Fitness attributes – posture part 2

This is the next in my series on each of the aspects in the What do you need to do to be fit? post and is the second part about posture, part one can be found here.

In the part one I spoke about why posture is important, what good posture looks like and common postural problems. This post will look at three books that I have found useful in working on my own posture, I’ll give some detail on each of the author’s theories and the main points I took from each one.

Eight steps to a pain free back – Esther Gokhale
This is where it started for me. I hadn’t really given posture any thought before reading about the Gokhale Method on Mark Sisson’s blog.

The book starts by explaining that aspects of modern life (primarily being cool to slouch and sitting in poorly designed chairs) have left many of us with terrible posture which often causes back pain. Gokhale gives examples of cultures where back pain is virtually unheard of and examines what is different about their posture. Unsurprisingly they are cultures that live very different lives to modern Westerners.

Gokhale then offers eight methods to correct bad posture and live pain free in the modern world. They include techniques for sitting, lying, bending, standing and walking.

My main plus points are:

  • An awareness of the position of my pelvis and what that means posturally.
  • The importance of hinging from the hips and using your glutes in movement.
  • The most comfortable lying position ever (seriously, it is amazing).
  • A great technique for involving the glutes more when walking.

And the negatives:

  • I found it difficult to follow the techniques using the book – I think you really need a coach or partner to help.
  • It can be very easy to slip back into bad habits. You need to constantly be mindful of how you are holding yourself.

Posture makes perfect – Dr Vic Barker
I enjoyed this book, Dr Barker is a real character. He blames the poor posture seen today primarily on shoes with heels and a lack of activity (primarily sitting). They both stop the human body being used how evolution intended.

The human body has evolved to be a pretty impressive structure that works very well. However, if you tamper with the way a structure is meant to be supported you create problems by pushing it out of allignment. If you put high heels on a skyscraper it would fall over, the human body compensates by adjusting posture to remain upright.

This poor posture then causes: changes to appearance (looking overwieght when you are not), back pain, osteoarthiriitis, difficult childbirth, poor circulation and many other issues. The book explains in detail how bad posture causes problems in each case.

Dr Barker has a long history of weight lifting and recommends specific exercises to treat each condition. His theory is that poor posture makes certain muscles weaker than others and chosing the right exercises will bring balance back to your muscles which in turm will restore good posture. He is also dogmatic about wearing flat shoes.

Plus points:

  • The volume of knowledge covered. It’s a real education, but always easy to read.
  • Easy to implement – the exercises used in treatment can be added to a training regime pretty simply.
  • You don’t really need to be mindful of your posture. If you do the exercises and regain balance in your muscles your posture will improve naturally.

Negatives:

  • Some of the exercise descriptions are a little basic. He recommends deadlifts and squats but doesn’t give much instruction on how to do them properly.
  • Dr Barker’s attitudes can be a bit old school. The content in this book is great but the easily offended should be prepared for some ‘fat person = jolly’ and ‘women = housework’ comments.

The Egoscue Method of Health through Motion – Pete Esgocue
This book starts in a familiar place – the human body has evolved to be a pretty impressive piece of machinery and it is breaking down because of misuse. According to Egoscue the main problem is lack of movement, our bodies are designed to move and many parts of modern life are specifically designed to limit movement i.e. siting in a car/walk, sitting at desk/manual labour, using a leaf blower/rake etc.

Egoscue’s treatment is incredibly simple – move more. His method is made up of a range of stretches and exercises that are designed to reverse the stuctural problems created by lack of movement. He is also an advocate of flat shoes.

After detailing the most common postures seen today (grouped into four ‘conditions’), the book contains a great section on self diagnosis allowing you to work out which ‘condition’ you have. There are then exercise regimes designed to treat each condition and bring you back to ideal posture.

Positives

  • The self diagnosis section allows you to pinpoint the specific issues you have
  • The exercises are easy to follow and seem to work very quickly, I felt a difference in my hips after one session

Negatives

  • To follow the exercise regimes from start to finish takes quite a long time, including the one designed to maintain good posture once it is achieved. They don’t really cover limit strength or cardio which would would leave gaps in your fitness if your exercise time was limted.

These books have varying approaches but all with a similar theme – aspects of modern life are forcing our bodies out of their natural alignment. The result is poor posture and eventual pain.

The next post will look at what you can do to help improve posture.

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