How Bad Posture Affects Health and Performance
April 30, 2013 | Joey Greany
Does your job or your lifestyle cause you to sit for long periods of time? Do you have neck or low back pain? If so, chances are a contributing cause is poor posture. (Learn how to fix forward head posture.)
Humans are designed to be on their feet working and gathering food—not to sit at a desk all day. When we sit for long periods of time, some of our muscles may tighten and others may become dormant or inactive. When this occurs, we might experience joint impingement, dull aches and pains and a decrease in strength and power, because our skeletal structure is pulled out of line.
Poor posture also alters the neuromuscular system. It automatically selects overactive, tight muscles to produce movement, a process called reciprocal inhibition and synergistic dominance. For example, when sitting at your desk, your hip flexor (psoas) muscles may become tight. Neural activity in your gluteus maximus decreases, and other smaller muscles, such as the hamstrings or low back muscles, must compensate.
Once this alteration occurs, it starts a never-ending injury cycle. Altered joint mechanics result in faulty movement patterns, which leads to an injury and a potential trip to the ER.
How to Fix Problems From Bad Posture
First, identify the problem area. Is it your neck, low back, hip, shoulder or knee? Since the body works together as one unit to produce force, reduce force and dynamically stabilize in all planes of motion, it may be harder than you think to identify. For example, you may have shoulder pain, but the cause might be at your ankle. Or a lack of strength in your posterior stabilizer muscles might be the culprit. You can see how this can become tricky.
Identifying the problem area is obviously ideal, but the best thing you can do to prevent it from happening is to be proactive with your training. Follow these guidelines to fix or prevent bad posture.
- Stretch and foam roll daily
- Move more throughout the day; get up and walk around for a few minutes every hour
- Select exercises that work multiple muscles and joints, such as Planks, Bridges, RDLs, Kettlebell Swings, Rows and Pull-Ups
- Limit machine exercises to two per workout
- Work the muscles that you cannot see when looking in the mirror, such as your back, hamstrings and glutes