As I hypocritically write this from my lazy, slouchy position at my office desk, I can still hear my dad like a broken record in my head telling me to “sit up straight” as he used to every night at dinner! Unfortunately, bad posture is the norm in our society; and if I- the person telling you to have good posture- commits daily to bad posture, I have a suspicion you also may struggle with bad posture and all it’s attending comforts.
Maybe you sit at a desk all day, stand in front of a class for hours, or make continual repetitive motions all day long- and it gets tiring so naturally you relax into those positions. But the longer you allow your body to move through poor posture, the door is opened to weakened muscles, and injuries.
This is even more true when it comes to exercise- higher speeds and greater resistance require stability, power, and force, that is lost when proper posture is thrown out the window. So what is proper posture?
The key component of good posture is a neutral spinal position. Neutral spine goes beyond just straightening your back against the chair, or walking around stiff as a board. It is organizing all of your spinal segments in perfect alignment; following the natural curvature of your spine.
When your spine is organized in a neutral position, you are at your most stable, optimal position, where force can travel most efficiently throughout the entire body. This means from a neutral spine you are going to be the most effective in your workouts (not to mention safe).
Benefits of Neutral Spine:
Allows natural curves to help cushion and protect the spine
Is the best way to attain balance and proportion
Places the least amount of stress on body tissues
Provides optimal breathing and circulation of body fluids
Uses the least amount of energy to maintain desired position
Allows activation of the right muscles during movement
Neutral spine is ideal for the majority of human movements- i.e. squatting, pulling, running, jumping, etc. Even proper sit-ups should be done from a neutral spine position! Overall, this position is a great base for many functional movements. However, you will run into some movements that will require deviation from this position, particularly during unpredictable sports, or lifting awkward heavy objects.
Dr. Kelly Starrett refers to gaining a neutral spine, as ‘The Bracing Sequence’. I’ve shared photos of the process below from his book, Becoming a Supple Leopard (for any of you interested in this topic- this book is gold when it comes to understanding how to resolve pain, prevent injury, and optimizing athletic performance. It just so happens posture is a huge part of it! I would highly recommend it!!). Follow along at home with the photos!
Now that you know how to get yourself into the right position you can begin implementing this when you workout! At first you will constantly have to think about it, but eventually it will become like second nature. Try it when you’re walking, weight lifting, or even sitting in your office chair at work! Being able to apply a neutral spine in your workouts and in daily life will help take you to that next level!