A little over a month ago I was doing a bit of research online on improving posture. This research wasn’t for a blog post, it was because I was trying to insure that my own posture didn’t get worse due to sitting at a desk all day. While searching for a good routine to improve posture I stumbled across a series of great blog posts on the subject. The site I found is called JCD Fitness and I am quickly becoming a fan. The author (JC) does a great job at explaining technical subjects in an easy-to-understand, easily digestible format. In this day of information overload, I seek out sites like this.
[Probably the most common type of bad posture is due to sitting for long periods of time. Many of us sit all day at our jobs as well as during our free time. This post will explore how to correct common problems in posture caused by sitting.]
“Hey JC, It’s Rusty. Can You Do Me a BIG Favor?”
I was so impressed by JC’s series of posture articles I asked him if he would do a big all-inclusive guest post on bad posture caused by sitting. I wanted him to condense his posts on his blog a bit and try to fit it all into one helpful post. He said “yes” to this favor and here is the resulting guest post. You guys will get a lot out of this!
Improve Your Life by Improving Your Posture
If you just so happened to stumble onto this article there is a fairly good(or great) chance you are sitting in a chair. Your posture likely sucks and you’ve probably been sitting in that position for too long. Poor posture is usually caused by laziness, muscle imbalances and poor ergonomics. In fact, once you are done reading this, get up and move around for a few minutes before returning to your reading.
If you work at a desk you are bound to have some muscle imbalances associated with the sedentary lifestyle. Guys like me and Rusty who spend a majority of our day in a chair are more prone to developing tight hips and hamstrings as a result of the prolonged sitting position.
I first discovered some muscle imbalances about 6 months ago when my squatting and deadlifting ability began to diminish. I could no longer squat to parallel with good form and my lower back was in constant pain. I knew something was up and I began my research. I pretty much diagnosed myself with something called lower cross syndrome after a few weeks of self-study.
Lower Cross Syndrome
This lovely postural cocktail is a culmination of imbalances in the lower body, particularly the lumbar spine, pelvis and knees. One will develop this syndrome over a long period of extreme sedentariness. Just about everyone who works in an office setting and anyone who spends a lot of time sitting will develop multiple muscle imbalances which will likely result in lower cross syndrome.
In short, most of the ventral muscles(hip flexors, quads etc) become really tight while the dorsal muscles(glutes, hamstrings and obliques) are weak or inhibited. This tends to make the pelvis rotate forward often causing lumbar lordosis in many folks. This can cause a myriad of problems as the midsection will inherently be weak as a result of the imbalance. I am sure we all know the dangers of a weak core.
There is a way to fix all of this though.
Myofascial Release Therapy (say what?)
Myofascial release therapy(MRT) was a lifesaver for me. MRT is a specialized therapy that targets the soft tissues to increase range of motion, even out muscle imbalances and can even provide acute pain relief. The general goal of MRT is to break up the tiny adhesions and scar tissue that form on the muscles as a result of repetitive use.
Ideally MRT is performed by an experienced professional to obtain optimal results. If you are having issues associated with lower cross syndrome, get help if you can afford it. I found an awesome chiropractor in my area who specializes in MRT and it completely changed my athletic life for the better.
My favorite part of the MRT treatment I regularly receive is the psoas release. Your psoas muscle actually runs from the spine all the way to the front of the thigh. During a psoas release my therapist digs her thumb deep into my pelvis and then proceeds to elongate the muscle by fully extending my leg. Imagine a young, spry 22 year old guy screaming at the top of his lungs like a little girl. Yea, that’s what I did my first session as it was very painful. The after affects were nothing short of amazing though. For a short period of time afterwards I had almost full range of motion during squats. It was almost as if I’d traveled back in time to my days on the gridiron. Oh what sweet bliss that day was for me.
Read my personal story about how myofascial release saved my life.
This is something I have gotten really good at. While my visits to the chiropractor were wonderful I had to find a way to perform MRT on myself. This is where foam rolling comes in. Foam rolling at one point was such a mystery to me. I never even knew what a foam roller was and when I first heard about them I was somewhat skeptical. However, as my condition got worse, I got desperate. The more immobile I became, the more frivolously I was searching for a magic pill.
Being a frugal college kid, I sought a way I could avoid paying the standard 30+ bucks for a giant piece of hard foam that I wasn’t even sold on yet. I was seeking a DIY way to make one on the cheap. This is where FlagMonkey comes to the rescue. Check out his foam roller tutorial.
Another home remedy of mine is to use a lacrosse or tennis ball for certain myofascial manipulation that is hard to get with a foam roller(think glutes and shoulders here). So now that you know how I self medicated myself back to full mobility, let me explain how you must go about all of this.
Fixing Your Broken Self
Foam rolling takes a little practice and might be painful the first 3 or 10 times you do it but I promise it’s well worth your time and agony.
Foam rolling is the same as MRT but it doesn’t require the hands of a professional. All you need is a good foam roller, 10 minutes and an iron will to bear a little discomfort for the sake of balance and relief. In general you will find that working the larger muscle groups are easiest to do at first. Once you get the hang of it and how it’s supposed to feel, the smaller muscle groups become easier as well.
This applies to most muscle groups. Here is an example of how you would loosen up your calves.
You would start with the roller at the heel and roll the muscle belly down the roller to the back of your knee. Generally you want to do one leg at a time to focus on adding significant pressure to that particular muscle. As you roll up the muscle belly, you will notice tender and tight areas. This is normal. The goal is to rest on these trigger points until the pain dissipates completely or becomes less painful. After the pain passes, roll a bit further until you find another tender area. Do this 1-2x before moving to another muscle group. You can perform this exercise on your hams, quads, IT bands, lower and upper back, lats and hip flexors. The shoulders and glutes are another story.
This is where the lacrosse and tennis ball comes into play. I used this technique when I fully rehabbed my injured shoulder. Ideally you will be able to use a tennis ball for your shoulder as the texture is rough, which makes it easier to do when standing up against the wall. Applying the same technique as I explained with the foam roller, you will find a tender spot in your deltoid and just rest on it until the pain dissipates. Once it’s relieved you move onto another area of the deltoid and do the same thing. Rinse and repeat a few times before moving to the other shoulder.
Improve Your Working Area
So now that you are equipped to whip yourself back into full mobility again what do you do about your work situation? You must fix it, as it’s what made you a wreck in the first place.
If you work in a corporate setting, ask human resources to adjust your work station to fit your personal needs. If it would be better to have a sit/stand work station, then ask for it(this is what I did). You will never know what can be done if you don’t ask.
If you have the luxury, you can also opt to take 2-3 minute breaks to get up and walk around for a moment. Do some light stretching and get out of the sitting position every now and then. Your hip flexors will thank you.
If you work from home or are self employed, you have a bit more freedom as to how you set up your work place. I recommend looking into some of the more ergonomically friendly chairs out there. The kneeling chair and the Swopper are very popular models that are more posture friendly.
Good posture and preventative exercises go hand in hand. Why not get on the fast track to improving yourself immediately
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Note: Make sure and give JC some great comments and questions. It was pretty cool of him to spend a few hours creating this great post. Thanks JC!