Tag Archives: thoracic spine

Jul. 28.

Posture Perfect

Posture Perfect

Your posture can say a lot about you. As a first impression posture speaks volumes about your confidence. Your posture also tells of your day to day activities. Your daily repeated habits teach your central nervous system to create these habit pathways therefore causing poor posture. These learned pathways often throw the body out of alignment, causing  pain and/or injury.

How to tell if you are out of alignment?

-          The first sign you may notice is pain. Many times clients are in pain and do not realize the pain is not caused by the muscles at the site of the pain. Pain is often and indicator  of an alignment issue caused by muscle imbalances.

-          If you predominately do everything with your dominate side. Meaning you carry bags on one side, you get out of bed with one leg, you pick up things with the dominate hand etc. these all can cause the muscles to become stronger on one side of the body, pulling the skeletal structure out of alignment.

-          How you sleep is a big one. Do you sleep on one side? Do you sleep in the fetal position? Having the body keep this position for 8 hours every day can be causing you posture issues and your pain.

Muscle Relations

The body can be divided into two groups of muscles that work in pairs around joints to create motion: tonic and phasic.

TONIC- These muscles are the flexor muscles and often the more dominate muscles. They can easily become tight due to over use or under use.


PHASIC- These muscles are the extensor muscles. They are antagonists to tonic muscles. They tend to be more flaccid and weaker than tonic muscles.


Common Posture Imbalances

-          Upper- cross syndrome

upper 2

Tonic- Stenocleidomastoid, Scalenes, Levator Scapulae, Upper Trapezius, Pectoralis major

Phasic-Neck flexors, Rhomboids, Serratus Anterior, Lower Trapezius

Postural Change- protracted shoulders, winged or abducted scapula, increased cervical lordosis (curve/”sway” in neck), forward head, thoracic spine curvature increase

-          Lower- cross syndrome


Tonic (tight)- Gastroc-soleus, tibialis, posterior hip adductors, hamstrings, rectus femoris, Iliopsoas ,tensor fascia lata, Piriformis, Quadratus Lumborum

Phasic (weak or inactive)- Peroneus Longus, Tibialis, Anterior Vastus Medialis, Lateralis, Gluteus Maximus, Medius, Minimus, Rectus Abdominus

Postural Change- anterior pelvic tilt, increased lumbar lordosis, lateral leg rotation, knee hyperextension


         Forward Head


Tonic- sternocleidomastoids, anterior scalenes

Postural Change- The head is forward. A correct posture the middle of the should is directly in line with the middle of the ear.


-         Uneven Shoulders


Tonic- Trapezius on elevated side

Phasic- Serratus anterior on elevated side

Posture Change- When standing in the anatomical position one shoulder appears to be higher than the other. Scapula distance from spine is different on one side.


Posture imbalances are due to either trauma or repetitive behaviors that teach the  central nervous system to react a certain way when controlling or stabilizing posture. Computers, sitting at a desk, video games, cell phones, purses or repetitive movements due to one’s occupation are common causes of posture imbalances.  Sitting at a desk on a computer without proper posture  is one cause we most often see that causes imbalances throughout the entire body.  A quick exercise to help check your posture throughout the day is the Brugger exercise.


Brugger exercise


  • Sit towards the edge of your seat; this will naturally place your lower back into a curve
  • Separate your legs to 45 degrees each side with your feet turned out slightly
  • Your shoulders are relaxed and down with your chin tucked in
  • Fully extend both elbows. Make sure you keep your shoulders down and imagine your shoulder blades are pushing down then together .
  • Turn your thumbs out, palms up and separate your fingers.
  • Hold for 10 seconds repeating a few times a day.


1. Implement posture exercises such as the Brugger exercise throughout the day.

2. Side sleepers, grab a large pillow to keep your shoulders and hips open throughout the night.

3. Strengthen the phasic muscles and stretch the tonic muscles.

4. Strengthen your core


Pain free training starts here.  


“Another Example of a Postural Evaluation.” Breddyorg. N.p., 21 Feb. 2013. Web. 27 July 2015.

Dalton, Erik. “Strategies to Address Forward Head Posture.” Strategies to Address Forward Head Posture. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 July 2015.

Nagelkirk, Jessica. “Dr. Nagelkirk: 4 Exercises to Improve Your Posture.” Dr. Nagelkirk: 4 Exercises to Improve Your Posture. N.p., 19 July 2013. Web. 27 July 2015.

“Lower Cross Syndrome.” Coast Clinic. N.p., 04 Apr. 2012. Web. 27 July 2015.

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Oct. 02.

The Mobility Issue

The Mobility Issue

Increasing the mobility of the kenetic chain to get the most out of your squats.

Mobility is usually an issue for beginner lifters or those who sit majority of the day . The initial assessment done by a fitness professional should cover all mobility issues with muscles and what tendons and joints therefore are being affected. Most individuals don’t realize there is an issue until too late and injury occurs.

What & why is it important?

-For proper muscle contraction and eccentric contraction. Muscles work in antagonistic partnership, therefore when one contracts the other will relax; a simple example is the bicep and tricep. In a mobility assessment I would quickly be able to assess that you would not be able to safely complete a tricep extension if your bicep does not have the flexibility to fully extend in an eccentric contraction; therefore not allowing the tricep to fully contract. Mobility is a partnership between muscles and joints to attain the full range of motion in a movement.

Mobility and the Squat

Almost everyone that starts exercising incorporates squats, yet aren’t getting the most out of it. During the squat movement it is easy to tell where an individual lacks mobility because form and center of gravity are compromised.

The perfect squat form.


Mobility issues in 4 main areas:

Ankles- Ankles should be able to dorsiflex in a squat position.  Many people start working out by doing cardio which tightens the calves and anterior tibialis, then if you sit all day the muscles and tendons don’t allow the ankle to fully flex therefore also tightening the joint. Some will never get full flexion but mobility exercises with the ankle do help and allow you to fully get low in a squatting position.


Angle of ankles in a dorsiflex position with feet not at an angle.

Thoracic spine- In a previous blog spinal flexibility was discussed. If your thoracic spine is not flexible in the extension, center of gravity is compromised therefore the weight will not stay loaded on the quads through the movement. You will almost always notice lower back pain following squatting if you have little to no flexibility in the thoracic spine (this though may not be the only reason for back pain following lifts.)


One of many exercises to increase thoracic mobility.

Hips –One indicator to noticing that your hips are tight is lack of gluten activation. Your hips are your body’s center and any issue related to your hips affects the body’s whole kinetic chain. Those individuals with desk jobs, I recommend you stretch regularly for hip mobility issues are often seen with those who sit all day. Three muscles that tighten while you sit: quadratus lumborum, mediums gluteus and the piriformis. If hip flexors are tight, hips will be seen to have an anterior pelvic tilt causing you to have an excessive forward lean in the squatting position.


quadratus lumborum stretch

Knees- Knee mobility can be helped through working on short and long abductor flexibility as well as making sure tendons around the patella are not tight. Knees in a squat should not go far forward past ankles.

Besides the exercises shown there are many others to help correct mobility issues in these areas.

 A body in motion staying in motion.

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