Why Posture and Position Matter When you Exercise

It’s something you may not always think about when you exercise, but good posture is crucial if you want to have an effective and safe work out.
Your skeletal muscle is made up of something called striations, or long fibers (think pieces of a string lined next to each other). These fibers flow in a specific direction based on where they attach or connect to bones. When you have bad posture, your bones are pointing in the wrong direction. Since your muscles are attached to your bones, your muscles are also going to be pointing in the wrong direction.
What does that all mean? Well, it means that if you have poor posture during an exercise you can actually work a different or wrong muscle.
Let’s take a look at the figure above. If the person with the posture on the left were to perform a push-up, his shoulder blades would stay in place. He would use his chest, triceps, and mid back muscles to perform the motion. That’s what we want to see.
Now look at the figure on the right. If he did the same exercise, his shoulder blades would automatically lift up toward his head. This prevents him from using his middle back muscles and also decreases the use of his chest muscles. The exercise itself will actually make his posture and any conditions he has due to it worse. Not great.
Practicing exercises with proper posture ensures that the right muscles get stronger and the body can stabilize itself properly.  Exercising with poor posture will only feed bad positions and make weak muscles weaker.
Here are some quick tips for maintaining good posture during exercise.

  1. Put the spine and head in a straight position.
  2. Squeeze your glutes together to stabilize the pelvis in neutral position.
  3. Draw your stomach in without holding your breath to stabilize the lumbar spine (low back).
  4.  Pull the shoulder blades down toward the feet. (Not together but down). This keeps the shoulders from rounding.
  5. Make sure the head stays over the shoulders not leaning forward.

By: Robin Weerts, PT, DPT