On a recent weaving walk through Times Square, I saw Adonis. He was 5’8″ tall, maybe 165lbs, and had relatively low body fat. Okay, so maybe not Adonis. He was actually pretty tiny. This is a adequate physical representation:
Size; didn’t really have it, but dat posture, tho. Seriously, this guy made himself look like he was carrying 50 more pounds of muscle than the rest of us. He was locked into a power pose; taking up as much room as possible. It was the antithesis to poor posture in our chair-laden society. Perhaps too much.
Posture exists on a continuum, not as a dichotomy. What is desirable in one moment may not be desirable in the next, and the overarching message should always be that variability is key. Consider that again.
In this piece on the PRI website, Eric Oetter writes, ” [It] is never about fixing posture – it’s about restoring system balance, variability, and adaptive potential.”
Recognize that posture isn’t a specific position, but our ability to move between positions, and to be successful in what we’re doing. Sounds vague? Okay, here’s a hard one. Good posture may be tricky to find, but I think we can assume this is sub-optimal:
I bet you just sat up, didn’t cha? That’s fine; I use that picture in each presentation I give, and it always elicits a snap to ‘good posture’. However, that’s not a thing. For example, the posture above is actually desirable when performing a breathing drill called the modified belly lift. Flip it 90˚ to the right and you’re nailing it:
The acceptable difference between the two versions of this same rib and spine position can drive some to feel that posture isn’t important. If it doesn’t matter, time is best spent training and training hard. Others will make a case for assessing or considering posture, and they’re right as well.
It’s difficult to make generalizations about posture and pain being correlatively or causally related, but we have seen that there is a lack of variability in people with pain. We know our current models can’t explain the whole story, but completely throwing them out is foolish.
Just as we need balance in the Force , we need to restore how we look at posture. We like opposites, we like dichotomy, and when we go from one movement extreme to the other, we might actually be getting worse. When we transition from desk to deadlifts, we may go overboard. For example, one of these overhead positions are better than the other:
In an article for Juggernaut Training Systems on Optimizing the Female Athlete – Rib Position, Stacey Schaedler beautifully outlines future-friendly movement.
Let’s face it, if you’re spiking a ball or blocking a shot, nobody is giving you points for alignment. That being said, we always want to be sure that the future you won’t be upset about the habitual positions and movement practiced by the current you.
If we’re considering the sternum the center of the thoracic girdle, or rib cage, and the sacrum the center of the pelvic girdle, we want them to be aligned; facing straight forward, rather than up or down. Alignment is sexy, and alignment under load is sexier.
Thing is, what about outside of the gym; does it matter? If you consider load only an external weight, you probably won’t mind. If you’re addressing the biomechanical adaptations that come with specific postures and patterns, you’ll also consider how these load our system “at rest.”
The bottom line is that while there isn’t a right or a wrong, we should agree that the end points on the continuum are less desirable than neutrality, and that moving balance to the Force can, when you consider it, bring more balance to your life.
What do you think? Agree, disagree? Continue the conversation in the comments below!