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Exercise to Correct Posture Problems & Muscle Imbalance

Posted Jun 15 2009 12:00am

Posture Problems you may Not Know about can Lead to Injury

If you have imbalanced length-tension relationships and improper dynamic posture during movement, the constant tug of war between muscles can cause your joints to age prematurely, and can also lead to muscle, joint, tendon, and ligament injuries. (These imbalances are called "postural distortion patterns")

Many problems are associated with poor posture --and these have a negative long term effects on your body and health. Problems with your posture will not only impact how you feel but how your body looks. If you continue to exercise with poor posture you will recruit the wrong muscles and build your body disproportionately.

Orthopedic surgeons surgically repair any musculoskeletal overuse or traumatic injuries, some which are due to posture problems. Physical therapists work to fix problems after injuries happen, some of which are due to poor posture, or posture problems. Personal Trainers take the preventative and corrective measures to fix posture problems before they lead to injury.

Cause of Posture Problems

The Cycle:

If you do not correct your muscular imbalances the cycle will repeat over and over again and get progressively worse.

The #1 cause of postural problems is a sedentary lifestyle!
When you are seated for a long period of time, say you work at a desk from 9-5 every day, or drive in a car for long periods of time, your muscles become tight, or shorten. This can effect your muscular system.

Common Problems

Tight Hamstrings--if you sit for long periods of time, you will be prone to chronic hamstring tightness. Which leads to improper function when exercising, and lead to injuries, especially back injuries and pulled hamstrings.

Tight Hip Flexors--A MAJOR cause of postural problems...if you have hip flexor tightness, it can make it extremely difficult, to nearly impossible to get results from abdominal exercices. When you sit for long periods of time, your hip flexors become shortened, and cause the pelvis to rotate forward. This can cause your back to hunch over (kyphotic alignment in thoracic spine) and your head to hang forward.
Tight Adductors--This is the group of muscles that squeeze your legs together. Women are more prone to tightness in this area because they keep their legs crossed for long periods of time. This can cause the femur (upper leg bone) to become internally rotated. This in combination with the following imbalance will most likely lead to kneecap pain because the joints of the knee will no longer line up properly. Tight adductors can be demonstrated by a knock kneed appearance.

Tight Calve Muscles
--common in runners, tightness in the calve muscles (gastrosnemious and soleus) can be the leading cause of plantar fascitis.

Muscle Imbalance:

Upper cross syndrome, forward shoulder posture is common in people who sit at a desk all day, and also in people who do not choose the proper exercises. If you overly develop your chest muscles, but do not properly develop your back muscles, you will develop this muscle imbalance.

If there is any degree of forward shoulders posture present, it is very important to maintain shoulder retraction (keep them back and press your shoulder blades back and down) for the duration of your weight training exercises.

Any of these muscle imbalances and the associated posture problems will prevent you from proper muscle mechanics during exercise. If you suffer from this muscle imbalance and are not able to retract your shoulders, you should start a corrective flexibility program.

Prevention & Correction of Postural Problems:

Core Strengthening--the "core" is pretty much the abdominal muscles (rectus abdominus, transverse abdominus, internal and external obliques) and your low back muscles. By performing proper core strengthening exercises, you will teach your body to maintain proper dynamic postural alignment for the duration of all your exercises. You will also improve your static posture.

Strengthen your Glutes--To improve the length/tension relationship between your hip flexors and your glutes, you should focus on proper glute exercises because these muscles are typically weak, and a lot of times cause the tightness in your hip flexor muscles, which can lead to injuries.

Corrective Flexibility--this helps restore your body's balance. If you have muscles which are chronically tight, corrective flexibility takes a direct approach. This takes time, and ideally should be performed daily for optimal results.
Once you know your correctable, structural posture problems you can follow a corrective flexibility program. Each corrective flexibility exercise should be specific to your situation.

The Foam Roll (My personal favorite!)

This is a "Self-Myofascial Release" tool, also used in pilates and yoga for core exercises. Myo- is the prefix meaning muscle. Fascia is the tissue which surrounds your muscles. Repeated muscular contraction can cause you to develop adhesion's or spots of muscle tension. You will be releasing the tension of your muscles by your self.

So you are looking for trigger points (points of maximal muscle tension), and work through those points to get help release that tension. This can be more beneficial for those points than just static stretching. Using the foam roll along with static stretching is ideal. Always check with your doctor before starting these exercises, especially if you have any injuries. Read and follow the proper techniques

Foam Roller Techniques

Step by Step Video

Where to buy a Foam Roller

Static Stretches--Static stretching is rather simple. Hold your body in the position of "slight discomfort" for at least 20 seconds. There are some tips and pointers to help you get the most benefit from your stretching program.

Key Points in Static Stretching

1. To increase flexibility and range of motion, perform stretching exercises when the body is warm. This can be at the end of a training session or following 10 minutes of light aerobic exercise.
2. Complete a range of stretching exercises for different muscle groups. Pay particular attention to the muscle groups that are involved most in your sport.
3. Hold each stretch for 10-20 seconds. Initial tightness should gradually diminish as you hold the stretch.
4. Repeat each of the stretching exercises 2-3 times in succession.
5. Perform stretching exercises at least 3 times a week and ideally 5 times per week.
6. Ease slowly in and out of the stretch. Do not bounce! Breathe out as you stretch and continue to breathe as you hold it.
7. If you feel any pain, release the stretch immediately.

Once you get your posture problems under control, you will be ready for optimal fitness training!

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