Archive for the ‘Posture’ Category

The Curve in Your Lower Back

Saturday, June 23rd, 2007

 Kris Merlo Robinson, “The Posture Lady:” Here a very important quick test and exercises to help the gymnast improve their alignment and prevent injuries. This article will help identify lordosis (too much low back arch). And give 3 quick exercises to improve posture. If you would like more information on posture, you will probably find Kris’ DVD: It’s About Posture helpful.

Have you ever wondered how much curve your low back should have? Well, it shouldn’t be flat and it shouldn’t be too arched. A flat-back position is simply called “flat-back” posture. Most gymnasts don’t have this problem. A low back that is too arched is called “lordosis,” and this problem is seen in too many gymnasts! A physical therapist has special skills to check the amount of curve in your back, but you can check it to some degree on your own.

 When testing for normal curve of the lower spine:-         Stand with your back to a wall, heels two to three inches from the wall.-         Place one hand behind your low back. -         If there is too much space between your back and the wall (if you can easily move your hand back and forth more than an inch), you need to correct your posture. CORRECTING LORDOSIS:Again, lordosis is when you have too much curve in your low back. Lordosis  makes you look like your belly is sticking out and it makes your buttocks look big. You may be experiencing low back pain and your coaches may be bugging you about your gymnastics positions – that you just aren’t making a straight line! Get to work on your posture by giving lordosis a 1-2-3 punch!  Try the 3 exercises below.1. FLATTEN YOUR LOW BACK AGAINST THE WALL First of all, try standing against the wall again, and pull UP and IN with your abdominal muscles (keep your shoulders relaxed and your chest lifted).  You should be able to use your abdominal muscles to get your low back to touch the wall. Hold this positionfor 5 seconds or so and try to do this at least once a day. To make this exercisemore difficult, try placing your arms up straight against the wall and pull your abdominals UP and IN. 2 - PRESS YOUR LOW BACK AGAINST THE FLOOR Next, lie down on the floor and press your low back against the floor, by pulling your abdominal  muscles UP and IN.  Hold this position for 5 seconds or so and be sure tokeep your shoulders pressed back against the floor. Try this exercise after a good workout, when your muscles are warm and relaxed. Just make sure your abdominal muscles wake up and work!3 – PULL UP AND IN WHENEVER YOU CAN Finally, you must learn to tighten up your external oblique (lower) abdominal muscles, by pulling UP and IN without the wall or the floor.  This simple exercise can be done when you are standingaround, when you are sitting at school or at the computer and when you are doing gymnastics.

Tired of hearing that you have too much arch in your low back or that your line isnot straight? Do these exercises (1-2-3) to help increase your abdominal strength and straighten your low back spine so that there is only a little curve.  Your abdominal muscles will look nice and flat and your buttocks will be tucked under to help make your bodyline straight.  Go for it! 

Kris Robinson - A Greater Understanding of the Shoulder Joint

Monday, January 8th, 2007

This article contains a collection of information that I presented at the “Future Stars Championships and Coaches Workshop” in Colorado Springs (United States Olympic Training Center).  When looking at the shoulder joint, it is imperative that one studies it from both a muscle strength and muscle length perspective, as well as a posture and muscle balance viewpoint.  Below is an overview of this opinion.

 The pectoralis minor muscle becomes very short and causes a rounded shoulder position in certain athletes (i.e. gymnasts) and in those that slouch.  This muscle is in the chest area and originates on the third, fourth, and fifth ribs and attaches at the coracoid process (a projection coming forward from the shoulder blade).  When it tests short, it causes the shoulder girdle complex to remain 200701kr1.jpgforward and sets up poor mechanics during arm movements.  This can cause shoulder pain, nerve and blood vessel impingement and create movement problems such as inability to move the arms above the head.  The coach, parent, and/or teammate must passively stretch the athlete’s shoulder down on a daily basis to prevent or improve the pectoralis minor muscle length.

 The lower trapezius muscle is the antagonist of the pectoralis minor and must be strengthened in most cases.  If an athlete slouches, has a short pectoralis minor and/or carries a heavy backpack on one shoulder he/she may have a long, stretched out lower trapezius muscle.  The lower trapezius muscle can be strengthened with correct sitting and standing posture and with strengthening exercises (facelying, shoulder blades pulled back/down/in, arms overhead and lift).

 If the athlete has short pectoralis major, latissimus dorsi, and teres major muscles, it will be difficult for them to reach their arms above their head without arching their back or having their arms up, but too wide.  Keeping the lower abdominal muscles contracted, the low back flat against the floor or wall, and the arms held overhead, can stretch the above named muscles.200701kr2.jpg

 The rotator cuff muscles include the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis muscles.  These muscles are an intrinsic part of the shoulder capsule and if these muscles are stiff, the capsule is probably stiff.  The athlete can be assessed for correct shoulder lateral and medial rotation.  When the biomechanics of the shoulder joint are incorrect, microtrauma can occur and lead to rotator cuff tears.  If the tear is severe, the athlete cannot hold their arm up or out to the side (positive drop arm test).

The athlete must be aware of their posture and muscle balance and how this affects their shoulder health.  Activities of daily living (sitting, standing, arm movements overhead, and repetitive activities) must be monitored for correct technique. 

200701kr3.jpgWORDS TO THE ATHLETE:  Many athletes wear a very heavy backpack (or gym bag) on one or both shoulders and it seems that they shrug their shoulders just to keep the backpack on.  Other athletes tense up when they study or perform certain skills and their shoulders elevate and get sore and tight.  You and your teammates have the potential to look relaxed, sleek and confident when you perform, so follow the guidelines below. 

  • Remove unwanted heavy items from your backpack or gym bag. Try a backpack on wheels for school and a suitcase with wheels for travel.
  • Test yourself on activities of daily living. Make sure that you keep your shoulders relaxed when you do simple things like fixing your hair, working on the computer or reaching up high to get something out of a cabinet.
  • Practice pulling your shoulder blades gently down, back and in toward your spine whenever you are sitting, standing or doing most skills. This will increase the strength in your lower trapezius muscles. Stretch your neck muscles by relaxing your head to one side and keeping the opposite shoulder pulled down.

Final Note:  Besides the potential of improved performance, you will have increased chest expansion and the ability to breathe more comfortably, as well as, less pain and stiffness in your shoulder region.  Good Luck!

For more information on Kris Robinson, and posture, buy her DVD: It’s About Posture, from GymSmarts.