I'm sure you've had someone try to fix your posture. But did they tell you that bad posture—specifically a forward head tilt—can actually hurt your athletic performance.
Although posture seems like a small part of athletic training, it can have serious implications if you ignore it. A forward head tilt can cause your skill mechanics to break down, leading to potential neck, shoulder, back and elbow pain, or more severe injuries. (Try these exercises to prevent back pain.)
When you look at your entire body to make sure it is ready for competition, don't be afraid to put your back literally up against a wall to correct your posture. Be ready for the challenge.
How to assess your forward head posture
- Stand with your head, shoulder blades and hips against a wall with your heels about six inches away.
- Have a teammate use their fingers to determine how many fingers can be placed between the back of your neck and the wall.
- If your partner can fit more than three fingers, your neck will be about two inches away from the wall and you likely have a forward head posture.
How to minimize forward head posture
Consult your sports medicine team, athletic trainer, or physical therapist for a more specific program design.
- When working at a computer, position the monitor so that the top third of the screen is level with your eyes and between 18 and 24 inches away from your face. The exact distance depends on the size of the screen; the larger the screen, the further away it should be placed.
- When sitting, always sit up straight and maintain a curve in your lower back. Try to find chairs that have some amount of built-in low-back support. Keeping the low back (a.k.a. the lumbar spine) in proper alignment will keep your head from drifting forward. (Learn how to reduce low-back pain.)
- Remove extra pillows from under your head at night. One is enough. Since we spend about a third of our lives sleeping, it's important not to reinforce bad alignment during this time.
Exercises forward head posture correction
Do both of these exercises for two minutes each hour you are awake. Perform ten reps each time. Remember, the posture you have now took years to develop, so it will take time and practice to restore good posture.
- Stand or sit as straight as possible with proper spine alignment.
- Ask a teammate, coach or trainer for feedback so you are consistently in a good position prior to and during this exercise.
- Using your neck muscles, pull your head back until your ears are over your shoulders, as if some someone were pushing your nose toward the back of your head.
- Keep your eyes level. Try not to move your head up or down, but let it glide back. Hold for five seconds.
- Return to the start position and repeat for the specified reps and time.
Chin Tuck in Supine Position
- Lie on your back with nothing behind your head.
- Nod your head by brining your chin closer to your chest without lifting the back of your head off the floor. Hold for five seconds.
- Return to the start position and repeat for specified reps and time.
Watch this video from SMARTER Team Training for more info on forward head posture.
Editor's Note: Coach Taylor has developed the SMARTER Team Training Audio Interview Series, dedicated to promoting critical thinking, reason and public understanding of prudent, purposeful and productive strength and conditioning practices for clients and athletes. Listen to episodes featuring some of the best experts in the fields of strength and conditioning, personal training, sports nutrition and sport psychology here.