Workout form: Get it straight

Correct posture is imperative; whether you're working out, sitting, walking, jogging or sleeping

Woman lying on exercise ballThe flattest of abs and the best figure won't look good if you have a bad posture. A good posture is important not merely for aesthetic appeal, but also for your overall health. Many people have had to spend a lot of time and money on physiotherapy [getting their muscles realigned] as a result of years of bad posture.

Know the benefits

Back pain, knee pain, neck and shoulder pain and stiffness can all be avoided if you just teach yourself to sit/stand the way you were intended to. When you are in the correct posture, all the muscles are in a relaxed state. This helps avoid the unnecessary wear and tear and strain on the muscles and hence they don't get overused and fatigued. In addition, it prevents the spine from becoming fixed in abnormal positions. The muscles are used more efficiently, allowing the body to use less energy.

Having the right posture also makes you look poised and confident. It can even help you carry off your clothes better and make you look thinner. Don't believe me? Stand in front of a mirror in your best outfit the way you normally do and then in the outfit that you feel looks bad on you. Now stand straighter and watch how your stomach no longer flops over and how you add another inch to your height. Practise standing tall and you will notice a visible change in your appearance and confidence.

Sit tight

  • Sit upright with your back straight; it should rest on the backrest of the chair.
  • Ensure that your butt touches the back of the chair.
  • Your feet should touch the floor completely.
  • At no point should you feel that you are straining your back or legs more than necessary.

Take a stand

  • Stand straight with your feet spread slightly apart.
  • Distribute your weight equally on both legs and avoid leaning on any one leg.
  • Avoid slouching forward [hunchback], standing with your feet too wide apart or with your pelvis thrust forward. Doing any of this puts more strain on your back.

Lift right

Whenever you lift anything off the floor, make sure you bend at your knees at the waist. If you bend wrongly, even while lifting as much as a pin from the floor, it causes your back to jerk or to even get locked in the wrong position leading to severe pain. Follow this posture even while sweeping or swabbing. Never bend keeping your knees straight.

If you are lifting something heavy, stand close to the object with your feet spread firmly apart.

When lifting, make your stomach muscles tight and try to use the strength from your leg muscles. Slowly straighten your knees and don't jerk the object as you come to your normal position.

Sleep well

  • Always use a pillow while you sleep, as it helps the neck and back to rest in their normal position. If you sleep without one, it puts pressure on them.
  • Sleep on your back. Sleeping on your stomach is bad for your digestion and puts added strain on your lower back, making it stiff when you wake up.
  • Always turn to your side first, when you are getting up from a lying position to avoid straining your back.

Walk the correct walk

  • Keep your back straight and your stomach tucked in.
  • When you take a step, ensure that your heel lands first, followed by the rest of your foot.
  • Do not lean forward or back; it strains the back muscles.
  • When jogging, never land on just the toes, but the entire foot to take the impact off the knees and ankles. If you hear a thump as you land, chances are you not doing it right.

Watch your form

The posture you observe when working out is known as form. And most injuries in the gym happen because people follow incorrect form. In fact, even while doing yoga people try to overextend themselves in order to become more flexible, which is incorrect. When you do even the simplest of exercises wrongly, it reduces the effectiveness of your workout. In addition, it puts you at a greater risk of injuries.

Take time to learn and perfect your techniques when you workout because it is very difficult to unlearn an incorrect technique.

Here are a few things to remember when lifting weights and doing crunches—the two exercises that people do with incorrect form.

  • When lifting weights, the most important things are: proper form, controlled movements and the right amount of weight.
  • Lifting weights that are too heavy for you is a set-up for injury. If you are unable to maintain proper form while lifting, the weights are too heavy for you.
  • If you are standing and lifting weights, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart without bending your knees. However, do not lock your knees.
  • While picking up weight, use both hands even if the weight is light.
  • Do not try to speed through your workout or you will end up rocking back and forth and injure your back.
  • While doing crunches, support your head well with your fingers and at least half your palm. This takes the pressure off the neck.
  • Keep your chin up and ensure that it doesn't touch your chest while crunching.
  • Allow your lower back to be supported well on the floor.

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Samreedhi Goel
Samreedhi Goel is a Nutritionist and Personal trainer & fitness columnist who has been a part of the fitness industry since 1999. She has helped hundreds of people shape up, lose weight, achieve the body of their dreams, become fitter and healthier individuals and overcome chronic health problems through her fitness studio Size Wise.Her fitness columns and interviews appear on a regular basis in prestigious publications like Complete Wellbeing, Sunday Midday, Rediff.com, Seventeen India, Mumbai.

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