When you hear the word “flexibility”, what do you think?
If you are like most people you probably think of:
* needing to become a contortionist & twist yourself into various pretzel-like shapes;
* “stretching sucks. It’s boring. There are other/better things I need to do”;
* “ I’m naturally inflexible & will never get any better at it so why bother”.
This is why I think the word “flexibility” sucks. It’s the bad boy in town; it has a serious reputation problem. But stretching is only one factor that determines how flexible you are.
There are some factors which affect your flexibility that are outside your control, eg. your age, gender, your biomechanics & the length of your limbs.
But there are many other factors that are within your control – such as your posture – which have a huge impact not only on how flexible you are but how flexible you perceive yourself to be. That distinction is an important one.
Try this. Wherever you are, roll your shoulders forward & slouch into your chair. Imagine you are exhausted (some of us don’t need to imagine this!) & slouched on the couch or over the computer.
Now, keeping your shoulders in that position, try to raise your arms above your head. How far did your arms get? My bet is that you can’t get your arms pointing directly towards the ceiling with your shoulders in that position.
Now what most people do to get their arms directly pointing directly to the ceiling when their posture is poor – probably without realising it – is to arch their back, which can lead to (lower) back pain & ultimately injury.
Now the shoulder position in that exercise was exaggerated but every one of us has some degree of poor posture. The amount of “flexibility” in your muscles is a factor but your shoulders & your posture is likely to be the main reason you can’t point your arms directly towards the ceiling in that position.
No amount of stretching your shoulders, arms, chest or back will improve your ability to get your arms above your head if it is your posture that is preventing it. Poor posture will slow you down as your body isn’t able to produce a great deal of power nor is it able to use the power it does produce efficiently.
Being able to get your arms about your head is essential for everything from swimming, netball, golf & Crossfit to everyday activities like washing the car, getting a heavy box or suitcase off a high shelf or hanging out the washing out.
So try these tips to improve your posture & watch as your flexibility automatically improves as a result -
1/. Be aware of your posture. Did you automatically correct your posture right then? How are you sitting right now?
Whenever you become aware that your posture is less than desirable, straighten up. Over time, your “default posture” – the position you stand or sit when are you aren’t consciously thinking about it – will improve.
2/. Lance Armstrong does it. You should too. Strengthen your back; make sure you include some exercises such as a pull up (which can be done on a fence or railing if you don’t have access to a gym) to engage your back & help to reduce movement imbalances that affect your posture.
3/. Stretch the front of you. Calf & hamstrings tend to be the body parts most commonly stretched. But it is equally as important to stretch the front of your body which tends to be very tight given how much time we spend seated. Include quadriceps, stomach & chest stretches in your weekly routine.
So my challenge to you is to pick 2 of these tips to implement this week. Share with me which one(s) you have picked?
Please let me know how you are able to implement them over the next week. What difference(s) to your posture have you noticed?
Please do not hesitate to ask any questions you might below so I can answer them for you. If you would like to find out how I can help you to improve your posture & power, please do not hesitate to contact me.
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