Who’s slouching now ?
By now you guys know a little bit about nutrition, exercises and general lifestyle pointers. Now let’s dive a little bit in to muscle groups and how they communicate with each other. It’s not boring honest!
If you didn’t already know, our muscles work in conjunction with each other to execute movement patterns. Just like the systems in our body chat to each other to keep us alive and cooking, our muscles work together so we can move around. Most importantly they work to help us stand up and not fall down like a damp old sock! Talking about muscle imbalances is a hugeeeee topic and therefore we’re just going to scratch the surface here and give you guys a little bit of an insight of how important it is to maintain correct muscle balance. This is especially important for maintaining correct posture and this is what we are going to be chatting about today…fun!
Whether you have a job in an office or a builder, we all have muscle imbalances and this is due mainly because of the job we carry out. Just ask yourself this question – While I’m reading this very very interesting blog am I hunching over ? Hunching over is an extremely popular posture to be in especially with people who have office jobs! It gives them a sense of comfort whilst checking their stock on the computer. However, as comfortable as this may seem certain muscles in your body get weakened and lengthened and certain muscles become shortened. This in turn can cause severe back, shoulder, neck and arm pain with the possible nerve impingement. Now when you hunch over our shoulder blades tend to be pulled forward and abducted from the rib cage by our shoulder muscles. Also due to this our neck tends to be extended forward and our chest cavity diminishes causing shallow patterns of breathing and tight chest, upper abs and neck muscles. With this in mind, our back muscles especially become lengthened and weak due to the lack of activation and this can seriously affect our core and lower back and voila – ring ring ‘I’m sorry boss I can’t make it to work due to lower back pain and the Dr said I need physio’. I bet that won’t go down well with the top guys! All this spurs from just slouching over at a desk doing your work. You will also find that when you do want to stand up and stretch your back muscles will ache and won’t be able to stand upright for a very long time due to the lack of muscle contraction over the many years sitting down. Yes bad news right! But don’t worry there are solutions !
If your job does need you to sit down most of the day then that’s okay, however you can sit more erect to help your core muscles contract and lower back muscles to support your spine. With this, get up every 15 to 20 minutes and have a nice stretch even if it is just for 1 minute this will help you release some muscle stress. Another thing you can do is invest in a gym ball and sit on that rather than a chair with a soft back rest. It may sound bizarre but using a gym ball which does frequently wobble about will constantly test your core muscles and improve spine and hip stability and because balls don’t come with back rests you will need to sit up right otherwise you know who’s going to be the laughing stock in the office – touch love right there! Okay so there are a few pointers which will help you in the office environment. But when you do come home please don’t sit down on a chair and watch TV. Try to carry out some sort of exercise with 10 minutes of stretches. You should target back and core exercises with full body stretches. I say full body due to releasing tension in your shoulders and chest as they might be tightened throughout your work shift. It is very important to take safety measures like these for people who sit in chairs all day because over time this will lead to compression of the intervertebral discs, weakened core muscles and muscle and nerve pain especially in the neck, arms and shoulders.
Another popular imbalance is related to the hips! Now lots of people tend to do exercises such as leg raises which are fine, they do their job; working the hip flexors and abdominals. But what happens is if you neglect spinal extensor exercises then you tend to shorten the hip flexors and they in turn pull on the pelvis leading to the pelvis tilting forward. The hip and spine are related meaning that if something affects one then it will affect the other. You pull the pelvis forward then this will exaggerate the pull on the lumbar (lower) region of the spine and again leading to back pains and compression of the intervertebral discs. This too will lead to shortening of some muscles and lengthening of others such as the hamstrings, rectus abdominis and the gluteal muscles (bum). Believe it or not this can also lead to upper body injuries as your body is a system and one thing relates to the other.
However there is good news! You can correct this by focusing more on extension work to realign the pelvis. Things such as bridges, deadlifts, back extensions, supermans, lunges with overhead reach, spidermans with overhead and lateral reaches will all do the tricks. These exercises activate the posterior part of the pelvis and will reactivate these muscles! Trust me you do not want hamstring pulls or ruptures because you couldn’t be bothered doing those exercises, it’s just not worth it and don’t be worried if you don’t do leg raises for a bit – your abs will still grow by doing other more dynamic exercises.
I hope this has shone a little light over a few of your imbalances. If you need to check out your posture, then either make an appointment with a person specialising in biomechanics, look in the mirror (preferably from the side) and draw an imaginary plum line from your ear down to your ankle or even get somebody to physically draw one on you (not with permanent marker!) and see if you have any issues. If you need to know how to draw the line and where your body parts need to be in respect to the line then you can easily find it on the internet and there are step by step guides to help you.
Assessing posture is an important part of exercising and you must remember then our body is one system and 1 affected area can compromise another area of the body. Our muscles work in kinetic chains and if there is a breakage in that then we need to repair it for correct functionality. A tank without its chain around the wheels will not move efficiently so using the same principle we too need to assess our bodies for efficient movement. So evaluate yourselves and rethink a few postures that you tend to settle in correct them because you need to look after yourselves. Remember your body is the best investment!