Use Good Posture to Enhance Your Training Performance

This article was written in collaboration with physiotherapist and CrossFit coach Diane

Teles, based in Fourways. She has a special interest in sports (especially CrossFit) as well as

post-surgery rehabilitation, orthopaedic conditions and injuries.

It can be easy to think that, if you’re going to gym and steadily increasing the weights, you’re doing great. But if you’re not getting the results you want from your gym visits, or you’re feeling pain in places you don’t expect, there’s a sneaky daily habit that you can use to enhance your gym performance: your posture. How you hold yourself affects everything and your posture is formed through repetition. Sitting in the car, slouching at your desk, walking the dog — no matter what you’re doing, that repetition informs your posture much more than any bench press ever will.

You mean my mom was right?

When you were told to sit up straight as a kid, it was likely just because slouching looks terrible. Creating a situation where you are more comfortable in a slouched position creates strain throughout your body. Think of it like this: your body is most at rest when it’s supporting itself equally. Imagine your spine, bones and tendons as a series of blocks — when they rest squarely upon each other, they all contribute equally to holding up the whole. When one or more is knocked out of alignment, that puts strain on the whole tower.

How does this posture affect my training?

For example, if you sit hunched at a desk everyday looking down into your laptop screen, then “your head and neck will follow into forward alignment and your lower spine will lose its normal hollow,” Diane says. If you then try to bench press weights at the gym, “your shortened chest and rounded shoulders will take over the movement, limiting control from the back muscles”. If running is more your style, a rounded posture will tighten the muscles between your ribs and in your neck, preventing your chest from expanding properly and limiting your oxygen intake. This lack of oxygen will make running much harder than it needs to be.

But I have to sit at my desk all day! What can I do?

You might not be able to change your work situation, but you can change your reaction to it. Now that you’re aware, use a regular cue, like a message ping, to alert you to sit up straight and place your feet squarely on the floor. You can also try*:

  • Raising your computer screen so that you don’t look down at it.
  • Ensuring that you sit at a height where you can place your feet flat on the floor. If your chair is too high, use a footrest or weighted box so you can rest your feet flat.
  • Play with your chair height so that your shoulders are not hunched and your hands are at or just below elbow height.
  • If you talk on the phone while writing a lot, try to get hold of a headset. This will prevent you from having to cradle the phone on your shoulder.

A visit to a physiotherapist can also help to identify hotspots, especially if you’re in pain after a long day of sitting at your desk, or if you experience pain while training. They can also recommend specific exercises for strengthening underactive muscles which will help to improve your posture.

Choosing the right medical aid is no joke, but we’ll leave you smiling.