|PowerPosture™ was Reviewed and recommended in the April, 2000 issue of Triathlete Magazine in the Indus-Tri section on page 32|
If you do not have the muscle flexibilities and strength balances to hold proper, efficient posture all the time, without thinking about it, you will never reach your potential in triathlon, no matter how hard you train! For all the training you do, and the thousands of dollars you spend on equipment and travel, wouldn't it be a shame to never reach your potential, just because of something as basic as inefficient posture and flexibility?
Look at the posture of virtually any world-class athlete, in any sport which requires high level work output. From track to swimming to triathlon to power lifting, the very best have good posture all the time! The reason is that when you have proper posture as the result of proper muscle flexibilities and strength balances around the body, you can produce the maximum speed, strength, and endurance in most physical activities.
(If a top-level competitor has poor posture, it does not disprove the need for good posture. Rather, it is a demonstration of how much talent and training they have, to be that good despite poor posture. With proper posture and flexibility, they could be even better!)
Within fairly narrow limits, proper postural alignment is the earlobe over the middle of the shoulders, over the hip joint, and over a point about an inch in front of the ankle joint. This alignment will be produced when:
- The shoulders are held back and down
- The upper back is relatively flat between the shoulder blades, and the upper spine curves forward only slightly
- The chest curves out; the forward tips of the shoulders should be 1 or more inches behind a yardstick placed across the upper chest
- The collar bones are level or slope only slightly upwards
- The chin is 3 or more inches above the outer tips of the collar bones or the sternal notch (the hollow at the base of the neck, above the breast bone).
This postural standard pertains to people of all ages. There is no research evidence that as one ages normally, posture has to get worse, nor that upper body flexibility has to get worse. Unless a person specifically has a disease which causes spinal degeneration, posture should be as straight at age 80 as at age 20. The posture of international-level age-group triathletes is usually indistinguishable from that of younger competitors!
Overall, there are many advantages to proper posture and flexibility:
- Optimal organ and muscle function for maximum energy, endurance, and vigor
- Optimal biomechanics for the best possible muscle performance
- A neck, shoulders, and upper back which are no more painful or fatigued than the rest of the body at the end of the day or at the end of a long drive
- Greater concentration and mental ability (as a result of this reduced pain and fatigue)
- Fewer upper and lower back problems
- Little or no height loss with age
- A flatter and stronger stomach - in fact, without proper posture, you can never achieve the flattest stomach and smallest waist possible
- A more respect-producing, confident, competent, vigorous, youthful appearance
However, instead of proper posture, most adults (including triathletes) stand and walk with their head thrust forward ("forward head posture"), their shoulders hunched forward, and their upper back rounded. A forward head, hunched shoulders, and a curved upper back produce the following bodily adaptations which decrease triathlon performance:
- Decreased neck rotation range left and right, and decreased upward rotation range (A major safety concern in activities like cycling, where vigilance is necessary).
- Chest and front of shoulder muscles shorten and tighten, which:
- Decreases potential chest power development in swimming
- Decreases endurance by increasing breathing work
- May decrease breathing depth, making it less efficient
- Pushes the ribcage down, which makes the stomach protrude and weakens it
Upper back and back of shoulder muscles lengthen and loosen, which:
- Weakens them, thereby reducing swimming power
- Makes them fatigue more easily
Neck, back, and shoulder muscle loading increases, which:
- Makes those muscles work harder and fatigue quicker
- Overdevelops those muscles, adding unnecessary body weight
- Diverts oxygen from the working legs or arms, decreasing performance
- Makes upper back muscles and spine more injury prone
- Increases risk for temporomandibular (jaw) joint problems - forward head posture is a well-recognized cofactor in temporomandibular disorders. These disorders affect all physical activities.
- Increases load on cervical spine, which, when combined with excessive forward curvature of the cervical spine, increases the probability of ruptured discs, and pinched nerves.
Lower spine curvature changes to compensate for the excessive forward curvature of the upper spine, which:
- Weakens and overloads the lower back
- Can cause chronic lower back pain
- Worsens existing lower back problems
- May alter pelvic position, which can reduce running efficiency
- Lung residual volume increases with a rounded upper back, decreasing breathing efficiency.
The cumulative effects of forward head, hunched shoulders, sunken chest, excessively forward curved upper spine, altered curvature of lower spine, and altered pelvic positions:
- Reduce overall biomechanical efficiency and hinder proper function of most organs, which reduces overall physical performance
- May increase injury risk because of decreased loadbearing abilities
- Cause height loss of more than 2 inches
- Makes one look stooped, saggy, and "old", which hurts self-perception and confidence, and does not convey to others (in competition or in daily life) confidence, competence, vigor, energy, or athleticism
In summary, forward head, round-shouldered posture decreases triathlon performance because:
- Forward head posture overdevelops the upper back and neck muscles, adding unnecessary body weight.
- A forward cantilevered head requires more energy to hold up during cycling and running, which can prematurely fatigue the neck, shoulders, and upper back, and uses oxygen which could otherwise go to other muscles.
- A forward head changes spinal curvature top to bottom, making the body less efficient. Pelvic angle and range of motion may also be affected, shortening running stride.
- Hunched shoulders impede upward movement of the ribcage during breathing, increasing the energy necessary for breathing.
- Tight chest muscles from chronic forward head posture and hunched shoulders further impede breathing.
- Decreased shoulder range of motion due to tight chest and front of shoulder muscles decrease swim stroke length and strength; and by holding the shoulders forward, they prevent efficient arm recovery and force one to roll excessively to breathe.
- Forward head posture puts the head farther down into the water, also forcing one to roll excessively and/or work harder to get the head out to breathe.
A person with poor resting posture but who runs with good posture will still have suboptimal performance because to hold that proper posture, they must work against the short chest and shoulders muscles which that poor posture has caused.
No matter how hard they train, anyone who has forward head, hunch shouldered posture at rest or during exercise will never perform up to his or her physical potential in triathlon, or in virtually any other sport!
The critical question, then, is why do most people develop this posture, when (in the absence of degenerative spinal diseases), there is no evidence that posture has to get worse with age? The reasons for most people's poor posture include:
- A "normal, modern" life history of sedentary, hunched forward activities which gradually alter their muscles' flexibilities and ranges of motion.
- No lifelong, regular exercises specifically done to prevent postural degeneration.
- Overemphasis on resistance movements like pushups, situps, and bench press, which overdevelop anterior shoulder, chest, and abdominal muscles and thereby pull the head and shoulders forward and pull the ribcage downward.
In triathletes, there is the additional training factor that both swimming and aero position cycling tend to develop hunched shoulders if compensatory training is not done. Most triathletes do not do that training, not from a lack of caring, but from a lack of awareness and knowledge!
Obviously, for best triathlon performance and overall health, one must prevent or cure forward head posture and all the biophysical changes it causes. Until now, no program showed specifically how to do this. But now, there is PowerPosture.
PowerPosture shows how to cure or prevent all of the deleterious biophysical changes listed in this paper. The program uses gentle, easy-to-do stretching and strengthening exercises which can be done anywhere and anytime (even during recovery intervals in a swim or run), and it takes only 10 to 15 minutes per day. The program was painstakingly developed as an integrated whole, so it is highly effective (as in, "produces the effects desired")!
Some triathletes might think they don't need a specific program like PowerPosture to reestablish good posture because they can "just think about it and do it". But this process seldom works, because:
- Good posture alone will only very slowly correct muscle imbalances, and it will not reestablish proper movement range of motion and muscle flexibility.
- When people inevitably stop thinking about posture and slip back into poor posture, they undo some of their progress.
- The only time-effective, assured cure for forward head posture and its associated biophysical changes is active exercise intervention, as with PowerPosture.
In summary, for the best triathlon performance possible within the constraints of lifestyle, family, profession, age, gender, and exercise time available, a person must have proper neck, shoulder, and upper back posture and flexibility. Therefore, PowerPosture truly belongs in the training arsenal of anyone who wants to be the best triathlete and healthiest person they can be!