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Posture Power: The Impact of Alignment on Sports Performance and Injury Prevention (for non-competitive athletes and sports people)

This weeks post has been written by our man Luke Woolgar who, in indulging his passion for bodybuilding, butted up against his bodies reluctance to train at all times like a bodybuilder due to back issues worthy of a blog post themselves. Today's post reflects some of his learning over the last couple of years. Ever-increasing injuries during training led him down the path to back surgery and back to health via the Myokinetics method of performance through alignment; stability and mobility.


a woman athlete balances
Alignment is key to optimal performance

Introduction:

In the realm of sports and fitness, the significance of proper posture and alignment cannot be overstated. Not only does it play a pivotal role in optimizing performance, but it also acts as a crucial factor in injury prevention. In this blog post, I'll delve into the concept of ‘posture power’, exploring its influence on sports performance and the potential risks associated with improper alignment. To illustrate these points, we'll examine three common exercises: the barbell squat, the barbell bench press, and the standing dumbbell curl.


Barbell Squat:


Optimal Postural Alignment for Safety:

In the barbell squat, maintaining a neutral spine, with the chest up and shoulders back, is paramount. The feet should be shoulder-width apart, knees tracking over the toes, and the weight evenly distributed across the entire foot. This alignment ensures that the load is appropriately distributed and reduces stress on the lower back.


Performance vs. Safety:

Sometimes, the quest for optimal performance might lead individuals to deviate from the recommended posture above. Deep squatting (or Ass-to-Grass) is occasionally encouraged for targeting specific muscle groups however it is unwise to attempt to do so if you do not have the mobility to get that low without an excessive forward lean or rounding of the back. Squatting this low, under these circumstances, compromises spinal integrity and increases the risk of lower back injuries over time. The fix in this case is to avoid loaded squats of this depth while working on your mobility until you can perform a perfectly executed bodyweight ass-to-grass squat with the desired posture.


Barbell Bench Press:


Optimal Postural Alignment for Safety:

A safe bench press involves planting the feet firmly on the ground, maintaining a slight arch in the lower back, and retracting the shoulder blades. This not only enhances stability but also reduces strain on the shoulder joints. The bar should move in a controlled manner, aligning with the mid-chest.


Performance vs. Safety:

For those seeking optimal performance (such as powerlifters), the arch in the lower back is often exaggerated to shorten the range of motion hence allowing more weight to be lifted. While this can lead to lifting heavier weights, it also increases the risk of lower back and shoulder discomfort/injuries.


Standing Dumbbell Curl:


Optimal Postural Alignment for Safety:

During the standing dumbbell curl, the spine should remain neutral, shoulders pulled back, and elbows close to the body. This alignment ensures that the biceps are the primary muscles engaged and reduces stress on the lower back.


Performance vs. Safety:

In the pursuit of peak performance, individuals may sometimes sway their upper body or lean excessively, aiming to lift heavier weights. However, this compromises the isolation of the biceps and places unnecessary strain on the lower back and shoulders, increasing the likelihood of injury.


Conclusion:


In conclusion, achieving optimal performance in sports exercises should be balanced with a commitment to maintaining proper postural alignment – unless you have a specific outcome that necessitates training in a way that deviates from this (the powerlifter bench press is an example of this). While certain deviations may temporarily boost performance, they often come at the cost of increased injury risk. Understanding and prioritizing safety in exercises like the barbell squat, barbell bench press, and standing dumbbell curl can pave the way for long-term success in sports performance and injury prevention. Remember, ‘posture power’ is not just about lifting more; it's about lifting smarter for sustained well-being in your fitness journey.


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Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read on this blog. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or the emergency services immediately.


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