The Couch Slouch
|February 7, 2014||Posted by The Fit Scoop under My Training|
I don’t think I’ve ever spent so much time sitting as I have since having Violet. Breastfeeding has put a permanent dent in the couch in the shape of my rear and is wreaking havoc on my posture. I don’t want to develop a dowagers hump at 31! Between breastfeeding and working on my laptop I need to take action to keep my shoulders from rounding and my head from jutting forward. I’ve also noticed that my hip flexors get tight from all the sitting as well. I’m currently doing research on posture and thought I’d share some information on why good posture is important and how to go about achieving it.
Posture is an often neglected aspect of health and fitness but it shouldn’t be – good posture can decrease your risk of injury and improve your biomechanical efficiency. Over time poor posture can also lead to pain. Sitting is the number one killer of good posture. The human body just wasn’t meant to spend so much time in a seated position, but since modern society has evolved to involve a lot of sitting, we need to take action to counteract the negative effects it has our postures.
Here’s a simple plan to help combat the rounded shoulders, forward jutting head, and tight hip flexors that can come with prolonged sitting and starring at a computer screen (or an adorable baby!):
1. Assess your posture. Look at yourself in profile in the mirror or have a friend take a picture of you standing naturally. When I stand how I do naturally I can see my shoulders round forward some and my ears are not directly in line with my shoulder, rather they are slightly ahead of my shoulders. RED ALERT – bad posture! Also look at your hips. A forward tilt means tight hip flexors. Thankfully my pelvis does not tilt forward but I still need to be cautious if I don’t want all this sitting to cause tight hip flexors and affect my running.
2. Discover what good posture is. If your body is in the wrong position enough you may not even know what good posture feels like! One tip I once read that I found very helpful is to stand with your arms straight down at your sides and your palms open in front of you (with your thumbs pointing out to your sides). This forces you into good posture. It causes your shoulders to move back and your chest to open. You won’t want to stand with your hands like this always, but memorize how it feels so you know how to correct yourself without having to look in a mirror.
3. The rounded shoulders/forward head problem is generally the result of two issues: tight chest muscles and weak upper back muscles. Sitting hunched over a desk (or a baby) causes your chest muscles to shorten (and therefore tighten) and your upper back muscles to overstretch (and therefore weaken). A lot of guys will also develop this problem when they spend too much time developing their chest muscles at the gym and not enough on their back muscles – the “I only love to bench press” syndrome. To combat this you need to stretch the chest muscles and strengthen the back muscles. If you have this issue a good rule of thumb is to do two back strengthening exercises for every chest exercise you do. For the forward tilting pelvis issue, tight hip flexors are to blame. Work on stretching your hip flexors and also strengthening your glutes since tight hip flexors and weak glutes tend to go hand in hand.
A. Correcting tight chest muscles: the best approach is a combination of self-myofacial release and stretching. Use a massage or tennis ball and with the palm of your hand apply pressure and roll the ball in small circles all across your chest to help break up muscle adhesions. If you find any particularly tender spots, concentrate on the area until you feel the muscle release. To stretch your chest muscles, try the doorway chest stretch. Hold it for 30 seconds 3 times on each side.
C. Correcting tight hip flexors: Try the standing lunge stretch to loosen your hip flexors. Strengthen and activate your glutes with bridges (there are lots of variations on bridge…I’ll focus on these in a future post!).
Perform the stretching exercises daily for the best results. Aim to perform the strengthening exercises at least 2 to 3 days per week. Of course the best solution is to nix sitting in front of the computer for hours and hours a day, but unfortunately this is not realistic. These exercises are the next best solution!