Your posture – the way you hold yourself – says a lot about you. It can project to the world your self image. Bad posture not only looks downright unappealing, it’s indicative of more serious problems that will, almost invariably, lead to injury in the long run.
For a person who exercises, posture is the position from which exercise begins and finishes. Also, posture is the position from which the musculoskeletal system functions most efficiently and is a key component of any flat stomach workout.
It’s absolutely essential, then, that your efforts in the gym are accompanied by good posture. Whenever you’re out of ideal alignment, the resting position of the joint is faulty. The joint surfaces are being loaded in positions which aren’t optimal, and this encourages breakdown of the joint. It also encourages faulty adaptation of the connective tissues around the joint as well as faulty length / tension relationships, so the muscles don’t work synergistically. This will result in injury.
The most common postural imbalances found in the gym are the forward head posture, rounded shoulders and too much pelvic tilt. This occurs when the hip flexors are short and tight, the lumbar erectors are short and tight and pectoralis minor and major are shortened relative to their antagonists, which are the muscles that pull the shoulders back. As a result the head is usually forward.
To correct postural problems start by stretching your chest really well. Stretch your hip flexors and lower back as well. Then learn the basic posture for all upright exercises:
Keep your feet parallel. Don’t stand with your toes turned out. The knees should be unlocked. Have a neutral spine. Keep your shoulders back. They should be directly over the hips and should not be rounded forwards. Take a deep breath to raise your chest up. Hold that start position. Now position yourself so that your head is right over the top of your shoulders.
The above postural position may mean that you have to drop the weight slightly that you are using. That’s because you’re not going to be able to cheat as easily. A key area of exercise where many people are unwittingly ruining their posture is to do with training the abdominal area. People who train abs generally do them incorrectly. They think they’re exercising the abdominal muscles, but frequently they end up over utilizing their hip flexors, often in a shortened position. This encourages shortening of the hip flexors which tilts the pelvis forward. For some people this creates what looks like a protruding abdomen.
Abdominal muscles are over 50% fast twitch fibers. They respond best to higher resistance, lower repetition loading. If you really want to build a serious set of abs, all you need is a Swiss ball and a light dumbbell. Lay on the Swiss ball and place the dumbbell on your chest. Now stretch back and then crunch up, keeping your spine on the ball at al times. Since the ball is spherical it allows you to condition your abdominals through a full range of motion. It is also unstable, and you have to use different muscles to keep yourself from rolling off. Training your abs on the floor or on a bench is like doing half a barbell curl. You’re only doing half a repetition, which can lead to shortening of the abdominal muscles, pulling the head downward and forward, and altering the posture.
Do not allow your poor posture to get you into trouble in the gym. Next time you hit the gym for your flat stomach workout take a look around at the posture of others. More than likely you’ll see a whole host of disasters just waiting to happen. Then turn the spotlight back on yourself. Do not make the same postural errors that you see around you. Maintain a power posture and you will be putting your best self forward. It will say a lot about you.