Straighten up and get ready to flex – your back – and abs – need help!
Words by Matthew Knight
Did you know that your body is supposed to be aligned in one straight line? Yes, you should have a shallow curve in your lower back, but when looking at someone from the side you should be able to draw a straight line through their ear, shoulder, hip, knee and ankle. If you can’t, if your head sits forward from the rest of your body, or your shoulders are rounded from sitting at a desk too much or focusing on your chest more than your back when training then you are more prone to injury, lower back and joint pain and it can have a detrimental effect on the aesthetics of your physique.
Did you also know that poor posture can stop you getting a flat stomach?
Ensuring that you have a strong set of abs is great for flattening your stomach, but if you have tight hip flexors you will need to do some specific work to correct this. Setting your hips back in their correct position by stretching and loosening your hip flexors is a great way to reverse lower body desk posture.
Your hip flexors originate from the back wall of the pelvis and insert at the top of the femur (thigh bone), so if the muscle is shortened because it’s tight, it will pull the hips down and forward towards the legs, pulling the abdominal wall out with it.
1. Begin by stretching your hip flexors (this will help to deactivate them so your abs have to work harder).
2. Supine pelvic tilt (flat back): lay on a floor mat with your feet on the floor so your legs are bent and place your hands under the arch of your lower back. From this position, using your abs, pull your hips towards your ribcage to flatten your back and squash your fingers. If you find this hard, stay in that position for one minute whilst breathing normally. If you find it relatively easy or want to challenge yourself, start doing alternate feet raises. Lift one foot off the floor a few inches then return it, then lift the other. Continue this for one minute whilst minimising any hip movement (you should not be transferring tension from foot to foot). Your abs should be constantly engaged to stop any pelvic movement.
3. Y-extensions: lay face down on a mat in a Y position (legs straight, arms extended out to sides and above head height). Contract your lower back to hyper extend bringing your chest off the floor and at the same time contract the muscles of your upper back to raise the backs of your hands straight up to the ceiling (you should feel this exercise across your upper back and posterior deltoids). Fifteen reps would be ideal with a 1-2 second pause at the top.
So to get your body looking it’s best through correction of posture:
• Ensure your abs and deep core muscles (transverse abdominus)
• Ensure your hip flexors are flexible and not tight.
• To stop rounded shoulders and internal rotation ensure your chest muscles are flexible and loose.
If you suffer from rounded shoulders (desk posture), spend some time specifically on postural exercises for the upper back.
Obviously, the above workout is a very basic way of correcting postural issues. You should contact a qualified physiotherapist if you’re suffering pain.