A Primer on Posture

The following is a guest post by Shane Mclean. 

Being a personal trainer in a corporate environment, I’ve seen my share of desk jockeys. They’re quite easy to spot — forward head posture, rounded shoulders, and a flat butt.

Typically these people complain of one or more of the following:

  • Back pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Hip pain

We know that 80% of Americans at some point in their lifetime will suffer from back pain. Being fitness professionals, we’re on the forefront when it comes to preventing back pain — or any type of pain.

Don’t think it’s that important? For years I suffered from a sore right A/C joint. A sports medicine doctor suggested a bunch of completely useless rotator cuff exercises. When that didn’t work, I sought an orthopedist who said the same thing but prescribed 3 months’ worth of painkillers.

I was 0 for two and looking at a third strike. Then I got a ball right down the middle of the plate.

In April of this year I went to Fitness Mastermind Meeting. It was a great two days but the man I wanted to see was Eric Cressey, who happens to know a thing or two about shoulders.

I asked Eric for a quick examination. After 30 seconds of looking me over he said, “You have anteriorly tilted shoulders.”

I was expecting something a little more complicated. After numerous doctor’s visits and spending thousands of dollars, it took a strength coach to see a cause, not a symptom.

However, solving the riddle that is the desk jockey is easier. Introduce the following tips into your clients warm ups to get them moving better, standing up straighter, and getting them closer to pain free workouts.

Forward Head Posture

The average human head weighs around 8 pounds. When it travels further away from the shoulders, it wreaks havoc on already over worked spine. Use this simple test.

Get your client to stand with their head, shoulders, and back against a wall with their heels six inches away from the wall. Determine how many fingers your client can fit between their head and the wall — if it’s three or more, your client has been staring at that smart phone way too long.

Tell your clients to do this:

Sleep with one pillow — This will reinforce better alignment for your clients’ head and neck when they sleep.

Make them more aware — Get your client to sit up and stand straight during your time together. Nag them if you have to.  Doing so keeps your clients low back in proper alignment and will prevent their head from drifting forward.

Next, do this as part of the warm up:

Lying down chin tuck — Get your client to lie on their back with nothing behind their head and feet flat against the ground. Have them tuck their chin towards their chest without their head leaving the ground. Hold that position for 5 seconds. Do 2 sets of 10 repetitions.

Rounded Shoulders

Take a good look at your client. If their chest and shoulders look smaller and narrower and they have an “ape like” appearance due to their arm position, they’ve been riding the desk for a while.

Humans have evolved. We no longer drag our knuckles on the ground. Neither should your client. Enter, the foam roller.

Do these foam roller exercises in order at the beginning of the warm up:

90/90 stretch – Let gravity “reset” their shoulders. Hold for 90 seconds

Snow Angels – Helps get shoulder mobility back. Do 15 repetitions

The Hug – This helps iron out the kinks between the shoulders blades. Do 15 repetitions

It’s All in the Hips

Weak gluteus muscles and poor hip mobility are big players in the world of back pain. If you’re a smart trainer this you already know. When a client shows up exhibiting this take them through the following hip mobility circuit.

Hip flexor stretch series — Loosen those tight hips. Three positions with 10 second hold.

Hamstring mobility — Get the hamstrings moving. 10 repetitions on each leg

Bodyweight Hip Extensions — 10 reps. Cue a flat back throughout the movement

Single-leg Bodyweight Hip extensions — 5 reps on each leg. Cue the flat back.

The Posture Advantage

As fitness professionals we sometimes overlook the obvious when we’re striving hard to get results for our clients. Posture can be one of those things. It can be awkward conversation but is one you must have if your client is a desk jockey.

READ ALSO: What Is Anterior Pelvic Tilt, and How Do I Fix It?

About the Author

Shane “The Balance Guy” McLean, is Personal Trainer at the T. Boone Pickens YMCA Dallas, Texas. After being told that his posture blows by Eric Cressey, he has made it is mission to rid the world of desk jockeys. One person at a time

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