My first Training Tip for TrainingTips.com is one that I say to everyone, including myself, approximately 50 times a day! As a Pilates and barre instructor, it is very important in my work. But, it is incredibly applicable no matter what your workout or sport of choice is! This is the most applicable, most life-changing training tip you could ever apply to your workout!
Engage your postural muscles!
What it means: Engaging your postural muscles means ALL the muscles that support your spine. That means we’re talking about your abdominals, back, and even your glutes! It also means that we’re going deep, so we’re working beyond just the surface, or what I call “the sexy muscles”. To engage your postural muscles, you have to work even the muscles we don’t see.
How to do it: Pull your navel to your spine and up under your ribs. Drop your tailbone towards your heels. Pull your shoulders down and back. Imagine a zipper between the two sides of your ribcage in the front, so your upper abdominals are engaged. If you have done all of this, you should feel tight, but lifted, in your torso.
The glutes are also part of our postural muscles, and a part that we frequently forget about. Remember, your spine sits into your pelvis, and your pelvis is supported by your glutes. So without strong, engaged muscles there, you are not supporting your spine, or those other muscles you’re working on (ie abs and back)! Glutes are your secret weapon to deep core exercise! (More on this in my next tip.) To activate your glutes, think about them wrapping around your legs. You should feel like the tops of your thighs are moving to the side, the side to the back, the backs to the insides, etc. That way, your muscles are engaged, but you haven’t displaced your pelvis (ie tucking), which then displaces your spine.
When to do it: Always and forever! This is a training tip that you can use in everyday life, not just at the gym! Practice this standing in line at the grocery store. See if you can maintain the lifted feeling while sitting at your desk. Try to keep the engagement while running, lifting, or dancing.
Why do it: Good posture positively influences everything from muscle tone, to spine health, to injury prevention, to healthy breathing. So many occasions of back pain, hip pain, shoulder and neck pain, even knee pain, can be alleviated with proper posture. With proper posture we learn to hold our weight in our center, and move our extremities from our center, both of which limit injury potential. Additionally, learning to move from our center gives our extremities more power. Whether you are running, boxing, swimming or lifting, moving from your center makes you movement stronger and more efficient.
Keeping your spine aligned with strong muscles also helps prevent injury. Your spine is your tree of life. Joseph Pilates said “You are only as young as your spine.” Back pain is one of the most common complaint of Americans. Engaging your postural muscles, during a workout and during your everyday life, will absolutely help alleviate that pain.
Additionally, good posture promotes healthy breathing, which improves your workout and your quality of life. Your abdominal muscles support your lungs. Strength in you abs provides efficient breath.
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