What it means: Good exercise alignment means that all of your joints are lined up- Knees over ankles. Hips over knees. Shoulder over hips. Head balanced on top.
How to do it: Turn profile to a full length mirror. Engage your postural muscles as noted in a previous Training Tip from me. Look at your profile in the mirror. You should be able to use your joints as bony landmarks, as I noted above. Look carefully at your spine and how it affects your torso. If your back is lifted and lengthened, using your postural muscles as described, you won’t have an overly arched or rounded low back.
If your spine is properly placed, your chest should not be protruding. This is typically a problem with men, especially if they have been in the military. They have learned to thrust their shoulders back and chest out, which collapses the middle spine and weakens the upper abdominals.
A long spine includes the back of your neck, which will keep you from sticking your forward to balance yourself. This will also help drop your shoulders down your back and into proper alignment.
When to do it: Always and forever! This is another training tip that you can use in everyday life, not just at the gym!
However, there are 2 very common cases of misalignment in the typical gym workout that I would like to address.
1. Bicep Curls or other arm work with the arms lifted in front of the body. As the arms lift in front of the body, the intuitive response is to lean back. If you do so, immediately the body is thrown out of alignment, the shoulders are behind the hips, compressing the middle spine and disengaging your lower abdominals. Try to lift your arms without moving your spine, shoulders or upper carriage.
2. Squats/Plies. In squats, there are several typical misalignment. A. Knees- Knees should be in line with your ankles, not protruding over your toes, or rolling in or out of the line created by your shin. Proper alignment will protect your knees and ankles. B. Shoulders- Shoulders should stay down away from your ears, taking pressure off the neck and keeping your upper back engaged. C. Spine- The abdominals should be supporting your spine, not allowing the low back to arch or round, but to keep the vertebrae in a line.
In plies, we don’t drop the hips below the knees, nor do we angle the back, making it different than a squat. But the same alignment rules apply.
Why do it: Much like having good posture, having correct alignment 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 by aligning the body. When we are aligned, all of our joints are working in the same plane, and from a balanced body. This decreases injury potential.
A misalignment can cause undue pressure on a joint, ligament, tendon, bursae or muscle. Or even all of the above.
Skeletal alignment makes movement more efficient and powerful, because our joints, and the muscles supporting them are working optimally and with balance.
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