Sitting for Hours May Be Killing You Faster Than the Food You Eat (Part 2)
By Neil Kitzmiller, ACE Certified Personal Trainer
In part one of this article, we talked about a common spinal misalignment known as kyphosis which is the rounding of the upper back often caused from being stuck in a non-neutral spinal alignment such as sitting in a computer chair or car for extending periods of time. In part two, we’re going to talk about how you can adjust your kyphosis through stability work.
A common kyphosis correction exercise is known as the Prone Cobra. Start by lying on the ground, face down, with your arms down to your side and your palms face down into the ground. For some of you, putting your palms face down into the ground is going to be challenging enough, but that’s a different conversation. From this position, try to lift your chest off the ground while keeping your head neutral (no movement) and squeeze your shoulder blades together while keeping your thumbs rotated outward. Here’s the real fun part; hold that for thirty seconds, and don’t move. Or, if that is too much, start with one to two second holds for ten to twelve reps, rest thirty seconds, and do them again. I’m willing to bet some of you moved out of position before you even got done reading those sentences.
For some of you, it may be easier to see and hear it how to do the exercise. If you prefer a visual representation of the exercise with a verbal description, you can go to the video of the Prone Cobra of Cliff Long coaching Natasha Atkinson and you through the exercise.
Here’s where we make sure you’re just moving through your thoracic spine to work on your kyphosis correction. While holding the Prone Cobra, you should not feel any tightness or muscle contraction in your lower back, glutes, hamstrings, quads, or any muscles below your mid back for that matter. If you do, your body has fired those muscles up to help raise your chest due to your weak upper back musculature (due to your bad posture), and the exercise needs to be modified to take those muscles out. There are a lot of ways to modify this and trying to explain how to do so over an article is very challenging. This is where a professional comes in, and this is what we do best.
Once you’ve got control of the Prone Cobra and correct upper back posture, a professional might then move you into a more strength-based stability exercise like a three-point row to help build strength in your back muscles. The reason for this is because in order to build strength in a muscle, we need to contract that muscle. When that happens, the muscle shortens. Let’s think about the tent example we talked about in part one of this article. If the ropes holding the tent to the ground are uneven, they will cause the tent to lean to one side or “deviate from neutral.” However, if we pull on the longer rope, or “contract” it, the tent will come back to the middle. While it’s easier with a tent because one you have the longer rope where you want it, you can just pin it down, the body works the same way, just over a much longer time period.
While these exercises are considered a stability exercise, that does not mean that it is supposed to be easy. If you have been dealing with kyphosis, or any other sort of spinal misalignment, many stability exercises are going to humble you and be very hard at first. The more that you do them, however, the more that you are going to be able to adjust your posture and bring everything back closer to the neutral spine that keeps everything safe.