Neanderthal No More, Part II
The complete guide to fixing your caveman posture!
by Eric Cressey and Mike Robertson
The Postural Analysis: Side Posture
After reading Part I you're probably thinking to yourself, "Maybe my posture isnt so great after all, but how do I know?" Well, if you completed your homework assignment from last week, you should have been waiting for this week's update with a bunch of photos in hand. Time to put them to good use!
Essentially, we're looking for straight lines and 90-degree angles. Lets start with your side photos. You should be able to draw a straight line between the middle of your foot and take it up through the knee, hip, acromion process (the "bump" where your superior scapula meets the clavicle), and mastoid process (the nub just behind your ear); ideally, this line is also perpendicular to the ground.
Below are the four most common side postures seen. Figure #1 depicts an anatomically ideal posture, whereas Figure #2 shows a posture with the same ideal spinal curves but excessive anterior weight-bearing (i.e. the weight is on the toes). In Figure #3, the anterior tilt has a semi-normal lumbar curve, but compensatory exaggerated kyphosis in the upper back.
Figure #4 is the "Caveman Look" to which we've been referring. It's highly prevalent in today's society; can't you just picture a computer screen right in front of that poor stickman with the club? In this fourth figure, you'll notice the exaggeration of the spinal curves, coupled with the compensations that manifest themselves throughout the rest of the body (excessive lordosis, excessive kyphosis and a head forward posture).
Now before you go on, take out a blank sheet of paper and make six columns at the top. The columns will be labeled as follows:
Heres a checklist of things to examine on your side-posture analysis, starting from the ground up:
Now, lets move on to our front photos. We'll be examining not only the position of the legs, but of the arms and hands as well. Below we have the two most common lower body postures: #1 represents our ideal and #2 the more common knock-knee or valgus position (imagine the kneecaps practically facing one another).
Heres a checklist of things to examine on your front posture analysis, starting from the ground up:
Finally, lets take a look at the photos of your back. This is usually the quickest test to perform because youve already examined the majority of the body. The most important thing we're looking at is the position of your scapulae.
Figure #1 shows us the ideal posture for our scapulae; the medial, inferior borders are both retracted and depressed. Figure #2 is an example of scapular winging, where the scapulae are "pulled" up and to the outside. Finally, Figure #3 shows us a classic example of someone with overactive/hypertonic upper traps coupled with weak and inhibited middle/lower traps.
Heres our back posture view and what we need to examine. As a note, make sure to examine both sides in unison, as well as each side independently. For example, many people only have scapular winging or elevation on one side (typically their dominant one), so be sure to look for imbalances side-to-side as well.
Now that youve completed the postural analysis, add up how many checkmarks you have in each column. This is pretty simple stuff; the more checks you have under each column, the more signs you have of that specific postural condition!
If the results of the postural analysis havent already given you a pretty good idea of which postural afflictions you're battling, we have a few more tests that can help to answer any remaining questions you might have. Some of these tests require a partner.
You should be able to rest a yardstick across the clavicular portion of your pectoralis major without it touching the head of your humerus on either side. If the yardstick makes contact with your humeral heads first, you're dealing with internally rotated humeri and probably kyphosis.
When you enter a room, which passes through the door first: the chest or head? If it's the head, you're dealing with forward head posture.
Supine Leg Lowering Test
This test is widely utilized, and Don Alessi described it in detail (including performance norms) in a previous Iron Dog. If you havent tried this before, check it out and see how your core strength stacks up. If you perform poorly, chances are you have anterior pelvic tilt and exaggerated lordosis.
This is an easy test that assesses the functional capacity of the lower body. Start with the feet at shoulder-width, toes pointing straight forward, and your arms held in front of the body. From here, perform a full squat (and yes, your thighs have to be at least parallel to the ground!) Look in the mirror if necessary; do any of the following occur?
Hip Extension Test
Another test that's quite revealing is the hip extension test. This test will give you an idea of how your lower extremity is functioning, along with other muscle groups that may be trying to substitute for the prime movers.
Lay prone on a table or bed with the ankles hanging just off the end. From this position and keeping the leg straight, lift the leg up several inches. Youll probably need someone to monitor you, but here are a few things they should be looking for:
Trunk Curl Test
This is just a basic sit-up test, but the results will give you an idea of how your trunk flexors and hip flexors are working. Lay on a table or the ground in a supine position with a slight bend in the knees. Place the arms out in front of the body and then curl-up slowly. Have your partner notify you if he or she sees any of the following:
If you took a close look at your photos and used the above tests, you're guaranteed to have some insight into how good (or bad) your posture really is. Next week, we'll show you how us anatomy enthusiasts (read: dorks!) apply these analyses to real-world situations.
Eric Cressey, BS, CSCS is currently pursuing a Master's Degree in Kinesiology with a concentration in Exercise Science at the University of Connecticut. He graduated from the University of New England with a double major in Exercise Science and Sports and Fitness Management. Eric has experience in athletic performance, rehabilitation, and general conditioning settings. He can be contacted at [email protected].
Mike Robertson, M.S., C.S.C.S., U.S.A.W., is the Director of the Athletic Performance Center (APC) in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The APC offers sport performance training, injury rehabilitation, and personal training services to its clients. Mike received his Masters in Sports Biomechanics from the Human Performance Lab at Ball State University. Mike has been a competitive powerlifter for the last three years and is currently the USA Powerlifting State Chair in Indiana. To contact Mike, please send an email to [email protected].
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