breaking away....

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Postural Assessment and the Triathlete

Postural Assessment is to see how imperfections in your posture reveal muscle length imbalances.  These imbalances can play a roll in injury during training.  Most of these imbalances come from having bad postural habits, while sitting and standing while at work, driving and doing our every day activities.  Many hours of bad posture can not be reversed by small exercises, they take a conscious effort to correct, you must focus on correct posture while sitting, driving, and doing our every day activities.

Your head should be centered over the shoulders, you have a cervical curve in your spine, a thoracic curve, and a lumbar curve.  If any part of those curves is exaggerated or reduced there is a risk of injury.  Sitting at our desk with shoulders rolled forward and head reaching forward is enhancing or exaggerating our thoracic (upper back) curve, it lengthens the muscles in the back, shortens the muscles in the back of the neck, lengthens the muscles in the front of the neck and shortens the  chest muscles, just by having a forward reaching posture during your work day, you can create a pattern of movement which can lead to shoulder problems.

Keep your head over your shoulders, your shoulders back and down, a small lumbar curve with slight forward tilt of the pelvis and you are sitting correctly, at attention.  This will take time to become less work as you have to actively pull your shoulders back if the back muscles have lengthened, now you need to strengthen them.  If the pectoral muscles have shortened they need to be stretched, working the back will stretch the chest.

How does this affect the triathlete.  Look at your posture during swimming.  Freestyle swim is an internal rotation of the shoulder, this shortens the pecs or chest, as it is actively using those muscles.  Basically swimming will accentuate bad posture by strengthening the short muscles and lengthening the long muscles.  How do you correct this, add external shoulder rotation to your dryland training, add shoulder retraction, work through the middle and lower traps.  If you add some back stroke to your workout you will also work at lengthening the muscles that you are shortening, it is a balancing act, it is something you need to focus on all the time, work the muscles in balance, the minute you work one and ignore the other you will see changes in joint mobility and movement patterns.

Rounded lower backs, as we slouch at our desk or hang over the steering wheel we are allowing our lumbar curve to round,  constant sitting shortens our hip flexors and lengthens our glutes.  The hip is the one area of the body that once it is no longer in balance can cause lower back, hip, knee and foot problems.  By shortening one side of the supporting muscles of the hip socket you are creating a new movement pattern for the hip in the socket.  When the hip is weak the body will compensate, it will try to use the lower back to do the work.   Ever notice on a long ride that if you have one leg that feels powerless that the spinal errectors on that side are tight and get tighter as the ride gets longer.  This is a sign you need to work those hips, you need them to do their job.

I have included a PDF of my abbreviated static assessment, it is just for information purposes, to help you see what some of the problems look like in a photo.  It is another way to look at things and you may decide it is time to do something about it.  Race Season is months away, what better time to make the change than now.

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