When talking about a “tucked” posture, most movement professionals are referring to spinal flexion, or a C-shaped spine. If you’ve been to a Yoga class, you might be familiar with Cat/Cow movement, which illustrates flexion and extension of the spine, respectively. So if this movement can be part of a healthy practice, why not put a tucked spine into your workout routine?
A tucked posture, ie. spinal flexion, and its repercussions are a chronic issue for many people. Our furniture, our vehicles, and, in general, a lack of muscular support can cultivate a forward curving of the spine and can result in a sore neck, lack of mobility in the hips, and back pain. Peak Trainer Kaylee Harris adds ” Most injuries come from poor posture, and overusing isolated areas. How many times have you traveled long distances and never paused to take your body out of a tucked, flexed seated position?”
Why then would we practice a body position in an exercise routine that could emphasize the imbalances already present in a vast majority of people?
Take a look at the human spine; it is not only NOT C-shaped, but comprised of complimentary and sympathetic curves. It’s more of an S, or even a J shape according to posture guru Esther Gokhale, of the Gokhale Method. (She has some great YouTube videos about posture.) Consistent and long-term flexion, in addition to creating postural discomfort, can actually degrade the spinal column over time, particularly with the addition of force or a “load” when lifting.
For athletes, the implications go even further: “If we want maximal gluteal, hamstring and quadriceps interaction, we should be in neutral pelvis. Otherwise, we are missing out on so much more power and strength within these muscles. Take a runners body: If they tuck while running, they can’t achieve maximal stride length and don’t move efficiently, adding more time to their run (not what they are going for).” Personal Trainer and Peak Training Coordinator, Shanda Leritz.
But, here’s the catch: Let’s not mistake un-tucking with exaggerating spinal extension, or lumbar lordosis (see the middle figure below). The spine needs an engaged core to support healthy posture for the long -term, which takes practice. It can be difficult to decipher exactly what is happening in your own body, and what type of shift brings the spine more into a neutral alignment (see the figure on the right below). This is where a professional might step in to help, whether a Physical Therapist, Personal Trainer, Pilates Trainer, or Therapeutic Yoga Teacher. Having eyes on the outside to check alignment and examine movement can help determine what type of postural shift, or combination of strengthening and lengthening can be most beneficial.
An important thing to remember: It’s never simple. In some cases, extra spinal flexion is desired. For example, if you have spinal stenosis, getting your spine into a flexed position may help relieve the pain and cramping.* There are infinite complexities when dealing with the human body, and each person has their own unique situation. Find out what is safe for your body, and continue to foster lifelong wellness.
Audra Labert, Worksite Wellness Specialist, CWWPM,
Registered Yoga Teacher, RYT200
Peak Health & Wellness Center, firstname.lastname@example.org