Posture Driving Performance
When I hear someone talk about technique I think about posture. Posture is a huge contributing factor to technique and one that is often overlooked. Quality of execution is accomplished through strength, which maintains the bodies natural alignment and power. The body uses levers to create kinetic advantages over an external load during motion to deliver the desired end result. Simply put, the body uses positioning alignment to move against resistance albeit a dumbbell, barbell, what have you. With a proper length-tension muscular relationship we can execute tasks and reduce the chances of injury that come from flawed patterns that are created through bad habits and thus develop into poor posture.
Length-tension relationships are used to describe the balance of muscles as they control posture and facilitate movement. First know this, all muscles pull. Wait, what? Yes, they pull on the skeleton and due to a lack of good length-tension relationship can create an imbalance. Eventually this constant imbalance can cause the body to redistribute and unload the stress, the end result is a postural deficiency. When a muscle is regarded to as tight or overactive it is usually due to the muscle being shortened. While one muscle is short and tight there is a good chance of finding the opposite affect on the antagonist (opposing muscle groups) muscle, which is being long, weak and under-active. The resting length of a muscle can decrease the overall strength of contraction. In compound movements muscles work as units to act upon the skeleton to pull and move the body in a given direction. With optimal length-tension relationships we would see a natural balance in how the body moves through all planes of motion with minimal to no restriction. In my mind if you can move well, you can learn to do anything.
The body operates as a kinetic chain or functional unit. This means that the muscles act as a unit rather than in isolation to create movement. When symptoms for imbalances and restrictions show up somewhere in the body they often show up as pain. To determine the cause of pain we need to remember that the body moves as a whole, so we need to consider if the cause of the pain is coming from upstream or down stream. An issue as simple as pronated feet (symptom) can be related back upstream to the hips. Then it is time to determine where in the hip the cause lies. Once the cause is located we need to see what a person is capable of, where they can improve, and what blocks them from where they want to go. This is done through static and motion posture assessment, always observe and note everything and you are unsure, make a note and revisit it later. If the goal is to move better, we need to see how you move now. A favorite is the barefoot overhead bodyweight squat. A lot can be discovered in this position for both upper and lower body coordination as well as the length-tension relationships of the muscles throughout the chain during the movement. First off, are the left and right side symmetrical? Then, how well is your posture maintained in a squat position? Most of the general population would struggle due to the nature of work and life being predominantly anterior as well as sitting for long periods of time. However, athletes who train without regard for training towards optimal alignment will struggle here too. Do the feet maintain a three point contact with the floor? Does the hip drop down into a butt wink? Does the low back arch or the shoulders drop? Does your chest drop to the floor and the hips stay high? All of these can indicate where we address your exercise prescription and mobility goals.
What my experience has taught me is that by assessing posture and identifying under-active muscles it leads to targeting performance goals by addressing posture inefficiency. My personal testimony to this which I'm sure some people can relate to is that I have stiff ankles and tightness in the hip flexors. Exercises that I was relied on because they seemed like a natural staple for any program no longer suited me. By altering the exercises I chose to perform and also incorporating mobility drills throughout the weeks many things started to change. The consistency of my squats for one was what I was after but what followed was also a change in gait pattern, comfort in sitting more upright, and an improved overall feeling that I wasn't has restricted introduced more efficient movement to my everyday activities. It changed the way I trained because I now came with a plan knowing what I needed to target on more and what I don't need to spend much time on. A marker of proof here comes in the before and after pictures or video that support the quality of movement more than the numbers that will come when the body has been restored. Not everyone will live to have an ideal posture but by working at it we can uncover the best version of ourselves and in a way that will matter 5-10-20 years down the road.
Consider your favorite athlete. What did they look like? How did they move? Did they make it look easy or did they look like a duck running down the road with a bag of groceries? My advice, don't be the duck. This concept of posture for performance doesn't attack body composition so in order to promote both, the training modalities should focus on targeting your weaknesses and not over promoting what is already out of alignment. If you are in a sport, this comes down to the offseason and changing training to address the weaknesses that will help put you over the top in the next season. If you're taking this in and it's the preseason or in-season, do what you can to address the issues to save yourself trouble in the long run. With tight hip flexors I would opt for exercises that require strong hip extension to turn on the glutes and restore their contribution to perform. If you're back is lacking, opt for the rower or sled pulls to include for HIIT style workouts to fit in with your aerobic or anaerobic needs. Walk taller, stand proud, and crush your goals with confidence that restoring your length-tension relationships will allow you to operate at the absolute peak of your game.
"Outwork the improbable to overcome the impossible"