Let’s address the elephant in the room.
Can we do anything about poor posture?
Is it possible to fix?
If you want to skip the nerd section – short answer is yes.
We will start with some facts.
“It takes 500 hours to invoke a motor pattern before it becomes unconscious. It takes 25-30 thousand reps to break a bad motor pattern. So once you ingrain something into the central nervous system it’s there forever.”
I’m going to be a bit more optimistic and say that the motor pattern will not be there “forever”, BUT that doesn’t mean that fixing your posture will be easy.
It will take consistency and commitment.
It will take a very well thought out plan of attack using all of the wisdom that modern research and science have provided us to get the result we desired.
Doing ineffective drills inconsistently just will not cut it.
We need to do the best exercises, with the best technique possible, on a consistent, daily basis until we have reached our desired result.
We are not only trying to break old motor patterns but learn new ones at the same time.
With that out of the way: let’s briefly review the article I linked you to the other day; and see how we can improve upon the recommendations that were made.
You can check that article out here in case you missed it è http://www.collective-evolution.com/2014/07/07/6-bad-postures-that-are-ruining-your-health-and-how-to-correct-them/
To begin with; the recommendations listed for fixing the posture issues are listed from head to foot.
Basically if I were reading the above article and just learning about posture and how to fix it I would assume you would do the exercises in the order that they are listed.
Head to foot….
Or just do the specific drills that you feel pertain the most to you.
That is fine and dandy except for one thing.
We need to remember that the body does not move in individual parts.
It moves as a whole.
If we mess with one part of the body then it will alter another part of the body.
This is called the kinetic chain.
It is a very basic and widely undisputed scientific principle.
The body moves as a unit.
However; instead of picturing an actual chain what I want you to think about is a rock splashing into a pond.
When the rock hits the pond it produces a ripple effect. This is much the way the kinetic chain in our body actually works.
Our hip muscles in the center of our body are much, much larger and stronger than the muscles near the edge of our bodies such as our neck, ankles, and wrists.
They are the engine that drives everything.
If we treat our body like an actual chain and target issues at the distal points then the large; medial muscles (your glutes) will just be too strong and continue to over-power all of our hard work and effort.
Kind of like in Captain America the 1st Avenger where they needed to “cut the head off of the Snake”.
The Captain could kill, maim, kick in the ass foot soldiers till 2014 but they just seem to keep coming.
However, by taking out the main culprit – the Red Skull – he effectively ended World War II.
At least that’s the way Marvel Comics says it happened.
Instead we can skip to the center of the body and fix the anterior pelvic tilt and this will have a “ripple effect” that will make it a whole lot easier to fix the forward head posture, duck feet, and pigeon toes later on down the line.
Ok so now that we have established where to start let’s discuss the methods that we should use.
For Anterior Pelvic Tilt the article states:
“the problem : Tight hip flexors.
The fix: Kneel on your left knee, with your right foot on the floor in front of you, knee bent. Press forward until you feel the stretch in your left hip. Tighten your butt muscles on your left side until you feel the front of your hip stretching comfortably. Reach upward with your left arm and stretch to the right side. Hold for a count of 30 seconds. That’s one repetition; do three on each side.”
While that is a simplified view as we have mentioned the entire body is connected and we cannot isolate one issue to being caused by one thing….I’ll roll with it.Ind
So what exactly are “hip flexors”?
The “hip flexors” are a group of muscles consisting of the iliopsoas, rectus femoris, and Tensor Fascia Latae.
They basically make your knee go up.
What I want you to take away from the image is that while the TFL and Iliopsoas are connected to the hip the Rectus Femoris crosses both the hip AND the knee.
It is also the largest of the “Hip Flexor” group.
As we mentioned earlier we want to target bigger muscles 1st (cut the head off of the snake if you will).
If we don’t they will continue to overpower the smaller muscles within the muscle complex.
Initiating a stretch that does not include knee flexion will not in fact be stretching the largest muscle of the hip flexor group.
The exercise will be dramatically less effective.
The odds are stacked against us so we need the most effective exercises possible – anything less just isn’t going to cut it.
Additionally the author suggests that we reach our hand into the air and bend to the side to increase the stretch.
Anatomically speaking this is a fine suggestion – it will increase the stretch.
However; this is where time in the field comes into play.
Experience vs. Education.
In my experience when a client comes in with severe anterior pelvic tilt and the associated tightness of their hip flexors they are also prime suspects for lower back pain as well.
When the client reaches up over their head to increase the stretch it is usually not a matter of “if” but a matter of “when” they tweak their back.
They do still have old motor patterns and poor posture after all.
Their body doesn’t know “how” to achieve movement through the hip (They are office workers not athletes/trainers).
They almost always achieve the desired range of motion through their lumbar region. If you have been following my blogs this long then you should know by now that is bad news bears.
If you haven’t been following along the please refer to this previous blog post.
If we want to improve our posture the best use of our time will be to start by targeting the muscle groups at the center of the body and then work our way up or down the kinetic chain to muscle groups further from the center of the body.
The medial muscles are bigger and are the engine that drives the rest of our overall kinetic chain.
The same rationale also implies that we will do best by targeting the largest individual muscles within the muscle group.
In this case the Rectus Femoris.
We will also want to avoid excessive flexion, extension, and rotation of the lumbar region during any and all movements.
Finally, we will need to go through these drills daily until our posture is improved and then continue to do them so as not to regress back into those faulty movement patterns.
Well that was long winded way to get to the point…..but I feel it is always necessary to understand the “Why” behind the “What”.
Here is the exercise that the author suggested that you do:
Here is a simpler, safer, and dramatically MORE effective version.
By following my suggestions we:
A) Start at the center of the body and “Cut the head off of the Snake” before taking care of any other issues
B) Stretch both the hip and the knee so that we can target the largest; strongest; most overactive hip flexor of them all – the Rectus Femoris
C) Can move our lumbar into slight flexion and avoid the sway back; twisting motion that results in slipped discs, pinched nerves, and other things of the like
D) Can easily be progressed or regressed by changing the resistance of the band of choice
While at first glance many exercises can look similar; often times there are vast differences in both their effectiveness and chance for causing more harm than good.
You get an accountant to do your taxes.
You get a mechanic to change your oil.
You should get a Movement Specialist to take care of your body.
Hope you find the above recommendation helpful and I’ll be back soon with how to correct the other “posture issues”.