Change Your Posture: It's Not About the Weight
It’s no secret that most us spend entirely too much time sitting. Beginning when we wake up, we’re sitting in the car, sitting at our desks and in the break room at work, back to sitting in the car, sitting down to eat dinner, and finally sitting on the couch to watch TV. The gym should be our break from the monotony of sitting.
I’ve written before about how our posture is important and how we should work to change position and move more throughout the day. Sitting in one position, regardless of what that position is, is not how our bodies are meant to exist. We’re meant to move. For the next two weeks, we’re going to focus on both movements and cardio equipment that can help you break from the seated position we find ourselves in for entirely too much of your days.
First up, movement. Often thought of as “easy” or “below us” once we reach certain milestones, bodyweight movements are often left by the wayside. With them, mobility and stability drills are neglected in exchange for simply moving heavier weight. However, it’s not always about the weight. Grooving proper movement patterns through repetition, as well as mobility and stability drills to correct weaknesses or deficiencies, should be the first step to breaking free from our seated posture. What do each of these categories of movement include? Let’s break them down.
Mobility is the ability of a joint to move through its designated range of motion. This will vary by joint and, usually, between sides of the body as well. For example, personally, my left shoulder is much more mobile compared to my right shoulder. We always want to achieve at least a minimum level of mobility in these joints before we add weight to many of the movements that incorporate them.
This doesn’t mean neglect the weights altogether once you’ve found a lack of mobility within a certain area. It may simply require extra movement preparation or a de-load of the weight so you are able to optimize movement. Coupled with a decrease in weight, we can use tools such as the mind-muscle connection, tempos or pauses, and increased sets or reps to make sure we’re achieving a similar training effect.
Mobility drills that combat a seated position often focus on the t-spine (upper back) and hips. These include, but aren’t limited to: t-spine open book and arc rotations, 90-90 and bear sits, long half kneeling stretch, and "the world’s greatest stretch" (look it up).
However, it’s not just about training the joints to move properly. We also have to ensure they don’t move too much or with a lack of control. They need stability.
While some joints need to move more, others need to be stable. Stability is the ability of the body to maintain its position against outside force. We often lack stability due to our seated position because we have a back support in our chairs. Our core, as a result, is often weak and unstable. While this doesn’t present issues sitting, standing is a whole other story. Standing with a weak core and tight hip flexors tilts our pelvis. This is one of the major causes of the dreaded low back pain. I wrote about it here.
Our core is the largest culprit when we’re looking at lack of stability due to a seated posture. I’ve written about the core and four mistakes you probably make while training it here. But for the sake of this article, a few of my favorite core exercises include: dead bugs, planks, side planks, anti-rotation presses, cable chops and lifts, and bird dogs. Adding these into a warm up or as a superset with a strength movement is a great way to add a little more core stability into your workouts!
Mobility and stability are largely joint-specific. They focus on the fundamentals. However, the body does not move joint by joint. It takes a functional approach to movement with all joints coordinating to perform exercises, walk down the street, or paddle down the river. This is where we need to hone the movement pattern skills in order to move efficiently.
The next step, even before adding weights, is to groove these movement patterns correctly. If we don’t have solid squat form, adding weight will only cause injury and ultimately decrease the effectiveness of the exercises themselves. This doesn’t do much for changing our posture if we’re hurt and can’t move while we heal. After we achieve adequate mobility and stability, adding in bodyweight exercises such as squats, lunges, and hand-locked hinging (just to name a few!) will take us that next step.
At the end of the day, we should ensure proper mobility, stability, and movement patterning before adding weight. Although it’s tempting to throw caution to the wind, fitness is a long-term game. We want to be able to perform throughout our lives, not only for the next one, three, or five years. Next week, we’ll talk about changing up our posture and movement by using the cardio machines.