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Little Rock Racquet Club fitness director Josh Holt does the Reverse Tabletop Hold. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/CELIA STOREY)

Posture is one element of human biomechanics that can provide a lot of information about an individual. Active, healthy people tend to present themselves much differently than people who have yet to introduce regular physical activity into their lives.

A certain percentage of posture is purely physical, but there are psychological influences that affect it.

Biomechanics experts point to the "anatomical" position when evaluating an individual's posture. Compared against the statuesque anatomical position that is often reference, most of us fall short. The ideal posture is extremely upright with a perfectly curved spine that aligns the shoulders and hips.

Of course, a living, breathing human will not maintain perfect posture all the time. But more often is better than less often, and being aware can help. I have a few tips for becoming more aware.

First, imagine a string is constantly pulling your head diagonally upward and slightly back. If you tuck your chin in to create a double chin, you'll feel this sensation properly. This simple piece of postural awareness extends and straightens the cervical spine to reduce pressure on the vertebrae above the shoulders.

Thoracic spinal alignment can be achieved by pulling the shoulder blades back and slightly down. Combining this with the cervical alignment technique described above, 75 percent of the spine should be in an ideal anatomical position.

Aligning the lumbar spine is not quite as straightforward as the cervical and thoracic sections, because it requires awareness of one's pelvic tilt. A forward pelvic tilt results in an increased curve in the lower back, while a backward tilt reduces the lumbar curve. For proper lumbar alignment the idea is to find the "center" position for the pelvis, where there is a natural curve in the lower back.

If these postural awareness tips are practiced regularly, it's possible to achieve significantly improved posture — for anyone, regardless of fitness level. However, maintaining good core strength will dramatically improve one's chances for maintaining good posture throughout life.

This week's exercise is designed to enhance core strength as it relates to good posture. The Reverse Tabletop Hold challenges exercisers to get into a position that is exactly the opposite of how we spend 99 percent of our lives.

1. Sit on an exercise mat with your legs outstretched in front of you.

2. Lean back and place your palms on the ground behind you, shoulder-width apart.

3. Place your feet flat on the floor in front of you, about shoulder-width apart.

4. Lift your hips to form a straight line between your shoulders and knees (think tabletop).

5. Hold this position for 15 to 20 seconds, then give your wrists a break and do one more.

The Reverse Tabletop Hold will feel very strange the first time. The back and arms may experience some discomfort, so it's important not to push too hard too fast. For beginners, I'd even recommend getting into the position for just a few seconds initially. This will allow you to build confidence and slowly get more comfortable, with low risk for injury. Enjoy!

Matt Parrott has a doctorate in education (sport studies) and a master's in kinesiology and is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine.

Style on 04/15/2019

Print Headline: Postural awareness: On the straight and narrow

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