Standing Mechanics

Standing

Body mechanics is a term used to describe the ‘functional' way that we move on a daily basis. It includes the way that we sit down, stand up, reach, bend over and sleep. Poor body mechanics are often a major cause of over injuries and/or back issues. Having a proper understanding of the mechanics of standing, the role of posture and the different type of exercises that support these are important. Posture strengthen exercises should be simple to perform and easy to incorporated into your daily fitness routine. Therefore, we are going to focus on the role of posture in standing up, how to assess static posture and a simple exercise routine to help you realign and strengthen your body.

Standing

Many individuals are constantly on their feet throughout the day for prolonged periods of time. Standing is healthier than sitting on your butt all day, as it places less pressure on the discs in your lower back (1). Standing in a static position for lengthy periods of time can be very painful on your muscles and joints.

Therefore, it is very important to alter your position when standing, to relieve the major muscle groups within the legs and hips. This will reduce stress on the limbs and improve your blood circulation around the body. Some industries have now adopted the standing position when working at a computer work station. Standing work stations are now becoming more common in the work place. Here are some ‘top tips' to focus on when standing for prolonged periods of time throughout the day:

  • Stand up straight with your ears, shoulders, hip and ankles all in line.
  • Stand with feet shoulder width apart.
  • Check that the floor surface is level and firm.
  • Don't stand duck footed (feet pointing outwards), as this puts additional stress on the knees, hips and lower back.
  • Point your feet forwards as this puts a reduced load onto the hips.
  • When standing straight have the arms straight by the side with palms facing inwards.
  • If you are using a standing work station have the elbows at 90 degrees with palms resting on the desk.
  • Engage your core as this protect your lower back and keeps in its natural ‘S' shape position
  • Place one foot on a foot rest or out in front of you, as this places less pressure on the back and hips.
  • Check your posture and ask yourself if you standing correctly from time to time.

Posture

The correct standing posture alignment allows the muscles to engage properly in a safe and effective manner. This keeps the major muscles aligned, ensures the muscles are at their best length and tension and this is very important in preventing injuries. For example if you have a standing for lengthy periods of time with feet together, this can sometimes cause the hips to move forwards. This puts pressure onto the quads (thigh muscles). Subsequently, the hamstrings (back of the leg) and glutes (butt muscles) have to pick up the slack to alleviate some of the pressure on the quads.

This not only overburdens the major muscle groups in the hips and legs, but it has a negative impact on joint alignment in the hips, knees and ankles. Keeping the joints aligned helps with absorbing the load of your body properly and this can prevent wear and tear injuries.

In a nutshell, the correct posture should keep all of the muscles at the correct length, ensuring that they work properly together and maximizing the right amount of force to be used. It also helps the body to produce and sustain higher levels of functional fitness e.g. strength, flexibility and endurance. Having a strong core is related to a proper posture and sound mechanics when standing for prolonged periods of time. A strong core protects the back from injuries; it also ensures that both the upper and lower body works together in unison.

On the flip side, a poor posture and a weak core are the platforms for a quicker degeneration of the body, poor movement patterns and imbalances in the major muscle groups. A quick static posture observation with the naked eye can determine the general health of your posture and will highlight if you are standing properly.

Static Posture Assessment

This is a simple method of assessing posture whilst in standing up straight, use a mirror to have a look at the following key areas. The NASM protocol (2) is a very comprehensive postural assessment that is used by personal trainers and physical therapists. It is very simple to use and can be a solid starting point for assessing your own static posture. The assessment framework:

Standard Posture Front View

  • Head: in a neutral position
  • Shoulders: level and not pulled back
  • Hips: balanced and no tilt
  • Legs: Straight
  • Feet: ParallelM

Standard Posture Back View

  • Head: in a neutral position
  • Shoulders: level and not pulled back.
  • Lower back: straight
  • Hips: balanced and no tilt
  • Legs: straight
  • Feet: parallel

Standard Posture Side View

  • Head: in a neutral position
  • Upper spine: less outward curve
  • Upper back: normal outward curve (not too much)
  • Lower back: S-Shape (natural inwards curve)
  • Hip joints: balanced and no tilt
  • Leg: straight at right angle in the sole of foot.

Focus on areas that don't look symmetrical, as this could be a sign of tense muscles, weak stabilising muscles and poor joint alignment. This could lead to overuse injuries and poor range of movement at the joints. Two main issues linked with the back are ‘lordosis' and ‘kyphosis'.

Lordosis

Lordosis is too much inwards curvature of the lower back. It can be caused by imbalance in the muscle strength and length such as weak hamstrings and tight hip muscle Excessive lordosis can be caused by too much body weight placed on the lower due to obesity and being overweight, tight lower back muscles and standing for prolonged periods of time (in the wrong position)(3).

Kyphosis

Kyphosis or ‘roundback' is a condition of over curvature of the upper back. It can be a degenerative disease that can be caused by arthritis and osteoporosis. Serious kyphosis can cause severe pain, discomfort, fatigue, and breathing and digestion difficulties.

Kyphosis is often a result of tight chest muscles, weak and lengthened back muscles, and weak abdominals. Exercises that strengthen your back and core may help improve your postural kyphosis.

Using a Foam Roller

Foam rollers are very cheap to buy from many sports outlets and are a top investment! Foam rolling is a form of self-muscle tension release. It is used by many sport's therapists to help with improving movement, reducing muscle over activity, lengthens your muscles and helps you to recovery properly when standing all day. Foam rolling helps to boost blood flow to the muscles; this improves oxygen delivery and waste removal which is important for muscle recovery and repair (3).

The Work Out

Glutes/Hip Rotators 2 x 1 minute
Hamstrings 2 x 1 minute
Calves 2 x 1 minute
Hip Flexors 2 x 1 minute
Quads 2 x 1 minute
Adductors 2 x 1 minute
Shins 2 x 1 minute
Feet 2 x 1 minute

 

Glutes/Hip Rotators

Advice on Technique

  • Position yourself sat on the roller with feet flat to the floor, knees bent and your arms outstretched behind you for balance
  • Roll forward and back on the roller
  • Distribute your weight from either side to target the glutes
  • Place right ankle above your left knee which will stretch out the right glute, roll back and forth to massage the hip rotator
  • Repeat on the opposite side

    Hamstrings

    Advice on Technique

      • Position the roller at the top of the hamstrings where they meet the glutes
      • Have your legs outstretched and arms placed behind you avoiding locking elbows
      • Roll back and forth in small sections all the way down your hamstrings avoiding the backs of the knees
      • Point your toes to the left and right as you roll to work either sides of the hamstrings

        Calves

        Advice on Technique

        • References

          • Position the roller at the top of your calves avoiding the back of the knees
          • Keep your torso upright and tall with arms placed behind you avoiding locking elbows
          • Roll back and forth in small sections working your way down to the bottom of the calves
          • Stretch your foot to the left and right as you roll to work either sides of the calves
          • Position one ankle over the other for a more intense exercise
          • Repeat on the other calf

            Hip Flexors

            Advice on Technique

            Quads

            Advice on Technique

            Adductors

            Advice on Technique

            Shins

            Advice on Technique

            Feet

            Advice on Technique

              • Position yourself on your stomach with arms outstretched with the end of the roller under the hip flexor
              • Roll back and forth onto the top of your quad and stopping just before your stomach
              • Repeat on the other hip flexor
              • Position yourself on your elbows face down with legs outstretched
              • Place the roller under your quads (keep your core engaged to support the lower back)
              • Roll back and forth on the quads
              • Point the feet to the left and right to work either side of the quads
              • Position one leg across the other as you roll back and forth for a more intense exercise
              • Repeat on the opposite quad
              • Position yourself face down on your elbows with one leg outstretched while the other leg is bent from the knee parallel with the hip joint
              • Place the roller under the adductor
              • Roll back and forth starting from above the knee all the way up the adductor to the groin area
              • Repeat on the other adductor
              • Position yourself on your elbows facedown with the roller under your shins
              • Using your weight on your elbows roll back and forth massaging all the area of the shins
              • To work the outer part of the shins cross one leg over the other and roll on the outer side of the shin from below the knee to above the ankle
              • Repeat on the other shin
            • Position yourself by a wall standing tall
            • Place one foot on the end of the roller as you support yourself by the wall with your hand
            • Begin to roll your foot from heel to toe
            • Gently lean your ankle to either side to massage the arch and outer-side of the foot
            • Repeat on the other foot
            1. Andrew P. Claus , Julie A. Hides , G. Lorimer Moseley , Paul W. Hodges ; Is ‘ideal' sitting posture real?: Measurement of spinal curves in four sitting postures; Manual Therapy 14 (2009) 404–408
            2. NASM (2015). Essentials of Personal Fitness Training. 5th Edition. LWW.
            3. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4637917.