I got an awesome note from a new client the other day.
This came as follow-up after our first session together where we did a full postural assessment and implemented a customized mobilization, stretch and corrective exercise sequence for her to start making corrections to dysfunctional/imbalanced movement patterns that were contributing to pain and overall inability.
She wrote "I can't slouch when using the cross trainer any more...... found it not comfortable. Who knew?"
I love it! Receiving a note like that means I'm doing my job well.
Better yet, my client is empowered to overcome poor movement patterns because she know knows the difference between good and poor posture. It is so good to hear because I know she is engaging proper posture and taking a better postural alignment into her other activities of daily living and athletics.
If she stays committed to the process, the long term result will be that she's better able to fully achieve all of her exercise goals (equipment and non-equipment based) as well as ensuring that she is avoiding repetitive stress injury, and minimizing unnecessary posture related pain.
So let me ask you this. How often do you see someone at the gym working on on a cross trainer or other mechanized piece of cardio equipment with very poor posture, movement mechanics or both?
You can be sure that when I walk into a large club/area where people are working out on cross trainers, I pretty much just have to avoid the floor all together so as not to make myself crazy from wanting to correct and help everyone! I see poor posture everywhere!
Exercising on a cross trainer might help you with your cardiovascular health, but I can guarantee you, slumping over or hanging on the cross trainer with Poor Posture will not help you accomplish the complete benefits the machine offers if you are training in a body that underperforms for you due to simple biomechanical inefficiencies and dysfunctions.
And I'm not the only one talking about it. Recently, in the article Proper Elliptical Posture, Livestrong.com recently posted:
the number one bad posture offense seen at the gym is bad back posture. Often, people lean too far forward, slumping or hunching and using the movable arms as support. Not only will you not reap the full benefits of working out on an elliptical machine with bad posture, you may suffer pain and stiffness later. For proper back posture, step on the machine with your back straight, shoulders back and head held high. Keep your abdominal muscles tight to help maintain this posture throughout your workout.
While I agree with Livestrong.com in terms of the cons of having bad posture on an elliptical or other cross training machine, simply keeping your "back straight" isn't as easy as it sounds. It's been well documented that if you are not proactively working to undo the damage from prolonged periods of static postures (such as sitting), you are taking that very same posture into your exercise no matter how hard you try to perform with good posture.
Good Posture Matters on a Cross Trainer
In effect, the exercise you are doing is not actively helping accomplish the goals you set out for yourself, and you are more prone to pain and injury due to the postural imbalances and joint dysfunctions. So, when I get the opportunity to train a client, one of the first things we work on together is to learn what good posture alignment is in both a standing and sitting posture.
My clients learn
- what good posture is
- what it isn't,
- what good posture looks and feels like in their own body
- how to actually do it standing and sitting and
- practice it as part of their corrective exercise homework
What we've found is that when clients practice Good Standing and Good Sitting Posture in conjunction with simple to do at home mobilization, stretches and corrective exercises, they are able to successfully apply it to whatever activity they love to do. The end result? No more slouching on the cross trainer! so that they are able to exercise more effectively!
Recently, the American Council on Exercise had an excellent article on the subject. Called 4 Cardio Training Mistakes to Avoid, ACE expert Jonathan Ross writes:
If you’re going to do it (use a cross training machine), you might as well do it right. This applies to just about everything in life, and cardio training is no different. But this is one area where the mistakes seem to keep getting more common and myths and misconceptions get entrenched.
1. Giving the Machine a Workout While You Take It Easy
Check out the videos and you’ll see exactly what I mean by this. Just because the machine is set on a hard level doesn’t mean YOU are working at a hard level. If you’re unloading your bodyweight on the handles of a Stepmill or holding the console to work at a higher incline on a treadmill, YOU aren’t working as hard. Unless you are training to use a walker one day, there is to be no holding of the console while on a treadmill.
FIX THE MISTAKE: Get a better workout by lowering the setting on the machine and moving properly. This will use more of your own muscle because you’ll be moving your full bodyweight. Try to move on any machine similarly to how you would in real life. You wouldn’t walk or climb stairs using the methods in the videos, so don’t do it on machines either.
I agree with Ross 100% and want to encourage you to read the rest of the article. It's chalk full of great advice!
However, I do have to say that in my professional AND personal opinion, simply trying to stand taller won't correct your posture and mechanics alone. It is an actual skill that is more than simply "straightening up". If you have no idea what neutral alignment is at the four major load joints, how your body should move through the stages of gait, or have an underlying thought that you need some one-on-one assistance/coaching, you are RIGHT!
Get ahold of a Certified Corrective Exercise Specialist who can analyze your posture, and help put together a program of mobilization, stretches and corrective exercises to help you restore your posture, eliminate your pain and maximize your activities of daily living and athletic performance.
I'd love to know if you practice good or poor posture on a cross trainer? If so, how has this article impacted you in your awareness and willingness to make a change? We want to hear from you!
Have questions? Please reach out. We're in this together, and I am here to help!