At One on One, we consistently reinforce the importance of posture with all of our clients. Postural cues such as “maintain capital I,” “stay tall,” and “shoulders down and back” echo through the walls on an hourly basis. This Focus Point is going to take a different look at posture and provide you with three basic checkpoints to ensure you are staying in proper alignment.

1) Where are your thumbs pointed?

In a relaxed seated or standing position with your arms by your side, notice which direction your thumbs are pointed. Ideally, they are pointed forward while the musculature of your back (in between the shoulder blades) is subtly engaged and holding them in position. The back muscles should not be working hard (think 20% effort) and your traps should be relaxed, not under tension.

If your thumbs are pointed at your thighs, chances are your shoulders are internally rotated and rounded forward, potentially leading to shoulder and neck issues in the future.

2) Are your ribs flared upward?

Often when attempting to improve posture (i.e. stand up straight) our bodies take the “path of least resistance” or compensate to achieve the desired result. A major postural compensation is allowing the ribs to flare up and the low back to hyperextend (excessively arch). Allowing this to occur may make it seem like your posture has improved, but you are simply gaining excessive motion through your low back, which may lead to injury down the road.

During activities of daily living and especially while training in the gym, keeping your abdominal muscles slightly engaged will ensure your pelvis remains under your ribs, preventing your low back from excessively arching and your ribs from flaring upward.

3) Are you goose-necking?

Consider where your head is located in relation to the rest of your body—more specifically, where your ears are in relation to the top of your shoulders. Goose-necking, or forward head posture, is when your head excessively protrudes forward. According to the Mayo Clinic, forward head posture can lead to muscle strain, disc herniation, arthritis, and pinched nerves.

Ideally, the head should sit back on the neck and between the shoulders. A good way to encourage this posture is by drawing the head straight back without allowing the chin to rise. Your ears will be in line with your shoulders and your head is level.

Moving forward, consider these three postural checkpoints to ensure you are staying in proper alignment. Most importantly, be aware of your posture throughout the day. If you identify one or more of these areas as an issue, speak with your trainer to help identify solutions.