A tight ankle leads to knee pain. Tight hips lead to screaming back pain. We quickly blame squats, running, deadlift variations, swimming, and other movements for the pain. Then we layer up in anti-inflammatories, braces, and any quick fix contraption we can get our hands on.
What if there was another way? If you know me, you know I love to push myself in the weight room. I am one of the weird individuals that thrive in the morning, in a dimly lit garage gym, tinkering like a mad scientist. Athletic feats are just a beautiful thing, and I love being in awe of the human body. Cue the Rocky theme song.
That being said, I have found one principle to be so true that it is ruthless. If you fix your posture, you will achieve a new level of performance.
Why? After working with countless athletes over the years, it is the trend that has stood the test of time. When your posture is the limiting factor, your performance output is limited. Yes, I understand that we are all built differently. With that in mind, you still have to function at a certain postural capacity to perform.
WHAT IS POSTURE
To me, it is not just a surface level picture of a human slouched over at a desk.
- It is expressing mobility and stability in the correct joints.
- It is using proper joint angles that lead to maximal performance opportunities.
- It is expressing minimal pain because things work together.
- It is showing confidence in action.
- It is you getting out of your own way!
JOINT BY JOINT APPROACH
Let’s start with the physical aspects of posture. Here is a simple diagram of Gray Cook’s Joint By Joint Approach. To simplify, this approach states that some joints are meant to be more mobile and some more stable. These joints also alternate in functional purpose. When something is out of sequence, the result is an expression of pain.
Does this sound familiar?
Take the information discussed above and layer in the posture we commonly see while seated, commuting to work, and in other daily activities and the result is quite lethal.
For example, when your shoulders are rounded forward and your thoracic spine is locked up, you minimize your ability to breathe. Having to work harder to get adequate breath into your body during a performance-based activity makes it that much harder to perform. If you participate in a sport like swimming, running, or triathlon, imagine what this extra effort results in at the end of a race. If you are a strength and power athlete, imagine how much extra time you need to recover due to a decreased breathing capacity.
Also, constantly being in a “curled” posture can result in you spending more time in the “flight” stage of being. While more research needs to be done on the effects of being in this staged for greater amounts of time, my hunch is that it will not positively affect performance.
Outside of the mechanics of postural limitations, there is the mental weight of confidence. There is nothing more frustrating than feeling stuck and limitation. This can lead to doubts creeping in which have their effect on performance outcomes.
So far, this has all sounded a little grim. The good news is those posture limitations are some of the simpler things to correct. If we were to rewind to the point where you started to deviate from your optimal posture, you would see small ripples form over time. Think about the ripple effect of throwing a rock into the water. The ripples start as small and close to the rock entry point. Then they gradually expand and cover more surface area. The same thing is true of your postural limitation journey.
To reverse these effects you need to deploy two key variables, time and consistency. You need time to unwind the limitations and this time is, ideally, 10-15 minutes each day. You need consistency to help re-train your body to mold into a performance posture. It is not flashy stuff but it has a major impact on your goals and overall health.
Want to see this in action? Recently, I had the opportunity to present on this topic to a college class. I invite you to watch the class recording and learn more about this topic. I’m all for strength, power, and endurance needed to achieve new levels of performance. With that said, postural limitations will only downplay your capabilities in these categories. Fix the underlying issue and you will automatically express a greater level of performance.