Posture and Corrective Exercise: Hip Flexor Stretching
Precautions Before Trying Corrective Exercise for Posture
This segment will show you one way to perform an effective hip flexor stretch to help reduce lower back pain and improve your posture.
If you have any injuries, medical conditions, or areas of concern, talk to your doctor or physical therapist before trying any new exercise. Even if these exercises intend to correct posture and facilitate functional movement, we can still hurt ourselves in the process if we do not pay attention to warning signs.
Take it slow, take it easy, and keep your sessions SHORT. If you do short, enjoyable sessions, you will continue to come back for more and associate positive emotions with exercise. Workouts ideally will last 20 to 30 minutes at the most (unless you're an endurance athlete). Unless you're on steroids, anything more than this amount of time for your workout can be excessive.
For those who insist that to look muscular that you must spend a few hours in the gym everyday, I'm living proof that the contrary is true.
Most Common Cause of Incorrect Posture
When we sit, our we unintentionally condition our body's to choose the path of least resistance with our posture. Biologically, our bodies do this to conserve energy. Our environment evolved, however. Now we must do corrective exercise to re-align our bodies to improve functional mobility.
In other words, our backs get stiff, our shoulders and neck sore, and we develop aches in pains that come from a long period of incorrect posture and deconditioning.
Our postural compensations can also derive from an injury. When we injure a part of our body, it corrects its posture to find the path of least resistance (or pain in this case). Over time we favor one side of our body, muscle imbalance increases, neurological recruitment imbalance increases, and next thing we know, we re-wired our neuromuscular system to operate dysfunctionally.
Here's what the most common symptom of low back pain comes from:
Tight Hip Flexors, Weak Core
Corrective Exercise for Posture in 3...2...1...
Hubbers, that little pillow or ergonomic chair only goes so far before the next bout of some nagging pain returns.
The red mark indicates over-active and tight hip flexors. Also, our core musculature relaxes when we sit and eventually lean back. Gravity works against us, and like water flowing over a rock, over time even the rock's shape will conform to the constant flow of water.
Here's what happens when we stand up.
Areas Requiring Corrective Exercise To Reduce Low Back Pain and Increase Posture and Functionality
- Forward shoulders, curved thoracic spine.
- Anterior pelvic tilt
- Overactive curved lower back
Note the line showing the height difference between points 2 and 3. Normally our belts (if we where a belt) sit in the front 3/4" lower than the back. The difference here is 3 to 4 inches. We have work to do!
Incorporate Some Yoga With Traditional Stretches
Yoga can work, but not all Yoga. Pilates can work, but not all Pilates. Traditional stretching can work, but not all traditional stretching. What we want to do is perform corrective exercise for our posture.
- Yoga for corrective exercise cautions: Some Yoga poses will compromise your posture or even injure you. When in doubt, do child's pose. Ignore the instructor if they try to make you do something that compromises your form "Take a big ujjayi breath into it, just a little further..." might gently invite an injury.
- Pilates for corrective exercise cautions: They love it so much that a beginner may begin with attention to posture when doing corrective exercises, fatigue early because of the duration of some movements, then continue with the course to keep up or finish with the rest of the class. Results from continuing when too fatigued: compromised posture, not corrective exercise, incorrect muscle recruitment patterns.
- Traditional stretches for corrective exercise cautions: Pilates and Yoga bring breathing, attention, focus on posture, relaxing the correct muscles, noticing sympathetic tension, emphasis on the stabilizing muscles while stretching whereas traditional stretches and those who teach them will just say, "Do this and hold it for 30 seconds and wait for auto-genic inhibition (relaxation)".
Hip Flexor Stretch
Corrective Exercise Checkpoints for Posture
Yoga check point: breath! Feel your shoulders drop away from the side of your neck
Pilates check point: Feel your belly button stay strong and move towards your spine. Maintain posture by squeezing together your lower trapezius and rhomboids. This will automatically tug your shoulders back.
Tradtional check points: Squeeze your butt to feel the stretch on the front of the leg with the knee on the ground.
Put everything together, and move on to the next step:
More Yoga, Pilates, and Breathing to Correct Posture
Now without the little red lines this time:
- Squeeze your back muscles to bring the bottom of your scapula (your "wings") down to your butt. That will cause your shoulders to drop away from your neck and pull back with the correct muscles.
- Pull your belly button towards your spine to keep yourself straight.
- Raise your arms directly ahead.
- Continue holding your mid back together with that squeeze, continue with the strong belly button towards the spine, continue with flexing your butt to keep the stretch in your hip flexors.
- While doing this, extend your inner arms while at the same time feeling your shoulders retract down and back naturally.
- If this is your first time doing this, stop if it hurts, stop if you get too tired. This should be HARD.
Corrective Exercise and Posture Tips
Hold this stretch for each leg for as long as you can maintain proper posture.
- Exercise next to a mirror to initially see that you align your body correctly.
- You will not notice yourself unconsciously walking around with better posture until about 4 weeks, and at that point any noticed changes will be minimal.
- You will notice immediate changes in how you feel right after you stretch. Those feelings will fade, thus it's important to recondition your neuromuscular system consistently and often with corrective exercises to improve your posture and reduce lower back pain.
- You are undoing months, possibly years of neuromuscular conditioning. This will take time. Praise yourself each time you do it. Every day, you're getting better and better. Every day you're getting stronger and stronger. Visualize yourself 4 weeks from now and thank yourself for sticking with it!
With more emphasis on attention to the natural cues our body give us to move us through corrective exercises, here's a good read that fills in a lot of the blanks.
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