Fix Bad Posture and Increase Athletic Performance

STACK Expert Stephen Gamma explains how posture provides information for athletic movement assessment—and offers a case study.

Strength coaches and personal trainers constantly evaluate training sessions in the weight room and athletic performance on the field. We strive to see our athletes achieve explosive power and speed while maintaining constant control of their bodies. When they fall short, we often overlook one key component: posture.

By simply observing the way an athlete sits and stands, you can gather an incredible amount of information to assess movement quality. But how should you assess posture, and what sort of corrective exercises should you prescribe to correct it? Simple observation and palpation skills (a method of using the hands to feel muscle tissue, bones, etc. during a physical exam) are not reliable.

My approach is to compare quantitative data with previously established values or "cut-off points" for the general population in the Functional Movement Screen. This reduces personal bias and improves reliability.

Case Study

Simple Movements for Advanced Training

Subject: 25-year old professional baseball catcher; no current injuries.

Competitive Level: Independent League

Complaints: Player felt a decrease in flexibility and strength during the season. It became difficult to run as fast and move behind the plate, and he noticed a decreased in swing power.

Testing Methods: Acquired baseline information using the Functional Movement Screen. Next, I ran the athlete through a postural assessment, performing a series of stretches accordingly. Then he was re-tested with the Functional Movement Screen as a post-test.

Results: Pre-test results from the Functional Movement Screen were 12/21*: The postural assessment illustrated, among other areas, an anterior innominate rotation (forwardly rotated pelvis) on the right side; cervical (neck) flexion; rounded shoulders; and reduced thoracic extension. Post-stretching treatment resulted in a post-test Functional Movement Screen of 16/21. Most notably, there was an improvement in pelvic control during the trunk stability Push-Up, and the athlete was able to maintain the inline lunge within the sagittal plane.

*Researchers have established a general cut-off score of 14 for a Functional Movement Screen. Those who score below 14 are four times as likely to suffer a non-contact injury.

Here is what the movement preparation exercises might look like:

  • Foam Rolling: Full body, 5-8 minutes (tissue maintenance and improved blood flow)
  • Hurdle Walks: Forward and Reverse (hip mobility)
  • Trunk Twist and Arm Raise: Try these two movements by reaching and twisting to the side of least resistance for 3 sets of 30 seconds.

RELATED: Trunk Twist and Arm Raise for Improved Flexibility

From these results, we can safely assume that if our athletes are in optimal position before we load them with weight, the quality of their movement will improve and so may their performance.

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock