more-so out of dysfunction. Hip shifting is commonly caused by weakness in the lumbo-pelvic region (piriformis, adductors, glutes medius), and tightness in the lateral hamstring. It is not uncommon to have a tight ilio-tibial band here also. Typically, some self-myofascial release with a foam roller coupled with some stretching can help alleviate this profoundly. STRETCH: Hamstrings, adductors & abductors STRENGTHEN: Psoas, hamstrings, adductors

4.) The "I Dunno" Posture (Elevated scapula)

When we don't know an answer to a question, we typically will shrug are shoulders up. When lifters perform  sagittal or frontal scap work (lat pull-down or dumbbell lateral raises) with external loads, we will see the shoulders shrug up.Why? This is exhibited by typical weakness in the scapula stabilizers (serratus and mid-traps), as well as a faulty neural pattern to engage those muscles when the shoulder girdle is loaded.
I have usually seen this in people with protracted shoulders (upper-cross) and youngsters with poor muscular control. Here is a tip: when you perform your lat pull-down, make sure to press your shoulders down and then pull the bar down to your chest. This can be applied to the back row also. Retract the shoulders and then pull (retraction trains another part of the shoulder muscles). STRETCH: Pectorals, biceps STRENGTHEN: Scap stabilizers: serratus, mid-traps  

Hopefully, having these visuals will help you spot postural distortions when they are present. Remember, just because pain is not evident during lifting, doesn't necessarily mean that something is brewing underneath to veer its ugly head someday.

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