Enjoy this post by guest writer Brian Waller. Brian is a Rehab Specialist – Skinner Chiropractic, Regional Director – ID Life, an Athlete Development Specialist for CheerBandz. He is a USASF L5 Certified Tumble Coach, has a Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology. Brian has held a Personal Trainer Certification through the American Council on Exercise. He competed as a Division 1 Cheerleader in college and devotes his spare time to mountain biking and running Marathons.
In this post, Brian pumps the brakes a little on how an athlete develops appropriately from the core and explains how posture is one of the most overlooked pieces of our athletic training. In conclusion, see his 3 tips for strengthening posture.
The Real Foundation for Athletic Success
Naudi Aguilar makes a great point; “If you can’t even stand with good symmetry, what business do you have exercising at all?” Raise your hand if you are conscious of your posture throughout the entire day. I know I forget at times. Think about people you know or people you don’t. I encourage you to observe the way they walk, stand and move about. You will begin to realize most all people have poor posture and it will actually make you more aware of your own.
I’ll stop assuming you know what good posture is and explain it…
Have you ever seen a movie where the main character (typically an adolescent) had books on top of their head while walking? This is what most people consider when referring to good posture. This is correct to a small degree; however there is much more to this than one would think. Good posture results when the muscles of the body align properly, allowing for efficient movement. When your body’s muscles and joints are balanced and supported properly, you’re better able to perform everyday activities. For instance, squatting to pick up laundry or running down a flight of stairs efficiently.
When you are poorly aligned, the joints in your body do not fit together as they should. Over time this will begin to start a process of deconstruction. You will begin to have some muscles work harder than others to support the bad posture. Eventually the muscles that are overworking will become tense and the other muscles that are not doing their job will weaken. In return, you will begin to have asymmetries (muscle imbalances) throughout the problematic areas. As posture deteriorates further, you develop restricted movements in your joints and the muscle imbalances begin to place greater stress on the joints. Your body is now compensating because of this. If you allow your posture to continue on this downward spiral, pain will occur as well as stiffness and your mobility will suffer throughout your body. You can improve your posture and get out of pain as long as you fix these imbalances.
Let us begin with the correct position for your head. As you think about your head positioning begin to imagine you are a puppet on strings. The puppeteer is pulling the string up that is connected to the top of your head which would make you elongate your spine. One of my favorite sayings for this is; “think tall, be tall.” The top of your head should be extending upwards toward the ceiling.
Next think about your shoulders. The majority of people let their shoulders relax which cause them to drop down and in most cases slightly forward. The correct shoulder position would be to slightly lift them as well as draw them back. The idea here is to retract the shoulder blades just a bit, basically bringing them a bit closer together.
It is now time to correct the core. The first step is to engage your core. This does not mean flex your abs so hard that you’re ready to take a punch to the gut from a UFC athlete. The idea is to pull your belly button towards your spine, not by sucking in, by using your stomach muscles to pull it back. Now that your core is engaged we need to fix your hips.
Your hips are the one of the main things that gets out of place or lazy if you will. Place your hands on your hip bones. Imagine that you’re holding a bowl of water and you are trying to not spill the water. You will more than likely feel your bowl of water (hips) spilling forward. Correct this position by pulling your tailbone forward like you are tucking it under. Think that you are putting your belly button and tail bone in a straight line to achieve this position.
These are the basics of creating and owning good posture. The hard part is remembering to stay physically aware of your posture at all times.
I know tons of people that constantly complain of some sort of ache or pain, me included. If people spent more time focused on improving their posture first, rather than throwing weights around at the gym or doing back handsprings across the spring floor, they would be a lot better off. Seriously, why would you add a work load if you can’t even engage your core properly? It is not wise to stress the body if it isn’t prepared to handle the work load. In cheerleading the core is THE most essential part of the body. If your core is not rock solid you will find that improving your skills will be much harder. Put two cheerletes side by side with the same skill level. One has a strong core and the other does not. Let’s see who improves at a faster rate with their skills. I guarantee the cheerlete with the stronger core will outperform the other every time.
Before I go on a rant about the importance of core strengthening, let’s take a step back and talk once more about posture. How old are you, right now as you read this? That is (X) amount of years that you have been walking around with bad posture. You have been putting your body in a stressful situation for a long time now, huh? All those years begin to add up, maybe an injury will result, or maybe you are one of the lucky ones who have remained injury free. If you continue down your path of incorrect posture eventually the day will come when you will cause an injury. It could be minor or it could sideline you for life….
Every day is a gift. What do you do when you get a brand new gift that you love? We will act like the gift is a brand new car. You are going to treat it like it is the center of your universe at first. You will wash and clean it, change the oil regularly, rotate the tires and everything else that needs to be done to keep it in tip top shape. But, eventually the newness wears off and you begin to care less. This is when the fancy new car begins to transform into a clunker. You have to treat your body like it is a brand new gift. I’m not saying that it will make you live longer, but your years here on this planet will be much more enjoyable if you do.
I’m just speculating, but a gym membership costs about $35. A personal trainer costs around $50 a session. Your health insurance costs several hundred dollars a month. But, you know what is free? Your posture is free. Christopher Fry once stated; “Life is a hypocrite if I can’t live the way it moves me.” Also, when you walk around with good posture it makes you look more confident and composed. Make the change and I promise you will be better for it.
Be one with your body and own it, do not conform to the norm you see at the gym. YOU DO YOU… and that is it!
Here are 3 tips that can help you improve and be more mindful of your posture:
- KNEELING WITH LEVEL PELVIS –
- Kneel down onto one leg. Your knee should be directly below you and in line with your spine. Your foot on the down leg should be directly in line with your knee. The leg that will be out front should almost be in a straight line with your down leg, just slightly to the outside of it. Your foot on the forward leg, the ankle should be directly below the knee. Do you recall how to level the pelvis? Remember the bowl of water mentioned earlier? Level the pelvis from front to back then we want to concentrate on leveling it from side to side. The hip that is higher the majority of the time is the one on the side that your leg is out front. You want to correct this by pushing that hip straight down until you feel your hands at an even level on each side. Finally, you want to imagine trying to be very light on the front foot. Hold your posture and shift your weight back so that your front leg is not supporting any, be as light as possible on the front foot. Make sure you maintain your correct posture with your hips. If you are doing the movement correctly your leg that you are kneeling on will be burning like crazy. Hold for about 15-30 seconds and repeat 2-3 times.
- CAN YOU EVEN PLANK BRO? –
- We are going to take your plank to a whole new level. Here is the kicker, you need some sort of stick or dowel rod to lie on your back. It needs to be long enough that it can run the length of your body from the back of your head to your tailbone. Set up for your plank position (bows and toes) by placing your forearms on the ground with your elbows just slightly behind your shoulders and your feet should be together and flexed in towards your knees so that you are on your toes only. The stick is on your back so that you can correct your posture while you are planking. You want the back of your head, the part of your back in between your shoulder blades and your low back and tailbone all touching the stick/rod. This is how you achieve a perfect plank position. Keep in mind that you need to pull that belly button towards your spine and tuck the tail bone under. The rest of it you will have to shift around your body until you figure out the position you need to be in to keep the stick/rod centered and in line with your spine.
- “ABS ARE THE BEDROCK TO A WARRIOR” –Marcus Luttrell
- Your core is the first step in muscular strengthening to correct your posture. The core is made up of more than just your abdominals. The core consists of the rectus abdominis, the deeper transverse abdominis below them, lower back, obliques and hips. Draw into your exercise arsenal related to these areas and they will surely help improve your posture. Make sure to hit all these areas and keep in mind the core should be the strongest part of your body, not body builder strong, but able to provide support when stress is placed upon it.
What do you do to keep your posture strong? Is this something you think about often or something you are not concerned about?