For the long term success of your fitness goals, you must learn to maintain correct posture during exercise and in your everyday life. Maintaining correct posture during any type of exercise is crucial in preventing injuries, preventing the development of chronic pain, and preventing re-aggravation of past injuries. These problems can prevent you from the simplest physical activities and throw you off-track perpetually. As a result of being thrown off, you could enter a negative spiral of incremental weight gain and various possible chronic conditions. Therefore, being conscious of posture to prevent and correct joint problems and injuries is important for long-lasting weight-loss and fitness.
I had a client in the past, Jane, who was borderline obese in her late 60’s when I first trained her. She had a lower back condition and chronic knee problems. (She was cleared by her doctor to start exercising again, but she still have pains.) Merely walking was painful for her knees and her lower back. Walking up and down the stairs were painful for her. According to her, she used to be in great shape years ago. However, Jane began having injuries from improper training and postural distortions over a long period of time. She then stopped exercising which paradoxically further contributed to her pains and physical problems. (There may have bee other contributors to her physical problems also. When she decided to exercise again, she hired personal trainers who were not knowledgeable about postural distortions (as many personal trainers are not, unfortunately). She went through about three trainers before me. They trained this overweight woman in her sixties with chronic knee and back problems as if they’re training a twenty-something athlete. Consequently, their inappropriate training contributed to the worsening of Jane's physical ailments. Despite having quick weight loss, it didn’t last because her back and knee problems were exacerbated from the rigorous exercises with no emphasis on postural correction (and other necessary precautions were not taken). As a result, she entered this negative spiral of incremental pain and weight gain as her knee problems and back pains became worse and she had to discontinue her training. Jane would probably have been better off not having those previous personal trainers who probably focused more on marketing their services than the long term well-being of the client. Jane's body was a mess by the time I saw her for the first time. At that point, she was in this catch-22 where she needed more physical activity than anyone because of her weight. However, most exercises would exacerbate the pre-existing damage in her knees and lower back which would result in immobilizing her and cause further weight gain in the long run.
Although this is one of the worst cases that I’ve known, it is not uncommon for one to enter a similar negative spiral. To prevent from getting into the same predicament, you must learn the correct posture for every exercise you do, strengthen your core, and train properly (including all the necessary components such as cardio, flexibility, strength, and neuromuscular control).
Although I am providing a few pointers here in this blog, it would be better to show you in person how to maintain your posture during various exercises that you do. If you are in New York City, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free training or consultation session to learn proper training. Just mention this blog to get a free session. For now, here are a few pointers here on what to do and what not to do:
Things To Do and Not To Do During Exercise
1. Do not protrude your chin. It is very common for people to protrude their chins and shift their heads forward as demonstrated in Figure 1 below. Be conscious of correcting this.
Figure 1. Do not protrude your head this way.
To correct this, you want to shift the head back while keeping the chin down (tucked in). Your head should be directly above your shoulders and your neck should be perpendicular (90 degrees) to the floor from the side view. (If you are lying down face up, your neck should be 90 degrees to the flat of your feet.) Notice that this woman (Figure 1) incorrectly has her neck at 40 degrees to the floor. The correct posture is demonstrated in Figures 2 and 3 below.
Figure 2 .
Be conscious of maintaining this correct neck position in all exercises, especially during sit-ups and crunches. Although this position will not immediately relieve already existing cervical (neck) pains, it does provide relief gradually if done over a long period, or it becomes habit.
2. Do not over arch your lower back during exercise. The position in Figures 4 and 5 demonstrates what not to do in over-arching your lower back and sticking out your butt (anterior pelvic tilt), or as I call it - the Donald Duck butt tilt.
3. Keep your knees bent (at least slightly) during most exercises.
4. Tuck in your abdomen and/or contract your abdominal muscles during all exercises. By doing so, you will provide extra lumbar (lower back) support during exercise. As an added bonus, tucking in your abdomen and/or contracting your abdominal muscles will allow you to burn more calories around the belly region.