Examples of posture indicating movement

Posted on November 4, 2015


While I think posture is a factor to look at, I’ve seen some obsess over it. Where they expect everyone to stand perfectly upright and symmetrical. Trying to iron out every little flaw.

Posture is really just a window into how someone moves. Not a definitive window, but a likely one. If your upper back is hunched while standing still, then you probably hunch your back a lot during the day. It doesn’t mean you’re necessarily tight, stiff, or weak anywhere, but you may be.

The idea is you get good at what you regularly do, and you tend to stick with what you regularly do. If in a standing posture assessment your arms are out like this,

Abducted shoulders

Then you probably hold your arm out like that a lot during the day. Like while typing.

Typing elbows out with arrows

Or sitting.

Amy L Shoulder Positioning While Seated With Lines (abducted)

And that may very well be something to work on.

-> One guy I had always had his left arm way out during training. Eventually I figured out he worked for AT&T, climbing poles. He wore a tool belt 8+ hours a day, with most of the tools offset to the left, with his left hand always on the belt to keep things sturdy. Something like this:

offset tool bet with abducted arm

Notice the elbow way out.

It didn’t matter how much we stretched or strengthened anything, that habit needed to change, so his arm could relax. (When you’ve been doing it over a decade, and it’s how you get your work done more efficiently, it can be a very hard habit to change!)

If you’re trying to get out of some regular pain / discomfort, then what you regularly do is what needs to change.

Few of us stand in one position for more than a few seconds at a time. (Although, with standing desks, this is starting to change.) Though if sitting bothers you, then that’s sometimes a static posture for significant periods at a time. So, static posture can certainly matter, depending on the context. But the idea here is when a posture assessment takes place, standing still takes place. Standing still is typically not when people are having issues during their lives. When they move is when they have issues. The thing you want to change then is how someone moves. Just because you change how someone stands still does not mean you will change how they move. Change how they move all day though, and you’ll probably change how they stand.

If your someone who stands with your elbows out, and you also type with your elbows out, which activity are you doing more often? You type for 8 or more hours a day; how many hours -or minutes- do you stand still per day?

Posture can indicate how someone moves, so it’s worth looking at, but it provides a starting point; it’s rarely the ending point.

I wanted to show a more subtle variation of this, because I think a lot of the crowd on the other end of the extreme -posture doesn’t matter at all- maybe aren’t looking closely enough.

Here is the description of what’s going on from someone,

“I’ve been dealing with middle back and scapula area pain/discomfort/dull ache/tightness/tension (I find it really hard to be able to describe the feeling in words) for about 10 months now. I’ve had an X-ray, MRI, and a Bone scan on my thoracic spine and all have shown nothing besides a bit of excessive kyphosis in my thoracic spine.”

A posture picture,

Alec H Right Side

Immediately we can see a big upper back arch one direction, and big lower back arch the other direction. This is a common pattern, and one I look out for when people are moving. Such as when planking. Low and behold, here is this person’s plank,

Alec H Plank 1

Right away we can see some of that upper back kyphosis. We care about this because this person is having issues around the mid back-

Alec H Plank 1 copy

Meaning right away we can say even when this guy is planking, he’s having issues with his upper back rounding. We can improve his plan to diminish his upper back rounding by changing his plank form. Or by taking the plank out. Because as of now, whenever he planks, he is encouraging a movement he likely already does a lot of. (As indicated by how he stands.) So much we want to give his upper back some variety i.e. not round so much, so often.

Here is the plank after about 30 seconds,

Alec H Plank 2

Looks familiar,

Alec H Plank side by side

Not exactly the same, but similar e.g. the hips start drifting in front of the shoulders.

Whether this is at the beginning or end of a plank, in this exercise, this guy is feeding into the movements he likes to do a lot of already.

Looking at a back view of this guy’s posture, not much jumped out at me initially,

Alec H Back View ( spine bend )

Right rhomboid area is thickened. Usually a good thing to work on.

We can see a nice divot in the location he likes to extend his back,

Alec H Back Close Up
Alec H Lower back lines side by side

But this person is more concerned with their scapula area and mid back. I had the person send me some videos of the exercises they’ve been doing, and moved on to that.

This person sent a lot of videos. I’m going through them, making small notes here and there, but then I see this video,

Holy spinal motion batman!Alec H Cable Row spinal motion Alec H Cable Row spinal motion with line

I immediately go back to the back posture photo, and of course this stands out to me more,

Alec H Back View ( spine bend ) with mid back arrow

Alec Back Close Ups side by side Alec Back Close Ups side by side with trace

This guy’s spine bends exactly during an exercise as it is during his posture photo, it’s just a matter of severity.

I wouldn’t have expected to see such dramatic spinal motion based on this guy’s photo. As I said, I didn’t read much into it at first, but once I saw that video I knew it was something worth working on. If the guy’s spine is that mobile during one exercise, he’s likely moving that way a lot during the day. Likely during simple stuff. Like leaning to the right while driving or at a desk.

Driving leaning to right on console

And an area that’s getting moved enough to where it’s that mobile, is ripe for an area that needs to change up how it’s being used. In other words, we stop that spinal motion during everything he does. That won’t be all we work on, but it’ll be a good portion.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.