To make Total Gym Inside your one-stop resource for everything health and fitness, we’ve added a new contributor to our line-up. Please welcome Jessie Carter, physical therapist and owner of High Pointe Rehab in Clarksville, TN. See what Jessie has to say about the importance of maintaining correct posture:
Are You a Donald Duck or a Pink Panther?
Posture affects most everything we do from performing our jobs without pain to exercising efficiently. But most Americans fall short of the optimal posture mom always wanted us to have. We more closely resemble cartoon characters than the upright model with a book on her head.
Pink Panthers are those individuals whose shoulders and heads are forward, upper backs are rounded, low backs are flat and rear ends are non-existent. Donald Ducks have other issues. Their heads may still be forward but the low back has too much curve inward. Pinks are always pulling their pants up while Ducks have ample tail feathers.
The problem with both of these postures is that they fall short of what is considered normal. Everyone’s normal is a little different but some general guidelines follow:
- When looking at the body from the side, the ear, shoulder and hip should all line up in a straight line when sitting or standing.
- The shoulders should be level and pulled back slightly, not slumped or rounded forward.
- The low back should have a slight curve inward at all times. If you sit as tall as possible with your chest up, this posture should happen automatically.
To correct your posture, start by trying to sit up straight as often as possible. Sit on your “sit bones” with your feet flat on the floor and your bottom as far back in the seat as possible. Pull your shoulders back and lift your chest up slightly to develop the curve in your low back, mentioned above.
At first, your muscles will not be strong enough to keep your posture in perfect form all day, but as you begin using proper posture more frequently, it will become easier and easier. Your Total Gym will help you to strengthen key back and core muscles to maintain the posture mom wanted you to have. Total Gym uniquely requires you to maintain straight spinal alignment while also recruiting core muscles to balance on the sliding glideboard while performing upper body cable exercises. Here are a few Total Gym exercises to help improve your posture:
1) Reverse Fly (sitting or kneeling) – Emphasis on pulling shoulder blades back and down as opposed to shrugging.
2) Surfer Lat Pull – Emphasis on full upright back extended position at end of contraction, again pulling shoulder blades back and down and avoiding shrugging.
3) Plank position on SCRUNCH with Shoulder Protraction/Retraction – While maintaining the forearm plank position on the SCRUNCH board, pull shoulder blades back and down (pause). Then push up on forearms moving shoulder blades away from each other (pause). Repeat for duration of plank hold (e.g., 30-60 seconds).
If you find it painful to correct your posture or you continue to have difficulty after 6-8 weeks of self-correction, a physical therapist can assist in identifying your specific deficits and design an exercise program to address your issues.
Whether you are a Pink Panther, Donald Duck or something in between, you have the ability to improve your health and posture with stretching, strengthening and corrective body positioning. Despite popular belief, you can teach an old duck new tricks.
Jessie Carter is the owner of High Pointe Rehab in Clarksville, TN. Jessie is a 2001 graduate of the University of Evansville (UE) in Evansville, IN, where she earned both her BS and Master’s degrees in physical therapy. Prior to transferring to UE, she attended Murray State University in Murray, KY, where she majored in biology. Contact Jessie at email@example.com with your questions or with ideas for future topics.