Photo from OOScare Ergonomics

Posture, a topic that doesn’t seem all that sexy but can have ill effects on your health, performance, confidence, and attractiveness. I’ve posted before on posture here and here, but a recent T-Nation post by Geoff Girvitz does a great job hitting many of the major points of proper posture. Girvitz cites research that says posture can affect physical height, energy levels, mental health, and confidence.

Girvitz believes that posture is critical especially as we age because every deficit becomes more exaggerated. This is especially the case if you spend the majority of your day in a sitting position. Here are some suggestions from Girvitz on improving overall posture:

  • Begin with a tall kneel and use a mirror if possible to check your posture (turning to the side helps). Once in the tall kneeling position, squeeze your butt like your pinching a quarter between your cheeks. If you feel tightness in the front of your legs just below your pelvis, that is most likely your extremely tight hip flexors telling you to stop sitting so much. From spending so much time in a shortened position they are now extra tight and need some soft tissue work and mobility to open your hips back up. Once you achieve a tall kneeling position with neutral hips and back, you’re ready for Girvitz’s next step.
  • You may hear us coaches cue athletes to keep their chest up while lifting to keep the spine from slumping and putting your back in a compromising position. Girvtiz says that perhaps a more accurate cue for good posture is to think, “ribs forward”, and driving your lats down through your ribs to help create the proper stacked feeling for your low and mid back.
  • Girvitz next focuses on the shoulders, encouraging us to squeeze the shoulder blades together several times followed by rotating the thumb forward and out (supination) several times to remind our central nervous system what full range of motion feels like. Once you feel the range of motion improved, retract the shoulders and rotate the thumbs one last time allowing both to relax slightly. He notes that you might find it easier to keep the shoulders from falling forward now that your chest is up (see previous step).
  • Moving onto the neck, elevate the crown of your head as tall as possible and allow gravity to gently pull your chin down. A check to ensure you’re neck is in a neutral position is to grab the ropes of muscle located at the 10 and 2 o’clock positions on your neck (sternocleidomastoids), and ensure there is minimal tension in those muscles.
  • Finally, Girvitz says that a good sitting position should resemble a front squat where you’re able to stand on command without rocking or the use of momentum. Lower yourself into a squat until you’re lightly touching the chair, the weight should be in your heels and there should be little stress in your knees. Once you make contact with the chair gradually sink onto the chair only keeping your muscles slightly engaged. Ensure all the points earlier are in effect…neutral hips and back, ribs forward with lats engaged, shoulders retracted with thumbs forward, and neck tall with chin gently declined.

Sounds tough because it probably is tough for many of us to sit correctly. That’s because many of us sit for extended periods of time either voluntarily or unvoluntarily, and the human body just isn’t designed to be stationary for such a long period of time. Girvitz recommends standing up and moving around every 10-20 minutes to help overcome the adaptations the body makes to extended periods of sitting (i.e. tight hip flexors and kyphosis of the neck). As with many of the things we do at Intrepid, sitting with better posture will take practice and patience, especially when your body is tired or sore from the last few workouts. This is one area we can all probably improve upon and it will go a long way in promoting a better quality of life as we age.

WOD 09.07.11

OHS 3-3-3
Next Level Invitational “Moulton”

30 Pullups
30 Wallball Shots
200m Run
20 Pullups
20 Wallball Shots
200m Run
10 Pullups
10 Wallball Shots
200m Run

5 Responses to “Sitting Posture Revisited”

Jeff Stoehr
September 7, 2011 at 9:19 AM

I bought the deal of the century at the thrift shop in town… I picked up a great chair that is absolutely perfect for my situation @15.00!!! you never know!!!!

September 7, 2011 at 1:41 PM

Sean, what are your thoughts on the kneeling chair? I had one of these for years when I was a kid and really liked it. It definitely keeps your back straight. But I’m not sure if it’s good to have your legs bent under you the way this chair does.

September 7, 2011 at 4:31 PM

Hey – what is TSA doing visiting my office?!?

September 7, 2011 at 4:50 PM

@Scott-I have personally not tried the kneeling chair, but it does intrigue me. I’ll have to look into it more. As with anything just be aware how long you spend in any one position. Even in a kneeling position, staying stationary for an extended period of time causes the body to make adaptations to accomodate.

CrossFit Intrepid » Death by Chair
September 19, 2011 at 6:03 AM

[...] Monday and for most of you, it’s back to the daily grind at an office. Sean just recently posted about fixing your seated posture. I’d suggest you take the time to look over them, as he also [...]