Rolandas Malinausakas, a personal training expert and bodybuilding champion (featured on BBC) shares his knowledge on the importance, effects, types and corrections for postural issues. To get in touch with him, find his contact details at the end of this post.
The basics: What you need to know about posture
Weight training increases physical performance. It also requires a high level of body performance. This is needed to be able to train for harder, longer and avoid serious injuries that may occur at the gym.
Depending on how you train or who you train with and what you have learnt up to now; you may or may not be aware of how important having the right posture really is. It's not so unusual for some people to be relatively unaware of the negative effects that a poor posture can have on their bodies. Apart from the long-term health issues and setbacks, bad posture can soon destroy the progression of your weight training endeavors.
What is posture?
Can you picture a powerful athlete? How does he look? How does he walk and move? What about how he sits? Think of how he positions his shoulders and neck. What about his chest? Does his body seem fluid and balanced - as well as sleek and powerful? If you can answer yes to these questions, the athlete that you are visualizing most likely has a good posture.
Posture is the way that your body acts, holds itself, and moves when in motion. It is an expression of the apparent physical composition of your body and the actions of your muscles in different positions such as lifting, running, sitting, standing up and walking.
How do muscles work?
Muscles are very important tissues that are vital to our daily function and ability to do tasks. They are not only responsible for the strength of our bodies but also regulate body movements through controlling the skeleton. They allow us to keep our bodies fixed in certain positions as and when we need to do so.
According to signals sent from the brain to our muscles, they act as rigid or flexible structures which enable us to perform daily activities and exercise rapidly with highly coordinated movements.
How do most postural issues arise?
In children and teenagers, muscles depend on the sympathetic and parasympathetic nerve signals sent from the brain. However, busy parents often don't know a lot about good posture and the negative effects that a bad posture can have on health. As a result, they don't teach their children about the importance of a healthy posture, or don't notice when things start to go astray.
With age, certain deformities can occur in bone mass because of long term bad posture. Muscles still respond to brain signals but in consideration to these bone deviations. Imbalance will therefore occur in the muscles. Some are strengthened while others are weakened. Naturally, the more you push your body; the more exaggerated these issues can become. This means that those of us who are into weight training (or any type of physical training) have on one hand a great chance to have a strong and fit body but on the other hand can have a body that is compensating for postural issues instead of improving overall posture. This can be disastrous over time.
So in order to avoid all potentially harmful postural issues and train successfully, let's check out some of the most common ones, and touch on how they can be corrected with weight training.
Medically, kyphosis exhibits the following symptoms:
- The head being in a forward position
- The back being exaggeratedly rounded
- The shoulder internally rotating forward
- The upper back (thoracic vertebrae) being rounded or hunched.
It may even be caused by some tumors, congenital spinal deformities or arthritis. You must seek a medical help immediately in these cases.
Kyphosis can also be a common and severe problem which accompanies weight training because of the poor lifting postures. It mostly arises from an imbalance between the chest and back muscles.
Do you have kyphosis?
Here's how to find out if you possibly have kyphosis:
Look at the mirror. Stand in front of it and hold yourself naturally. Look at your chest. Do you see it curved forward? Now let's check your hands. Can you see the back of them? If you say yes, you may have kyphosis.
These are the effects that kyphosis can have on weight training.
- It decreases your physical performance of certain muscle groups.
- It also decreases your ability to exercise in general.
- It makes you feel tired quickly (since some muscles are naturally absorbing a higher workload than others).
- It increases the risk of injuries during weight lifting (as form is almost always compromised as a result).
- It causes shoulder pain and chronic back pain in the vertebral column.
- It causes muscle stiffness - especially in the neck and hip.
- It affects the digestive system negatively. The upper parts of your body can press on the abdomen, which makes your stomach and intestine unable able to work as well as it should.
- It causes difficulty in breathing and inefficient respiration, since shoulders and head press on the thoracic region and prevent lungs from expanding. As a result, your physical performance decreases. If you have had this problem for a while, you might not even notice the effects of physical performance anymore.
- It causes poor blood circulation, which makes you less active.
- Almost all of your movements will be negatively affected, such as the squat, dead lift, bench press and pull up.
How to correct kyphosis
The exercises can help to correct kyphosis are the ones that pull the shoulder blades toward each other and extend the neck.
Examples of these exercises are:
- Seated rows in a gym (or pull-ups)
- Chest stretches
Lordosis is also a common complaint that arises from extensive weight training, which depends on sitting for a long time. It also arises during pregnancy. Lordosis means that the vertebrae at your bottom tends to stick out and you have an exaggerated inward curve in the lower back - creating posture which is commonly called "Donald Duck".
Lordosis has the following manifestations:
Tight hamstrings - you will have mild to severe contraction in your hamstring muscles. Your muscles won't be as flexible as normal muscles should be. As a result, you won't be able to exercise well and the risk of injury will increase.
Lower back pain
You will experience a significant decrease in physical efficiency during exercise because you won't be able to use the gluts (which are the strongest muscles in your body).
You will only use the lower back and hamstrings, which are not efficient enough to lift the weight. That also increases the risk of injuries.
Do you have lordosis?
Do you have a frequent lower back pain which increases when standing for extended periods? Does it decrease when sitting? Do you feel a general contraction or tightening in your hamstrings when playing sports or exercising? Stand aside in front of the mirror and look at your buttocks. Do they stick out? Your abdomen protrudes, doesn't it? If so, you might have Lordosis.
Exercises that help to alleviate lordosis
These are exercises which can help you strengthen the glutes and hamstring muscles:
- Core exercises (like planks)
- Bridges (which strengthen both glutes and hamstrings)
- Single leg hamstring flexion with ball (to strengthen hamstrings and glutes)
- And: don't forget to sit less often. This can make the muscles even lazier.
Other exercises which relieve pain arising from severe tightening (or contraction) of the hip are the following stretches:
- Standing quad stretch
- Kneeling quad and hip stretch
Squats also help to improve the strength of the hamstrings and glutes. Just make sure that you use the right from.
It also is common case in which the vertebral column laterally deviates (toward the side). It causes one shoulder to be slightly lower or higher than the other one. This can greatly affect weight training negatively. If you do traditional weight training frequently, muscle asymmetry (imbalance) will be a strong possibility and the severity of scoliosis will significantly increase. You also will be at higher risk of injuries during lifting heavy weights because of the imbalance in your muscles.
Exercises to help correct scoliosis
It is preferred to do your traditional exercises but with lighter weights and more reps.
Don't worry about dropping the weight for now - higher reps can still build a lot of muscle.
Adjust your shoulders manually before lifting and keep them balanced.
Apart from implementing these exercises with absolute balance, as we all know when our body feels good, we feel good. In a way, your posture is a mirror which reflects your thoughts and presence. Think about the first impression of a person who enters a room slouching. You may perceive this person to lack energy, be lazy or feel unwell in some way or another.
Your body and your thoughts are directly proportional to each other (or are at least or perceived to be so by everyone around you). One of these things can improve the other one. Think about positive things, be self-confident, become motivated and hopeful, know more about body language, and you will see good results.
Be sure to correct any postural issues before training more and keep well aware of your posture. This way you can continue to lift harder and become stronger and build muscle.
More about Rolandas
Rolandas Malinausakas is a fully qualified, highly experienced London personal trainer (PT) and a British Natural Bodybuilding Vice-Champion.
The BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) chose Rolandas as an expert voice in 2015; in a documentary investigation about the dangers of anabolic steroids. Rolandas brings a wealth of experience and in-depth knowledge to his work and he loves helping his clients to achieve the bodies that they desire.
If you wish to work with a great personal trainer, be sure to contact Rolandas for a free consultation at http://www.personaltraining4u.net
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