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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

What Is "Good Posture" (and How Is It Related to Movement)?

GettyImages-955753008“Stand up straight!” and “Don’t slouch!” are just a couple of variations on the same advice we’ve all likely heard at least once. I apologize if I’m bringing up bad memories of being scolded for less-than-perfect posture, but this read might give you a few reasons why those remarks might have been useless after all. That’s right, folks. We’re diving into the widely covered topic of posture: What it is, whether there is such a thing as “good” posture, and what you can do to optimize your posture at any given point.

What Is Posture and How Is It Related to Movement?

If you look up the definition of posture, you’ll find different definitions depending on where you look. One, from Oxford, says “The position in which someone holds their body when standing or sitting.” Another variation, from Merriam Webster, says it is “The position or bearing of the body whether characteristic or assumed for a special purpose.” Which one is correct? Well, I’m not sure either is incorrect, but I do have a preference for the Merriam Webster version. Why? Because it assumes that your posture at any given time is serving a particular purpose, whether that’s standing, sitting, walking, picking up an object, or performing any other bodily movement.

Your posture is ever-changing depending on the task you need to perform, so we might be missing the point entirely by getting caught up in analyzing a snapshot of what your posture looks like while you are sitting or standing still. As it turns out, it's fairly difficult to agree on what the ideal static posture actually is. Given the variance in how different individuals’ bodies are built, it seems pointless to assign a perfect static posture across the board. Not to mention, there is little evidence that supports the claim that “bad” posture or asymmetries put you at greater risk for pain. Perhaps our thought process is backward. What happens when you have pain in your back? Your posture changes! Wouldn’t it be reasonable that consistent, chronic pain could be the cause of postural adaptations that become your new normal?

Maybe our efforts should initially be focused on moving very well in a variety of ways. Moving well means maintaining the position of your body throughout a given movement or task. If you can train to move with quality in a variety of situations, it might allow for new options for movement to complete a given task, instead of repeatedly compensating. Having a variety of movement options available to you can prevent a default to the same repetitive movement patterns over and over again.

Increasing Your Movement Options

So, how do we increase the amount of movement options that are available to us? Practice, practice, practice. Yes, the dreaded p-word. The only way to learn something is to repeatedly do it, and do it correctly. And then do it correctly again. And again.

How do you know if you’re moving correctly? Have somebody watch you, of course. Without the guidance of an experienced professional who is competent with how the human body should move—whether that’s a physical therapist, personal trainer, strength coach, or other professional—you will have no outside perspective on what your body is actually doing.

Take something as simple as foot position. Just recently, I corrected somebody’s foot position from being “pigeon-toed” to being more “neutral,” with the toes pointing straight ahead. “I feel like my feet are duck-footed now!” I heard her exclaim. This is a common occurrence. When correcting somebody’s position to be more appropriate for the goal of the task, all of a sudden they feel way out of line. When your body resorts to only one option to complete a variety of movements, exposing it to a brand-new option will feel completely foreign.

Even those of us who are trained in technically correct strategies for movement can’t view ourselves from the outside. So, either we need to analyze some video footage, or more appropriately, employ an outside source as an unbiased third-party reviewer to say whether we’re moving the way we should.

Get a Movement Assessment

FMS-NewIf you’re generally healthy and pain-free, you can consult with a competent trainer to do some sort of an assessment on your strategies for movement. Each individual uses preferred methods to assess movement, whether that is a Functional Movement Screen like we offer here at NIFS, a more general flexibility screen, or an even more in-depth orthopedic analysis. All have their limitations, but you can learn a lot if you know what to look for, regardless of the testing system.

One of my favorite big-bang movement assessments is watching somebody march in place. I have an opportunity to watch the strategy they use for shifting weight back and forth between sides, I can see somebody’s ability to extend one hip while flexing the other hip under the load of gravity, I can assess an individual’s thorax position during this activity, and I can even watch what’s going on with the upper extremities in response to a stepping pattern.

As long as the observer knows what to look for, the test or system of analysis becomes less important. What does take priority is the ability of your trusted expert to provide you with the strategies you need to maintain your position, or posture, throughout your daily life. Ultimately, however, it is up to you to employ those strategies and, yes, even practice them consistently so they can become your new normal, as if movement dysfunction never even existed!

To schedule an FMS with a NIFS certified instructor please click below to learn more.

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This blog was written by David Schoch, CSCS, FMS, and Healthy Lifestyle Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: posture movement functional movement screen NIFS healthy lifestyle

Back to Exercise Basics: The Hip Hinge

In my previous “Back to Exercise Basics” posts, I broke down the push-up and then the squat, focusing on the individual aspects that form a properly performed fundamental movement. Now it’s time to take a look at the movement pattern that is considered by many to be the granddaddy of all movement patterns: the hip hinge.

Most movement in athletics (and in life) stems from a hip hinge. It is a base position that is the ultimate power generator. The hinge can be found in most movements and is a super important position and pattern no matter who you are and what your athletic event is, sports or life. Quite often, many individuals confuse the hinge with the squat; and although they are both lower-body movements, they couldn’t be more different. This confusion between the two generally leads to “squat-heavy” kettle swings, poor positioning for a deadlift, and lackluster power expression.

How the Hip Hinge and Squat Differ

So if you can live with my stick-figure drawings, take a look at how these movements are different:

Cara_hinge

HIP HINGE

  • Max hip flexion with minimum knee flexion
  • Hip dominant
  • Hips go back and forward
  • Vertical shin

Cara_squat_kb

SQUAT

  • Max knee flexion with minimum hip flexion
  • Quad dominant
  • Hips go up and down
  • Shin moves forward

The differences between the two should be pretty clear when looking at them side by side, even with these crude drawings.

Videos: How to Master the Pattern

But the hip hinge can be one of the toughest things for a coach to teach, and a tough pattern for a new mover to perfect. Of course, using an FMS to evaluate your ability to perform a hinge pattern is a key first step. But after that, how can you master this pattern? Here are a few drills that can set you up for success, as well as some variations of a hip hinge that you can add into your current program.

VIDEO #1: Set It Up

  • Karate-chop hips—Rock and lock—Charlie
  • Short-stop hand slide
  • Broad jump freeze

 

 

VIDEO #2: Grease the Pattern

  • Wall butt touch
  • Band distracted hinge
  • KB front-loaded hinge
  • Foam roller single-leg hinge

 

VIDEO #3: Variations

  • KB deadlift
  • Hip thruster
  • SaB deadlift
  • Landmine single-leg/straight leg/Deadlift

 

Just as with the push-up and the squat, we are merely scratching the surface here of both the position and the breakdown of the hinge pattern and the many ways to use and improve this ever-important fundamental pattern. But I feel good that the information covered here can at minimum get you underway toward being a hero for the hip hinge.

Get More Help from NIFS

Want more tips and information? Schedule a personal workout plan appointment with a NIFS instructor and cover cutting-edge drills and techniques to make you the best mover you can be.

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This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: functional movement functional movement screen exercise basics fitness center NIFS hips

Back to Exercise Basics: The Strong Squat

We here at NIFS are what you can call “pattern people”; meaning our team of instructors focuses on fundamental movement patterns and how we can enhance them to allow for better function and goal achievement. Of course we start this process by having our members complete a Functional Movement Screen (FMS). The first assessment takes a look at the Squat pattern. Second in our series focusing on exercise basics, the squat will be the topic here, including how you can build a better one.

The Keys to a Great Squat

As we continue our focus on movement competency prior to attempting the most challenging exercise known to man (I still see this happening every day, in the gym and all over Facebook), we begin by taking a look at the major keys to a great squat. Much like the push-up described in a previous post, the squat is a super-versatile movement with so many real-life and performance applications in which it plays a role. From sitting into a chair (and standing up from that chair) to setting a PR in the back squat in your next powerlifting competition, the squat is a very powerful and functional movement we should all be training. Quite a few things are going on in a great squat; it employs core joint mobility in the ankles and hips, core stability, and motor control. These far-reaching aspects of movement are challenged and improved when incorporating a properly performed squat into your routine.

Cara_squat

Squat Pattern Checklist

Refer to the following checklist to ensure that you get the most out of your squat pattern by performing it correctly. Just as you learned to squat, check it off from the ground up:

  1. Feet 1: Just beyond shoulder-width apart
  2. Feet 2: Slightly angle outward
  3. Feet 3: Weight over the heels and spread the floor
  4. Knees: Tracking over toes
  5. Hips 1: Hips push back to begin movement
  6. Hips 2: At or below parallel
  7. Hips 3: Hips and knees flexing at same time
  8. Spine 1: Angle of spine and tibia are the same
  9. Chest: Keep up, proud chest
  10. Arms: (top of press) Push-up to straight-arm position
  11. Head: Keep gaze straight ahead

Squat Variations

Here are just a few variations you can try after mastering the pattern. Remember, do the basic stuff really well before moving on to the really hard stuff.

Overhead w. Dowel IMG_1201

2KB Front Squat

IMG_1211

BB Back Squat

IMG_1217

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This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: squat pattern squat exercises functional movement functional movement screen assessment joints powerlifting

Don't Skip the Warm-up: Injury Prevention and Workout Performance

GettyImages-658858192You might think that skipping the warm-up when you work out isn’t that serious. You only have so much time to get your work out in, so you think, “My warm-up was walking in here,” and “I don’t have enough time!”

Warming up is a significant component of your fitness routine, and skipping it could result in unpleasant and dangerous results. Muscle strains, muscle injury, and pain are just a few of them. In all honesty, a proper warm-up will actually advance your workout performance!

The Warm-up: Basics

A warm-up is a short workout time at the beginning of your exercise session. Warming up is generally low intensity and gets your body ready for the upcoming exertion.

The point of executing a warm-up is to increase your heart rate, raise your core body temperature, and increase the blood flow to your muscles. Cold muscles and other connective tissues do not stretch very easily. Adding in a warm-up can literally warm up those muscles and allow for them to relax, giving them a better chance to work better.

When you skip the warm-up, it makes you body more susceptible to sprained muscles, cramps, and other injuries. These injuries could actually prevent you from exercising altogether until you recover, and this is the opposite of the healthy lifestyle you are trying to live.

It can take the body about three minutes to realize that it needs to move more blood to your muscles. The ideal warm-up time is anywhere between five and ten minutes.

The Warm-up: Strategy

Now that I have explained the importance of warming up, let me share with you how I personally prepare myself, as well as each of the members I work with.

A proper warm-up is about more than just “warming up the body”; it is about preparing the body for an all-out training attack that is going to enhance your metabolism. I like to look at the warm-up as a preparation phase for what is to come. The three key components I like to focus on are the following:

  • Tissue quality
  • Corrective exercise
  • Mobility and activation

Tissue Quality

The majority of chronic joint pain or overuse injuries are caused by tightness and restrictions in the muscles above or below the area in question. In other words, it’s not about the victim…it’s about the culprit!

I struggle with knee pain that is often caused by restrictions in the tissues of my front/inner/outer thighs. Back pain can often be caused by restrictions in your glutes and hamstrings, along with shoulder pain associated with thoracic spine (T-Spine), chest, and lats.

Over time, we can develop scar tissue, adhesions, and knots and trigger points due to high-intensity training, overuse, and/or extended periods of sitting. My personal struggle is all the years I played high school, college, and professional basketball. The best way I know how to address my areas of pain is to self-massage the areas that may be sore and tight using good strategies I have learned from one of our massage therapists here at NIFS.

Corrective Exercise

We all experience “issues” with body mechanics and functional movement capabilities. For some the issues could be lack of flexibility, while others may experience balance and mobility issues. There could even be a difference between sides, with the right side being “stronger” than the left side.

The FMS (Functional Movement Screen) is a ranking and grading system that documents movement patterns that are key to normal function. By screening these patterns, FMS readily identifies functional limitations and asymmetries. These issues can reduce the effects of functional training and physical conditioning and distort awareness.

The FMS scoring system is directly linked to the most beneficial corrective exercise to restore mechanically sound movement patterns. Exercise professionals monitor the FMS score to track progress and identify those exercises that will be most effective in restoring proper movement as well as building strength in each individual.

To recap the importance of the FMS:

  • Identify functional limitations and asymmetries that have been linked to increased injury risk.
  • Provide exercises to restore proper movement and build stability, mobility, and strength to each individual.

Mobility and Activation

A mobility and activation circuit truly prepares your body for a maximum-performance workout. Mobility describes the ability of a joint, or a series of joints, to move through an ideal range of motion. Mobility requires an additional strength, stability, and neuromuscular control component to allow for proper movement. Activation is often paired with mobility because many mobility exercises activate key, and often dormant, pillar stabilizers in your hips, core, and shoulders.

Not JUST a Warm-Up

So, the next time you decide to skip your warm-up or think you don’t have enough time, remember that a warm-up is imperative for injury prevention and your long-term health, fitness, and weight-loss goals. Don’t do yourself an injustice by not warming up.

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This blog was written by Ashley Duncan, Weight Loss Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

 

Topics: functional movement screen weight loss injury prevention workouts warming up