The importance of maintaining good posture in relation to sporting performance
One of the most well-known phrases within sport and maintaining a healthy lifestyle in general is that of posture. Unfortunately for many, it often constitutes a vague and uncertain term that struggles to be properly defined. In this piece, we are going to identify the objective understanding of the term and the impact that it can have on sporting performance.
What is Posture?
In its’ most simplistic term, the Posture Committee of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons defines good posture as ‘the state of muscular and skeletal balance which protects the supporting structures of the body against injury or progressive deformity irrespective of the attitude in which these structures are working or resting.’ By default, it can be safely assumed that bad posture constitutes the contrary.
Often, this can be confused with the concepts of static standing or sitting, often due to images portrayed of bad posture, such as the below example of spinal curvatures.
As a result of the definition of good posture from the Posture Committee of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, maintaining good posture is vital to the protection of the ‘supporting structures of the body against injury or progressive deformity’; a crucial aspect of any athlete’s training and maintenance.
What Impact Does Posture Have On Sporting Performance?
The value of posture and correction in particular has long been debated amongst professionals but there has been an increasing trend shown towards the correction of athletes mechanical movement patterns before any substantial strengthening of muscle is undertaken (Kritz et al, 2008).
Posture in relation to sporting performance consists of the efficient movement of an individuals’ body in order to complete a particular action or in order to perform a skill-set. The easiest example within sport to identify the benefits of this phase is through sprinting, where the human body is the only consideration throughout the race, running in a straight line.
In this aspect, the body is trying to reach maximum efficiency as energy wasted through inefficient movement is energy wasted towards contributing to the athlete’s top speed and this is exacerbated over larger distances. Ensuring the mechanical elements of the human body are all synchronised in moving correctly, in the correct direction is crucial therefore to success. Four-Time Olympc Gold Medallist Michael Johnson’s analysis of the mechanical elements of sprinting offers a clear insight into the focus of athletes through that specific discipline. Put simply, if additional rotation of the spine, a slumping of the shoulders that affects the position of the neck and head, driving of the arms across the torso as a result of slumped shoulders or an inability to drive legs straight forwards due to an incorrect hip position impact a sprinters’ technique in any way, it will take speed and efficiency away from their performance.
Not restricted to sprinting, it has been shown that poor posture can also impact on aerobic endurance, with the trunk muscles responsible for postural control also being used for respiration (Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise, 1991). With running being arguably one of the most natural, posture-friendly sport disciplines, the impact of posture on sporting performance across varying sports and disciplines, both team and individual can be understood.
Over time, inefficiencies can be exaggerated once muscle growth is compounded, making corrections harder to achieve the later on in a career they are detected. As a result, the importance of identifying an correcting posture in order to maintain a more efficient method of movement is crucial to the longevity of an athlete’s career.
What Affects Posture?
Aside from poor technique in a particular sporting discipline, there a plethora of issues in modern life that can impact an individuals’ posture. True Sports Physical Therapy identify the modern day mix of sitting at a desk, staring at a screen, looking down at your phone or playing a video game can all contribute to a minimal degree of movement and subsequent poor posture.
Whilst athletes often find themselves with stronger, more efficient bodies than the average population, they are not immune to the same modern day impacts on poor posture that can affect everyone. Identifying these negative habits and reducing their impact is therefore crucial to athletic performance. When identifying the impact of posture and sporting performance, it is therefore important to assess the impact of posture on athletes separately to that of the general population, rather than extrapolating the evidence from the latter and assigning it to athletic performers.
The training loads and impact on the bodies of professional athletes, often specialised from a very early age, can lead to impacting the body’s efficient functioning, leading to a chicken-and-egg scenario.
A perfect example of this is with those participating in racket or bat sports in which hitting or striking a ball is utilised. Research has shown that the action of repeatedly striking of hitting a ball over an extended period of time impacts an individuals’ posture, due to shoulder mechanics altering in standing posture. (Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology, 2010). Early specialised athletes such as gymnasts often face impact to their body later in life with exceptional flexibility and repetitive loading through tumbling and jumping. Common injuries such as lower back pain (Basel et al, 2005) highlight the impact that can come as a result of repeated training routines and subsequently the effect that has on an individual’s posture. The question of whether this is a direct result of the training methodologies or whether the training methodologies exacerbate an already fundamental inefficiency is yet to be proven.
From this, it is important to remember that joint architecture does not necessarily constitute great posture and great posture can be achieved regardless of joint structure in the majority of circumstances.
It is identified by Rob Williams, a Kinesiologist and posture specialist at SportMedBC, awareness and education are the best strategy against poor posture and often simply being aware of the signs of poor posture can be enough to begin correcting them.
In part II of this piece, we will identify some of the methods you can use to correct or perfect your posture and show the benefits it can have on your sporting performance!