In my prior article, “I move, therefore I am,” I wrote the following:
The anti-movement movement erroneously developed because of an accurate assessment: people hurt themselves in rotation (bending, twisting and tilting.) However, this is not some flaw of the spine. It’s an attribution of the culture of “civilized” life: we are a seated culture, stumbling forward in our harried rush to the next thing. This chronic forward flexion maladapts our body, and when suddenly thrust into the rotation of yoga, functional fitness, martial arts, pilates, et cetera… people become injured.
People must first correct their current imbalanced state before moving on to sophisticated movements. They must compensate for where they’re beginning, which is not at “zero” with some genetically/evolutionarily flawed spine. But with a series of compensations which must be unloaded to restore the body’s natural proclivity for movement.
Sitting in a chair comprises a specific set of compensations like any “sport”. The goal from any good sports performance enhancement approach involves strengthening the functional opposite of the sport’s skill specificities. Practice ANY skill long enough and you will create over-specialized adaptations or “compensations.” This isn’t merely from cumulative nuances of slight poor form, but from the skill itself: no skill is balanced and healthy; any skill performed to the exclusion of practicing the mechanical opposite will create imbalances which will lead to diminishing returns, plateau, regress, pain, injury, illness and eventually death.
If you’re constantly playing the sport, then you must create a weekly exercise approach which unloads it on a continual basis. In this case, the sport (of sitting in a chair) mutates you into a “slouch.”
You need to stop viewing yourself as “deconditioned” if not exercising; and for those who are exercising, you need to start your “assessment” from the standpoint of your most practiced skill: sitting in the chair. Only then can you develop a balanced fitness protocol which starts where you are, with what you do most, and ensure that you will progress without problems or setbacks.
So, what is the skill of sitting in a chair, and how do we over-specialize it through adaptation?
- Chronic Forward neck translation (shortened sternohyoid and sternocleidomastoid, sloppy traps and scalenes.)
- Chronic Forward rolled shoulders (shortened pec minor and anterior delt; sloppy rhomboids and levator scapuli.)
- Chronic flexed elbows and inward rotated arms (shortened internal rotators, extensors, biceps; sloppy triceps, posterior delts.)
- Chronic Forward flexed thoracic spine (shortened rectus abdominus and obliques; sloppy lats and erectors.)
- Chronic Forward rotated lower back (shortened hip flexors psoas and QL; sloppy pelvic wall, transverse abdominus and multifidus.)
- Chronic Flexed knees and outward rotated hips (shortened external rotators, IT bands, and hamstrings; sloppy internal rotators and quads.)
- Chronic flexed ankles (shortened flexors and external rotators; sloppy internal rotators and extensors.)
And if we drew from yoga and stretching, what movements could we use to compensate for these adapted skill over-specializations?
- Clasped hand shoulder bridge
- Half locust
- Seated spinal twist
- Downward facing dog
- Half pigeon lunge
This very simple prescription, performed for 7 minutes (one minute per pose; 30 seconds per side for #4 and #6), would allow you to “clean the slate” of your daily adaptive stress so that you could not only be pain free and prevent injuries, but increase your energy, amplify your performance in any activity, progress faster when you exercise, and actually become stronger due to the re-balancing nature of compensating for your highly over-specialized adaptations of the sport of “civilized” lifestyle.