Is your posture contributing to weak abdominal muscles?
An ideal posture, from the side view, shows the ears, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles stacking directly over one another. In swayback posture, the hips and pelvis are thrust forward and the upper body leans backward to compensate. The head and neck also move into a compensatory forward position because the body is trying to re-balance itself.
The pot belly illusion
One of the drawbacks of a swayback posture is that the forward position of the hips forces the lower abdominals into a weakened, lengthened position which is good for neither function or appearance. The lack of strength in the low ab muscles allows the belly to protrude and doesn't give adequate support to the internal organs or low back.
Muscle imbalances of swayback posture
Besides weak lower abs, people with swayback posture usually also have weak mid-back muscles, hip flexors, & gluteals and shortened, overly tight low back, upper abdominals and hamstrings.
What to do if you have swayback posture?
Since there are many reasons why someone might have swayback posture, different therapies are going to help different people so it is necessary to keep an open mind when choosing corrective exercises and stretches. Besides paying attention in the mirror to how your joints stack up, working with a postural specialist, physical therapist or a personal trainer with special posture training can provide invaluable insight and save you a lot of trial and error.
Some general guidelines for improving swayback posture are:
- Address pelvic instability through pelvic tilts, bridging and isolated hip flexor lifts.
- Promote thoracic extension. The sitting floor exercise against a wall helps align the spine and strengthen the muscles that hold the spine in the correct position that are weak in those with swayback (hip flexors and mid-back musles).
- Improve hip mobility while stabilizing the pelvis. This assisted hip lift stretch is effective for both. Stability ball circles and leg swings are also effective.
If left untreated, swayback posture can lead to chronic back pain (mid and low) and poor core strength. Given the right corrective routine, posture and abdominal appearance will improve, pain subside and core/back strength increase.