Is your speed enhanced or inhibited by your posture?
Postural controls are largely based on a proper flexor and extensor balance. Animals that walk on four legs don’t have to worry about this. Being upright means we need correct postural muscle tone to do the job. In other words, we need to be able to reduce our flexors and increase our extensors in order to stand upright. This is not only true of our postural (trunk) muscles but of all the muscles of the arms and legs as well.
As a practicing chiropractor, the most common postural problem I see is a condition called “Forward Head Syndrome/Posture.” We have all seen forward head posture. The head is forward, shoulders are rounded, elbows slightly flexed, maybe bent forward (or really tight) at the waist due to hip flexor tightness, and tight hamstrings and calves. It looks slumped, old, and lethargic.
But worse than the appearance it gives is the underlying problems created in our nervous system. There are a few things that happen and I will list them but the focus of this paper is really on only one. When a person has forward head posture we often see: • Impaired gut function (ties directly to reflux, food sensitivities, and auto-immune disorders). • Loss of proper curves of the neck and low back causing stress to our gravity receptor system. • Loss of natural pain killer production in the upper neck as it no longer moves normally. • And this is a big one: the loss of our ability to properly balance flexor to extensor muscle tone.
When we are in a forward head posture our flexors become dominant. This is important. When the tone of the flexors is increased, the extensors are decreased.
Think about a straight punch. We have to reduce flexor activity (biceps) and increase extensor activity (triceps) to throw that punch. If the flexors are already ‘turned up’ and the extensors are ‘inhibited’ (think dimmer switch on the lights turned down) then it takes longer to inhibit the flexors and increase extensors to full speed. Now, the reality is that we are not talking minutes or even seconds but fractions of seconds. But then, isn’t the difference between a gold and silver medal fractions (sometimes only thousandths) of a second? Isn’t life or death determined in fractions of a second?
While each person must be evaluated for specific injuries, there are some things you can do at home right away to improve postural muscle tone. The easiest (and most cost effective) is to do a 2-phase exercise we call “Spinal Molding.” Begin by sitting on the end of the bed and alternate the entire spine including the neck between fully flexed and fully extended positions. Start slow and increase speed as you can until 25 reps are done.
Then sitting up tall, bend from side to side, again including the neck, until 25 reps are done. This is the warm up phase. The 2nd phase requires a couple bath towels rolled up for the neck and back. Once you have warmed up, lay on the bed with the towels under the neck and back and your knees bent (up). Stay here for 20 minutes.
Phase 2 is the cool down where your spinal shape is molded towards normal. Doing this each night before bed will do wonders for your spine, posture, and sleep. It can also be done after a workout when your system is nice and warm. As you change your spine, the postural tone improves and your speed and ease of movement will increase. You will notice less training injuries and sore muscles. You will quickly become stronger and faster.
In health, Doc Cohen