Solving the Posture Problem; Part one

by pilates32 on February 17, 2011

[dropcap1]A[/dropcap1]lthough figures show that 80% of us will suffer from back pain, in particular lower back pain at some point in our lives, for me, I would at like to attempt to remain within the cautious and educated 20% (at least from now on). So in my opinion, protecting your back and building a body that is injury free, balanced and efficient is just as important as looking great and keeping a low body fat percentage. Fitness professionals owe it to their clients to ensure posture correction and prevent muscle imbalances, whilst helping them reach their ideal size and shape. But for those a little less rich and famous who can’t afford a personal trainer four times a week, these series of blogs is going to help you take control of your posture and alignment of limbs, to ensure you greatest success. And whenever we are dealing with issues of posture, Pilates is always thrown into the mix of exercises, whether it’s identified as Pilates or not; it’s in the equation.

Stability or Mobility? Backwards or forwards?

It is important to understand the role that each part of the spine provides to the rest of the body. Divided into four main sections, Cervical (7 vertebrae), Thoracic (12), Lumbar (5) and sacrum (4-5 fused), each component works differently. Most of the movement which occurs during Pilates exercises originates from the Thoracic spine, a majority of which is flexion, extension or rotation. Although the Lumbar spine contributes to flexion and extension movements, it is responsible for much of the stability needed for the body and the core as a whole. What does this all mean? The spine is designed for more than just bending in one direction, because in our many attempts to get a six pack, all we do is bend, bend , bend. Modern fitness crazes continue to force the spine into flexion through the various methods of crunches and sit-ups, pulling the spine out of neutral and causing detrimental effects to our posture. Performing thousands of crunches will result in tight abdominals, weak back extensors in the lower back and most of all weak deep core muscles, (such as the transverse abdominus and multifidus) and weak levels of stability around the spine as a whole. So stop all these sit-ups and crunches! They are detrimental. Use Pilates instead and feel the difference immediately (sorry to plug the product so obviously).

So let’s correct you Posture

Firstly, we need to assess your posture. Be aware that posture, neutral spine and that which is optimal is going to be different and individual for every person. “Perfection is not necessarily attainable, but if we strive for perfection we obtain excellence!” So wouldn’t you like to live and feel excellent? To assess your own posture, follow the steps of this simple exercise:
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  • Stand with your back up to a wall with your feet about 12 inches away.
  • Make 3 points of contact on the wall with your tailbone, the upper back between the shoulder blades, and the back of the head.
  • If you have to tilt your head backward to make contact with the wall, bring it away from the wall to make the head level.
  • To assess the lower back curve, slide one hand along the wall behind the back. An optimal lumbar curve should allow you to slide your hand behind your back to about the knuckles.
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    Whilst performing this neutral spine test, if your head doesn’t make contact with the wall, you have characteristics of a forward head, and show signs of kyphosis or sway back posture. If your hand slides behind your lower back further then your knuckles then your thoracic curve is increased. If there isn’t much room there you are more likely to have a flatter back. Whatever the results here, do not worry, implementing a range of Pilates exercises will soon bring your posture back into optimal alignment.

    In the next part this blog I will address different types of posture and how to correct them. If you are looking to improve core strength and correct posture, download Injury and Pain free back as a detailed guide and introduction to Pilates. The feedback from the series has been tremendous and many people are using it as an opportunity to improve weaknesses and mend any injuries they may have. Also; remember to subscribe to the Pilates32 newsletter and enjoy all the benefits it has to offer.


    Author: Ian Harris

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