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Good Posture for Sports and Workouts

Working out or playing a sport can improve your posture by strengthening and stretching the muscles in your back, chest, abdomen, and legs. Regular aerobic and strengthening exercises can help your posture while they're making your heart and bones strong, increasing your oxygen flow, keeping your weight healthy, reducing stress.

However, sports and workouts can strain, and even injure, your spine, joints, and muscles if you are not correctly aligned while you're doing them. If your upper back is curved too far forward, you can hurt your neck, upper back, or shoulders. If you lower back is swayed, you can have knee, hip, or lower back injuries. Poor body alignment leads to joint instability, movement restriction, overuse injury, unnecessary wear and tear on joint tissue.

Good alignment is key. If you practice good posture, you'll not only reduce your chances of injury, but will enhance your athletic performance. You will have more grace, power, and breathing capacity. You'll reduce the risk of muscle pulls, tendon tears, joint injury, back pain, torn rotator cuff, bursitis, and osteoarthritis. Whatever sport you participate in, you need balanced joints and balanced strength on each side of your joint.

If you have already sustained an injury, wonderful resources that should be utilized are physical therapists, chiropractors, and personal trainers. Improving your posture will enhance the results, bring about quicker recovery with longer lasting results, and will decrease the chance of recurrence.

Posture and Biking
Biking is great aerobic exercise, but it's crucial that you choose the right bike and adjust it correctly.

  • Select a bike frame that is the right size for your height and weight.
  • Adjust the seat so when the pedal is farthest away from you, your leg is fully extended but your knee isn't locked back.
  • Most important for good posture, adjust the handlebars so you don't have to lean forward. It is better for your back to be sitting upright. Racing bikes with handlebars that curl downwards encourage a head-forward position, hunched upper back, and rounded shoulders. Plus, to see in front, you have to arch your neck. Mountain bikes and hybrids with straighter handlebars are better designed for the back. Many bike stores sell attachments to raise the grips of the handlebars.

Posture and Golf
Many people desperately want to improve their game. They spend lots of money on state-of-the-art clubs to increase power behind their swing. What some fail to realize is that improving your posture/alignment can have the most impact on not only your swing but the power behind the swing.

Good Golfing Posture Tips

  • Knees should be slightly flexed and directly over the balls of your feet for balance.
  • The center of the upper spine, knees, and balls of feet should be stacked when viewed from behind the ball on the target line.
  • Body should bend at the hips, not the waist.
  • Your buttocks should protrude slightly.
  • The spine is the axis of rotation for the swing, so it should be bent towards the ball from the hips at approximately a forty-five-degree angle to the shaft of the club.
  • Your vertebrae should be in a straight line with no bending in the mid-back.
  • If you slouch, every one degree of bend decreases shoulder turn by 1.5 degrees.
  • Keep spine in line for longer drives and more consistent ball striking.
  • Keep your chin up and your chest out to encourage a better shoulder turn.

If you are a golfer, your game will improve if you work on:

  1. Strengthening the abdominals.
  2. Paying extra attention stretching the tighter side and strengthening the weaker side. Do the Well-Balanced Golfer exercise (below).
  3. Shoulder joint alignment.
  4. Mid- and upper back alignment.

When carrying your golf bag, make sure the weight is evenly distributed across your back. Occasionally switch shoulders. Before lifting the bag, pull your abdominals in tightly to support the lower back. You might want to invest in a golf bag with wheels on the bottom, which can save your back a lot of stress and strain.

Well-Balanced Golfer
Prevents muscular imbalances caused by a golf swing.

  1. Lie on the floor on your back, bend your knees, and place your feet on the floor about eighteen inches from your bottom. Place both hands behind your head. Tighten your abdominals.
  2. If you always swing to the left, slowly lift your left shoulder and your right knee toward each other. Hold for a slow count of five as you pull your belly button into your spine. Release. Do the opposite if you swing to the right.
  3. Repeat ten to twenty times.

Posture and Tennis
When playing tennis, squash, or handball, you have to be ready to move quickly in any direction at any moment. This requires very flexible hips. You can increase the range of motion of the hips by stretching your hips, quads, and hamstrings. Keeping these muscles stretched and flexible will reduce the chance of injury and increase your power and agility.

If you always swing your racquet to the same side, one side of your torso will become tight and contracted, the other weak and stretched. Though you will have to twist and turn in these sports, try to avoid sudden or jerky motions.

Posture and Running
Running and jogging pound the body against hard road surfaces over and over again. This can injure the knees, ankles, hips, back, shins, Achilles tendons, and/or calf muscles. When running or jogging, you can reduce the shock to the body by striking the ground heel first. Roll from the heel to the little toe. Then roll from the outside to the inside of the foot and push off with the big toe. Keep your abdominal muscles pulled in to support your lower back.

Make sure your rib cage is lifted and your head is pulled back over your shoulders. Don't lead with your head or chest. Holding a balanced posture while running will work more muscles in your abdomen and upper body. Runners need to stretch their hamstrings, quads, and Achilles tendons.

Posture and Weight Lifting
Most gyms and health clubs have a variety of state-of-the-art weight machines designed to keep you body in the correct position while you strengthen particular muscle groups. Gyms usually have fitness trainers who can help you begin a safe and effective program.

Proper alignment is essential when using strength training machines because poor form can set you up for joint and muscle injury. Here are some ways you can make your workouts at the gym safe and effective:

  • Most weight machines are constructed to hold your body in the correct position while lifting. The joint you will be moving should be lined up with a hinge on the machine. Each time you use the machine, adjust the seat pads and other components to fit the size of your body.
  • Have a personal trainer go through each machine with you to help you determine the correct machine settings for your body.
  • The trainer can also help you determine the amount of weight you should be lifting. Your maximum is the amount of weight you can lift just once. Most people build up to working at 70 to 80 percent of their maximum strength. Start with low weights (50 to 60 percent of your maximum) until you get the hang of each machine.
  • Warm up for five to ten minutes with light aerobic activity like cycling or walking on the treadmill.
  • Whatever machine you use, always keep your head directly over your shoulders. Keep your rib cage lifted, your shoulder blades pulled back.
  • Always tighten your abdominals before pushing or pulling the weight.
  • If a padded backrest is provided for your back and head, use it. Sit tall with your back and head resting against the pad. This will keep your torso and head aligned.
  • Always keep your shoulders squared and pressed away from your ears. If you find that your shoulders hunch toward your ears while using a machine, raise the seat slightly.
  • Do the exercises slowly. There should be a three-second rest between each repetition.
  • Always exhale when you pull the weights toward you or push them away from you.
  • Don't hold your breath, as this increases the pressure in your chest, abdomen, and head.
  • Don't lock your knees or elbows. This puts too much pressure on the joints, and can lead to injury.
  • Drink water before, during, and after using machines. Even slight dehydration can affect the quality of your workout.
  • Cool down afterward. Ask the trainer for appropriate stretches.

Good posture is also important if you use aerobic machines like Stair Masters and treadmills. Many times I've seen people working really hard, but leaning forward to hold onto the handrails for dear life. They're reinforcing bad posture: forward head, slumped upper back. Instead, align yourself first by doing the One Minute To Better Posture technique. You'll not only be helping your posture, but you'll burn more calories, since you'll be using more muscles.

Posture and Walking
Walking is an excellent low-impact exercise. To make it a total body workout, always lift your rib cage up, pull your shoulder blades back, and press your shoulders away from your ears. If you tighten your abdominals while walking, the opposing movements of your arms and legs will help strengthen them,

Helpful Hint
Good athletic shoes that fit properly will help prevent injuries.

  • Choose a shoe with cushioned insoles that will absorb shock and prevent the jarring of your joints. Replace the shoes (or insoles) when the insoles no longer spring back into shape after each step, even if the other parts of the shoes are still in good shape.
  • Match your shoe to your activity. There are shoes designed to stabilize the foot and reduce the risk of injury during particular sports, including walking, running, aerobic dancing, and racquet sports.
  • The upper part of the shoe should be flexible, but should also support the foot during movement.
  • When selecting a size, stand on one foot at a time, wiggle your toes, and walk or run around the store a bit.
  • The shoe has to be wide enough that the widest part of your foot fits comfortably. Shop late in the day, because feet swell during the day.
  • When trying on shoes, wear the same kind of socks you will when exercising.
  • If you get a pain across the top of your foot, your laces may be too tight. Loosen them to restore circulation.

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