What Is Optimal Posture?

People underestimate posture and the effect it has on the human body.

Whether you are looking to get in the gym or you just want to be able to perform daily tasks, posture is extremely important.

Not only does it protect you from injuring yourself, but maintaining proper posture can allow for well developed core strength.

What does proper posture look like?

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Posture is dynamic, which means it is not as black and white as the static photo above.

You can clearly tell that there are three main STATIC postures; leaned forward, locked knees and rolled pelvis (left), straight stance defined as “proper posture” (middle) and a more slouched, forward-head posture (right).

Again, these are all examples of STATIC posture. Posture while standing and not in motion.

Training static posture is USELESS.

When I began in the field with Corrective Exercise, I thought that I had to fix people’s static posture by the way they stand or sit.

But that was so wrong.

People would tighten up and flex their musculature to force a position that was foreign and uncomfortable.

When I would tell people to sit up straight it would sometimes hurt their back, pull on their neck or cause some other pain signal.

So now what?

It was time to think outside of the box, what is causing these people to stand or sit like this?

Musculature, but even deeper than that the nervous system really runs the game.

Our actions define our posture more than I had thought.

How we move, what we feel and the way we leverage intrinsic (internal) and extrinsic (external) force will define how we move or statically stand.

If our body’s “programming” tells us to engage certain muscles, it will continue on that mission.

I used to command stretches like a madman.

Stretch this, stretch that, this is tight, that is loose, blah blah blah.

It was a constant battle of working against the body and what it NATURALLY wanted to do.

So what is there to do?

It finally clicked.

Make someone perform a movement! Start with a compound movement and break it down into slight adjustments.

I would start with a squat. Where do their feet naturally want to rest? How far can they get down, and can they fully rest in a squat?

Most trainers start by telling someone where to place their feet, but the feet always find their ways to where they feel most comfortable.

So why not optimize what feels natural? Sure, there will be certain cues like “straighten your back,” or “brace your core,” but I have found that a body can find its way to a proper position easier than previously believed.

It takes time and simple questions.

“What do you feel while sitting in this position?” This is the basic question that leads toward the right answer.

Someone may feel pain in their knees, which will allow me to understand that their quadriceps may not be allowing them to fully rest at the bottom.

Others may feel a pain in their low-back, which I often associate to a stretch in the low-back, similar to the posture in the above picture, shown on the left. That individual may have extremely tight low-back musculature and it may simply need to be stretched in that position.

So again… what does this say about posture?

If you are performing an exercise and it feel it in the wrong spots, your body is reflecting improper loading which will ultimately lead to some form of postural dysfunction.

Correct the seven movement archetypes, and you can resolve someone’s postural dysfunction. Most times their pain will decrease or alleviate once they’re out of this dysfunction.

The seven movement archetypes are pushing, pulling, twisting, squatting, bending, lunging and gait (walking). If you can find ways to optimize these patterns your posture is bound to drastically improve.

In conclusion…

… posture is less of a static picture and more about how the body looks, moves and feels while performing tasks.

If you cannot row without pain in your shoulder it is sub-optimally loading, therefore holding a poor postural position.

Don’t walk around stiff as a board trying to look like the poster child for perfect posture, instead exercise your posture through-out varieties of different functional exercises.

I hope this article helps you.

If you have any comments, questions or concerns about anything written above please feel free to leave a comment to start a discussion or simply fill out a contact form.