Did you ever want to increase your performance on the sport field without having to spend hours at the gym or track? Or have you been working furiously on increasing your strength and balance without seeing any corresponding improvement in function? One of the reasons for this could be as simple as posture!
A good neutral posture is organised in such a way that all our bones are nicely set up to counterbalance each other, requiring minimal muscle activation to maintain, and also ensuring your weight is precisely balanced over your feet. Changes to this postural system lead to increased activation of those muscles trying to hold you up, and therefore taking energy away from the muscles you want to increase your performance, as well as shifting your weight away from its most balanced position (centre of gravity). This in turn leads to compensatory movements of the body to right itself.
When the body uses energy to maintain extra use of postural muscles and/or correct compensatory movements due to poor control, this energy is not used by those muscles that help improve your speed, strength or agility and therefore result in a loss in performance. A good example of this is a runner who cannot control their hip position. As they land their hip will collapse and shift slightly to the side. To compensate for this they will sway their trunk to the same side in order to stay balanced. This compensatory movement uses energy that would otherwise be involved in making them run faster or longer. Correcting this could be something as simple as ‘standing tall while running’, or as complex as trying to control or strengthen specific muscle groups in order to hold your body weight.
Not only can good posture during sport improve your performance, it can also decrease your risk of injury. Poor posture during activity, particularly repetitive activity, can overload muscles that are used excessively to hold you in this poor position which can lead to strains and tears in the short term. In the long term, muscle overload from one direction, and muscle inactivity from another will lead to shearing forces in your joints which can create more significant joint or ligament damage which is much harder to fix. An example of this could be a fast bowler playing cricket who severely arches their back and twists during bowling. Over time this will overload the vertebra in the lower back by repeatedly compacting the rear portion of it and is one of the major causes or stress fractures in cricketers. By changing their posture when they bowl you can significantly decrease the risk of an injury occurring as well as improving their speed and accuracy!
Objective (measureable) data makes it easier and more reliable to detect any abnormalities with posture and movement patterns, which can enable people to change their technique in order to prevent injury and/or maximize performance. This is often done with high speed video cameras that can be used to examine your running technique frame by frame. However now many elite sporting bodies are beginning to use the latest in computerized feedback systems where electrodes are placed along the spine and data is recorded for a certain period of time (i.e. whilst participating in sport) to give highly accurate measurements of peoples postural control. This allows people to gain a much clearer idea about what they need to change, as well as providing an excellent feedback system to measure if these changes have been successful or not.