Not a gender-specific criticism – I promise!
I just love Frankie Valli songs and had to use one of his song titles for this blog! That he can still be out there doing his Farewell tour and perform at 84 years is already amazing – and when we add in his vocal range, it is an inspiration that shows how training & technique can keep you going for a long time.
But this blog is all about posture – the muscle memories that we learn from young in how we stand, walk and sit.
A little game to play
Here is a little game to play next time you are in a place lots of people are standing – whether in a bar or waiting for a bus and a train. Have look at how people are standing. Specifically, look at their legs and the back of their knees. Are their knees locked out backwards? My experience is that at least half of all people stand like this.
It is often called ‘sway back posture’. Standing with the knees locked back pushes the thighs and the hips forward, which in turn means that the pelvis is tilted forwards (posterior tilt). This means that the lower spine has to counteract this by flattening (which is actually increased flexion vs the natural curve) and then the shoulders are back, but the head has to balance – so it leans forward, sometimes leading to a rounding of the shoulders. In terms of the muscles, this is tight quads, psoas and up the spine, with underactive glutes & abs, and probably short and tight hamstrings. All of this from simply locking the knees back – a habit that was probably learned from the day that they started to stand & walk – and is now embedded into decades of muscle memory.
And extending this to walking
Now watching people walk, it is striking how many people walk with the legs leading the way. Almost like cartoons. Where their legs and lower body lead the way and then the body catches up (see Robert Crumb’s ‘Keep on Truckin’ image for an exaggerated view.) This movement is simply an extension of this quad-dominant posture. Watch a crowd walk across a road and see what a large proportion of people have this walking posture – with the hamstrings, glutes and abs taking a holiday whilst the quads and spine do all of the heavy lifting (literally).
A walking posture that looks after the spine and the posterior chain feels a bit like the POSE running technique – as though you are almost falling forward each step, with your leg coming under you to catch your body just in time. And with it, the pelvis moves gently compared to the rest of the body every stride (like a bucket maintaining stability to ensure that its content does not leak out) and the rest of the muscles work around it. A clue that you are on the right track is that you can feel the abs activated with every stride. Plus you may feel that you are taking fewer steps, with a higher cadence (more per minute) – which can be a very efficient way to walk.
If you are really keen to understand it, get a friend to video you walking – watching you from sideways on. The camera never lies!
Things that you can do
Changing how you stand and walk every day accounts for a lot of hours, and can really make a difference. So here are a few tips that may help:
- Correct how you are standing every time – and as well as breaking at the knee, move it around – move into a small split stance and move the weight around
- Think about how you are walking all of the time
- Give friends and family the permission and request to comment on your walking, so that you can all work on it together
- Stand tall, and find some moments to stretch in the day
- If you are sitting for long periods, make sure that you stand and walk at least once per hour (ideally a lot more than that!)
- Always try to sleep stretched out, not curled up or with your legs bent up
- Make sure that you keep your feet parallel (not turned out) with every step when you walk
For more detailed guidelines and support, check out Jonathan FitzGordon’s advice on https://corewalking.com/
Obviously – as the song title suggests – how you walk projects some of your personality. But making sure that it is functionally kind to your body should keep you out of pain for a lot longer.
Best of luck – walk tall 🙂