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What is Ideal alignment and posture? Why does this matter in exercise or fitness regimens?

Too often the desire to achieve quick results, at high intensities, works at the expense of good form and proper body mechanics.  The result can be disastrous.  If you challenge your body at an intensity that you are not strong enough to withstand your body will compensate and tissue damage will occur.  It may not occur right away, which may make you feel immune to all the concerns surrounding extreme fitness regimens.  But eventually it will catch up to you.  Why is good form so important in movement?  Why can’t you grab an arbitrarily heavy weight, to impress your friends and feel part of a group of other risk takers, and just swing it over your head and hope for the best?  The answer to both of these questions is that the force is most likely too great for your body to withstand.  Eventually damage will occur.

What is ideal alignment and efficient body mechanics?  Simply, it is when your head is in the center and over your shoulders, your ears are in line with your shoulders, your shoulders are level with each other (not rounded or pushed back), your shoulders are over your pelvis and hips, your elbows are facing back and your palms are facing slightly forward, your spine has three curves (two concave, and 1 convex that are not too deep or too flat – these curves are for shock absorption), your sternum is slightly elevated (not extremely elevated and not depressed), your hips are in line with your knees and your knees are in line with your feet and your toes and your feet are slightly turned out. 

When moving, maintaining these principles through movement is essential.  For example, if you do a squat or go down a step your hips, knees and feet should remain in the same line.  Your feet should not roll in or out.  If you are able to maintain these principles at one level of intensity, easily for a significant length of time, then you can add more resistance or do more repetitions so long as you maintain good form.  If you are unable to maintain good alignment chances are that you have some strength deficits that are impeding your ability to control the movement.  Or you may have soft tissue tightness/decreased flexibility or joint mobility that is not allowing you the range to move in the correct alignment.  The answer is to identify any deficits, get stronger using good form at appropriate intensities, and develop more mobility through proper stretching and self-mobilization techniques.  If deficits are identified and addressed, your workout will become more efficient, more effective and much safer.

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