Posture Hacking with Gavin Broomes
Getting the most from your in-home & online programs
Bringing your workouts from the studio into the home has its challenges and definitely its limitations. One way to “hack” into your body’s intrinsic ability to self-regulate and strengthen is to “spice up” your active dynamic exercise routine with some focused attention to balance and posture. Remember – the body works in a somewhat paradoxical way:
Your dynamic potential is dependent on your static ability
In essence, your ability to move (efficiently) rests in your ability to stay STILL (balance, coordination, and proprioception). Here are some easy user-friendly / home-based strategies to take full advantage of those smaller spaces.
Implement weight-shifts and “center of mass” transitions A LOT
Shifting your weight in a dynamic sense, especially in small and frequent increments, awakens and activates the deepest and smallest muscles of the spine. The smaller and deeper the muscle, the greater the link to positional (proprioceptive) awareness and therefore balance and posture. Weight shifts are simply active load transitions from one leg or arm to the other(s).
Center of mass transitions are different than weight shifts as they refer to more explicit static balance as opposed to something dynamic. Yoga and yoga-type exercises are prime examples of center of mass transitions. Our ability to control our movement is intimately linked to our ability to control our static position or in other words, dynamic balance and stability are dependent on our stationary balance and stability.
This can be an explicit part of any warm-up or cool-down. Center of mass transitions involve holding a specific position for 5-10 seconds and being able to transition (wink, wink…weight-shift) directly into another position.
Irregular Loads & Irregular Platforms
This is a classic tool that is the easiest to “import” from your gym experience. An irregular load is anything that has weight to it (not necessarily a lot of weight though) that is either held or positioned off-center from your body OR that possesses some intrinsic irregularity in the distribution of its mass (more specifically, DEAD WEIGHT).
Holding or placing something off-center is easy and your only limitation is creativity, but dead-weight is where you can maximize (if not ENHANCE) your self-isolation / quarantine exercise experience.
Small children are the ideal dead weight and by using appropriate (and expected) parental wisdom in how you “use” them, they will definitely enhance the activation of the deeper postural apparatus (spine, shoulder girdle, pelvic girdle, hips).
Irregular platforms are also “imports” from the gym. Something as familiar as a Bosu ball is perhaps the most recognizable unstable platform tool however, there are still ways to hack into your postural structures and systems in a very efficient and effective way.
The BOSU ball is indeed unstable but there is still some ‘regularity’ in its instability (it is perfectly spherical). The key terms to integrate is IRREGULAR.
In simple terms, this means that each point of contact (hands, feet, knees, butt, etc…) is engaging with the ground in a different way.
Quick example: Deep squats with one foot on a cushion or pillow and the other foot planted on the ground (all the while maintaining good form). ANY center of mass transition (yoga) exercise performed with only one sock (or one shoe) on.
That may sound benign and extremely nuanced, but the positional and stability challenges for the deeper muscles of the postural structures and systems are real and accumulate gradually (and nicely) over time – and we definitely have time on our hands.
Remember that your only limitation is creativity! The brain works in micro-seconds and nano-seconds…and it is responsive to changes in length and tension that measure in the micrometers (one millionth of a meter). So…the millimeters / micrometers count too!
Work (hard and often) on your BREATHING MECHANICS!!
There are MANY different ways and frameworks to do this, but they don’t have to be comprehensive to be effective. Another paradox – you can access complexity with simplicity!
The thorax (your entire ribcage from front, to side, to back) is DIRECTLY linked and attached (via ligaments and joint capsules) to your spine. Therefore, EVERY breath you take expands the rib cage and formally FEEDS the spine with healthy input. Therefore, guided breathing exercises are always productive activities that serve as a bridge between the physical / biomechanical and the emotional / psychological.
Healthy respiratory mechanics means better spinal mechanics and thus, better postural potential.
Simple exercises such as lying on your back, one hand on the abdomen with the other on the chest, inhale normally and guide the expansion of the abdomen first – followed by the sideways expansion of the lower ribs — followed by the forward expansion of the upper chest.
NOTE: Make observations about what you feel at the BACK as well. Sometimes it is helpful to line up small soft objects (can be a pair of rolled-up socks) along the side of the spine where the ribs meet so that you have some active feedback as to how the back of your ribcage is expanding
(second note: it SHOULD expand into the floor).
“TUMMY-TIME” is another productive post-workout activity.
The act of weight-bearing on the chest imposes an important three-dimensional (3-D) stimulus to the chest. If we take human development as the primary example, tummy time in babies is not only needed to enhance respiratory development but ALSO is one of the FIRST and PRIMARY stimuli that drive the development of the spine (needed for the eventual milestone of crawling and walking).
A simple activity such as 5-8 minutes of guided breathing while lying on the stomach is extremely valuable in the development (and maintenance) of good posture.
Again, each breath cycle should include your active focus – what expands first, what engages the ground the most, etc.
If you take a few minutes every day to be intentional about postural correction, balance, and corrective movements, you’ll be standing taller when this is all over. You will have also gained valuable daily practices and habits that will give you great posture and stability that lasts much later into life than the average individual.