Preventing Postural Distortions
In my last blog post, I talked about how postural distortions affect your movement and ultimately, your fitness goals. To prevent the forward head, rounding of the shoulders postural distortion that many of us experience due to sitting in front of the computer 24/7, I’m going to share with you different types of stretching and 5 exercises that you can easily do at home without weights, to ensure more perfect posture. I’m also adding in one weighted exercise that might be easier to do at the gym if you don’t have access to bands at home. And away I go!
Let’s start our short workout with some stretching. Did you know there are three different types of flexibility training? Well there are! And they can all be used together or separately during your workout.
Corrective flexibility is specifically designed to improve muscle imbalances. It includes self-myofascial release (foam rolling) as well as static stretching. Static stretching is performed by holding a stretch for a minimum of 20 seconds. This will allow your muscle to relax and elongate. You might want to do a light warm up by walking, elliptical training, biking or just moving the body through different ranges of motion for a few minutes before doing static stretching to get the blood flowing, but it’s not necessary. You can also do your foam rolling first and then move into static stretching.
Active flexibility is designed to improve the extensibility of soft tissue and increase the efficiency of your body movement. Unlike static stretching, where you hold a stretch, active stretching requires you to move through ranges of motion. For example, if you are bending down to touch your toes, bend your legs for a count of 2 and then straighten for a count of 2. Repeat that 5-10 times. The result here is that you are actively stretching and lengthening your muscles.
Functional Flexibility uses dynamic stretching to take your joints through a full range of motion. Examples include push-ups with rotation, squats, and tube walking. This type of stretching is ideal for a pre-activity warm-up (i.e. if you are going for a jog in the park, do this type of stretching first).
You can create an entire flexibility workout that incorporates all three types of stretching but for the purposes of this blog post, I would suggest focusing on corrective flexibility and foam roll to begin. The foam rolling link above provides you with an excellent array of stretches you can use, thanks to NASM, my certification program.
Now that you’ve done some foam rolling, let’s move into our workout.
1) Plank You’ve probably performed it at least once in your life. But are you performing it properly? Here are some things to make sure you’re doing to properly execute a perfect plank.
a) Don’t let your hips sag down towards the floor (look in a mirror to make sure).
b) Pull your belly button in tight, away from the waistband of your pants.
c) Squeeze every muscle in your body. That’s right every muscle in your body. That means you’re pinching a penny with your glutes (butt), pulling your quads (front of your thighs) up high, calves tight, and adductors (inner thighs) together.
The plank is the ultimate total body exercise, focusing on your core, which is the powerhouse of proper posture. Hold for 30-60 seconds, or as long as you can properly execute the exercise with good form.
2) Bird-Dog or Opposite Arm-Opposite Leg
Start on all fours, bringing your wrists directly beneath your shoulders. Pull your belly button up and away from the waistband of your pants. Lift your right arm and left leg at the same time. Hold for a count of 5 and then switch sides. Perform 16-20 reps total. Make sure that you aren’t letting the hip of the leg that is working shift up towards the ceiling and keep it in line with the other hip. The only body parts that are moving during the execution of this exercise are your arm coming up to your ear and your leg extending straight back. Also, make sure that your shoulder doesn’t hike up to your ear as the arm raises. Release any unnecessary tension and focus the work on the body parts that are moving.
Lying on your belly, start with your feet together, and arms about shoulder width apart (or a bit wider as as pictured). Lift your legs straight up (no bend at the knee), using your glutes, and your arms at the same time. Make sure that you aren’t yanking your head up out of alignment of your spine. You can make sure you aren’t doing this by keeping your gaze towards the floor. Hold for a count of three and then release. Perform 12-20 reps.
4) Bicycle Crunches:
Random piece of trivia: I once read that the bicycle exercise is the number one choice of firemen for an ab workout. I’m on board!
In this picture you see that this woman’s right leg is at about a 45 degree angle. The closer you bring that leg to the floor, the more work you’ll be doing for your lower abs. However, if you feel an uncomfortable pull in your lower back, bring that leg back up to where you see it in this picture. Otherwise, you’re straining your lower back and not engaging your abs properly. Do about 30 seconds of this exercise, crunching from side to side.
5) Lat Pull Down
If you have access to a gym, a great exercise to strengthen your back to combat that rounded shoulders/forward head postural distortion, is the lat pull down. You can also do this at home if you have some bands that you can attach to a door frame.
Things to make sure of before you start: Keep your feet parallel to one another, secure both feet flat on the ground (don’t let your heels come up), pull your belly button in and away from the waist band of your pants, and don’t arch your back!
To execute the exercise, pull the bar down to the top of your chest while squeezing your shoulder blades together. Your chest can puff out a bit. Perform 12-15 reps.
*Important note: NEVER pull the bar behind your head. You can get a severe neck injury performing the exercise this way.
Perform these exercises in a circuit 2-3 times, or incorporate a few (or all) of them into your workout for the day. You’re on your way to a more perfect posture!