Think of the most powerful and beautiful animal you can. Is it a dog taking a s**t?

I’d suspect it isn’t. More than likely when you think of a beautiful animal it is poised with its head held high or bounding gracefully over expansive plains.

Look at the heroes and villains in movies and tell me about their appearance. Gollum’s spinal position was as questionable as his morals, and it was Scar rather than Mufasa who skulked with his head down in The Lion King. These archetypes are portrayed consistently in film with the hero proudly striding with their chest in the air whilst the villain closely attends to their iPhone, checking social media updates obsessively. Well they might not actually check social media… and they usually haven’t got an iPhone… but it wouldn’t look out of place from their hunched position, a position that has become the default posture for the younger generation and many of the older generations too.

Posture and Body Image

If you aren’t sold on the beautiful animal analogy or the hero/villain hypothesis, then you’ll agree that we value posture visually as a genetic cue for good health. Health is what I urge you to consider first, however for many people one of the main reasons they go to the gym is to improve body image. From this point of view, posture should be made equally as important because our brains are hard-wired to appreciate great posture and it takes seconds to improve upon. So, whether you care mostly about body image or health, improving your posture will benefit you.

Physical Benefits to Good Posture

The Brain – Blood flow to the brain is negatively affected by poor posture so a well aligned spine will improve your concentration power and clarity of thought. No more head fog.

Midline Stabilisation – Pick 3 people out of any public place and I’ll bet one of them has a sore back. Many problems are a result of bad spinal organisation on a regular basis. Good midline stabilisation will protect against this

Transfer of force – When your joints are stacked on top of each other through good posture, force can travel uninterrupted through each vertebra. A break in posture will create a mechanically less efficient movement and the slack will be picked up by soft tissue in the joints which can result in poor performance at best and injury at worst.

Neutral Spine

The basics to good posture is organising your spine in a neutral position.
The abdominals and glutes should be engaged to hold the pelvis stable without anterior or posterior tilt. This means that as you stand or sit your lower back should have a slight curve with the pelvis supported equally, front and back.
Your torso position should be stable also with shoulders set in a comfortable position held in place by the musculature of your mid back. Not hunched forward and not pinched up around your ears.
Finally, your head should be aligned with the same principles. An easy way to check is if you can draw a line straight down from your ears through your shoulders and hips

Barriers to posture

The greatest barrier is building the habit, most people simply forget to correct a loss of posture because they’ve been doing so for years. It takes a conscious effort to fix bad posture and constant awareness to make good posture a habit that will stay. Another factor that attributes to poor habit is modern life, phones, cars, seats are all obstacles we must overcome if we want to regain our posture, again conscious effort when faced with these obstacles will win out over time with consistency.

Thoughts and Extras

Whatever you’re doing right now your nervous system is getting infinitely better at it so use this to your advantage and over time good posture will be automatic.
You’ll find plenty of methods on the internet of how to achieve a neutral spine and how you should arrange yourself in different movements, Kelly Starrett ‘s Mobility WOD videos are a good place to start.
I just hope that what I’ve written has brought posture to your attention and maybe has got you to think about it in a different way. I also hope you don’t take this too literally and force your dog into unnatural positions.

Thanks for reading and happy new year!

By Personal Trainer Vincent McCorry