How important is posture when exercising?

Posture and back pain

How important is posture when exercising?

It may not always be obvious but good posture is one of the most important issues when it comes to the functioning of your body as you age. Without practicing good posture throughout your earlier years your back will bend forward giving you a hunchback in the worst cases and putting pressure on your organs, your shoulders will round forward making your head droop and creates a restriction in the chest cage making it impossible to fill the lungs completely with air. Lastly your pelvis will either rotate forward or backward making walking and sitting up straight a burden and giving your extreme back pain.

Practicing good posture is not only for future benefits but having good posture makes one feel energetic. The reason for this is because when your body is not in good posture your muscles has to work harder to keep your trunk erect. The same goes for exercise – you can exert much more power, lift heavier and prevent injury when you have a good posture. Studies have also confirmed that having good posture is directly linked to feeling more confident, and again this is linked to feeling good and young because it’s easy to move around.

Do I have bad posture? How would I know?

To find out if you have bad posture you can do the wall test. Stand with your back against a wall as you would normally stand up straight. You will have good posture when your heels, back of your calves, upper back and head comfortably touch the wall. When you have to strain to do this then you possibly have deviations in your posture.

Another test you can do which would be more accurate and tell you a bit more is the string test. Tape a piece of string to the ceiling and let it hang down until it almost touches the floor. You can put a small weight at the end of the string to keep it straight. Stand next to the string aligning your shoulder next to the string and have someone take a photo. To have good posture the string should “slice” your body with a line running through your ear, down the middle of your shoulder, middle of your pelvis, knees and feet. You can use the same string test to perform a frontal test and see if your body is swaying to one side or the other.

What can I do to correct my posture?

In order to correct your posture you first have to find out what posture you currently have. There are basically 4 posture deviations. If you look at the picture down below we can see the first 3 which has to do with your side view. The 4th deviation is not listed in the picture however this is when one side of your body is skew when looking from the front.

Posture deviations

Posture A in the picture is good posture and the one which we need to aim for.  Now carefully look at your photo you took during the string test. And try and place yourself within one of these pictures. 

As you will notice when you have bad posture you will either have pelvis that is pushed a bit forward and the upper back rounded (Picture B) and your stomach is pushed a bit out. This posture has your natural lower spine curved pushed even more to curve more and puts a lot of pressure on your lower spine, your shoulders will also be rounded. To correct this posture you will need to strengthen your abdominal muscles and your lower back muscles.

How important is posture when exercising?

When you have a posture as in picture C your spine is pushed back creating a flat back appearance. To correct this posture deviation your will need to stretch your upper abdominals and hamstrings since they are pulling your spine straight. You also need to strengthen your lower back muscles and your quadriceps to reverse the pull and stabilize your posture.

Having a posture as pictured in picture D means that both your abdominal and quadriceps and tight pulling your pelvis forward. To correct this posture you will need to strengthen your hamstrings and oblique abdominals.

When you are not sure as to what exact posture problem you have you can almost correct any posture by making sure your stretch and strengthen all your muscles. Most people make the problem of not stretching and this is when posture problems start. Do not wait until you are older to start correcting these problems – best start today.

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