Unlock the Power of Posture to Free Your Patients
On Posture and Pleasure
Your body is the harp of your soul.
And it is yours to bring forth sweet
music from it or confused sounds.
- Khalil Gibran
This excerpt from Lebanon-born writer and artist Khalil Gibran's poem On Pleasure is the inspiration for the work of the Biokinetik Exercise Technique (BET) of BET Pilates, a centre that provides clients with sound Pilates-based exercise rehabilitation services for the treatment of musculoskeletal and neurological conditions in an evidence-informed fashion.
Posture is an often overlooked key player in the prevention and treatment of injuries. This blog will introduce you to some great insights into the merits of good postural habits. Brought to you by Rochenda Howard, physiotherapist and co-founder of the BET Pilates. We will finish the blog with a great video in which Rochenda Howard demonstrates activation and manual facilitation of the serratus anterior in supine.
What Separates Elite Athletes from Good Athletes?
Why do some athletes and fitness enthusiasts rarely get injured or complain of aches and pains, while others suffer repeated bouts? Apart from differences in fitness levels and training programmes, it is important to consider plain old posture.
Posture has an undervalued role in enhancing sports performance and in the prevention/treatment of injuries. Moreover, good postural mechanics can be trained through exercise with long-lasting results.
What is Trunk Control and Why is it Important?
Trunk control is the ability to control your upper body (torso). It affects how well you can hold your body upright when sitting or moving.
Good posture not only implies an aligned spine but also a balance of muscular forces about the trunk. If the spine is aligned, key muscles that support the trunk will function efficiently, contributing to an ease of movement and protection against injury. In contrast, repetitive, imbalanced movement or poor postures assumed during training affect technique and can lead to cumulative micro-trauma and chronic pain in the spine or limbs.
Efficient sport and training techniques stem from a solid foundation in the trunk. Which muscles are being used and how they are working to control the trunk affects performance, whether it be a swim stroke, a running stride, a leg press, a bicep curl or a dance move.
Without a solid base to support limb movement during exercise, the resultant loss in trunk control contributes to injury, overuse syndromes and wasted energy.
But my Client is Fit!
If your clients suffer pain or already have poor postural habits, the brain–muscle link just isn’t there - even if they are physically fit. Furthermore, the muscles that contribute to trunk control and posture are not usually the ones emphasized in traditional training programmes. These muscles are deeper and smaller and have physiological, biochemical and functional characteristics that do not respond to traditional ‘strength’ or sport training regimes. Poor posture or faulty technique will effectively eliminate the activation of these muscles, further de-stabilizing the trunk, predisposing to injury and impacting performance.
What are the Key Trunk Muscles?
A good background in anatomy informs us of all the muscles in the human trunk, however, below are some key trunk muscles that impact our posture:
- Rectus abdominis: The lower region of your rectus abdominis (the 6-pack muscles) maintain alignment and control the forces generated through the entire spine during movement.
- Transversus abdominis: An important synergist for stability at individual spinal segments.
- Internal and external obliques: The lumbar-pelvis is stabilized via additional muscle layers formed by the internal and external oblique abdominals and by a force coupling type action from front to back with the gluteal muscles.
Abdominals play an important role in supporting the upper body. The cervicothoracic spine is stabilized via the combined action of the deep abdominals and the scapular muscles (mid and lower trapezius and the serratus anterior).
Do You Really Know How to Train Posture?
The deep abdominals cannot be trained with a traditional sit-up or by attempts to “brace” the spine. Nor can the scapular stabilizers be trained by traditional arm weights or attempts to “pinch” the shoulder blades. Furthermore, in the presence of poor postural habits, poor training technique or incomplete recovery of muscle function from a previous injury, these key muscles will shut down and their important function will be interfered with by other more powerful muscles. The result is a relatively wobbly or unstable trunk, overuse of other trunk or limb muscles and movement that appears less than efficient.
This is clearly not a problem requiring ‘strength’ training
but suggests a neuro-muscular balance issue and the control of dynamic postures.
Physiotherapists, Rehabilitative Professionals and Fitness Trainers Working Together
Fitness professionals serve a vital role in enhancing performance levels and preventing the fitness enthusiast from becoming injured.
The neuro-muscular control of key postural muscles can be selectively activated and re-educated under the guidance of a skilled trainer. The abdominals can be taught to hug the spine; the gluteals to wrap under the buttock and the scapular muscles to draw the shoulder blade snug on the chest wall. Training is initially via very specific key muscle exercises. Progression can be made via specific muscle loading and re-education of function with other muscles during simple and later, more complicated movement patterns. Precise, low grade, sustained muscle activity keeps the trunk ‘quiet’, the limbs light, and movement appearing to hinge about the shoulder and hip girdles.
This approach to postural training is inherent in the Biokinetik Exercise Technique (B.E.T.) - an exercise training system based on and adapted from the Pilates Method. Current theory and research in the area of neuro-muscular control and motor learning have been applied to modify the concepts and exercises of the Pilates Method to suit the needs of physiotherapeutic interventions. Even in the absence of pathology and pain, the BET system can be helpful in training the healthy population to control posture before problems set in.
Imagine a vertical line drawn through the body. This line should pass through the ear, just in front of the shoulder, just behind the hip joint and just in front of the ankle bone. Horizontal lines drawn through the ears, shoulders and hips should be parallel to the floor. Any deviations from this grid-line will alter the normally gentle, S-shaped curve of the spine and the balance of muscular forces about the trunk.
Watch this excellent video below in which Rochenda Howard demonstrates activation and manual facilitation of the serratus anterior in supine.
Activation and Manual Facilitation of the Serratus Anterior in Supine with Rochenda Howard
If you would like to learn more about posture and the BET method, we invite you to check out some of the wonderful online physiotherapy courses and continuing education physiotherapy courses taught by Rochenda Howard and offered to you by Embodia:
- An Introduction to BET PhysioPilates
- PhysioPilates BET Level 1A: Introduction to Theoretical and Practical Neuromuscular Rehabilitation Concepts
- PhysioPilates BET Level 1B: Basic Neuromuscular Assessment and Treatment for Pilates Based Physiotherapy Exercise Intervention
If you have any further questions about BET pilates or Rochenda's courses, we invite you to reach out to her, she would love to speak with you!
Website: betphysiopilates.com; Phone: (647) 748-1889; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
About The Instructor
Rochenda Howard B.A. (P.E.), B.Sc.P.T., M.Sc.
Rochenda is a Physiotherapist and graduated from the University of Toronto. Additionally, she holds a B.A. in Physical Education (University of Western Ontario) and an M.Sc. research degree in Rehabilitation Therapy (Queens University, Canada).
Rochenda has a special interest in muscle function and motor learning and in how biomechanical and muscle/movement imbalances contribute to painful conditions. She has continued to pursue this passion for more than 25 years, focusing exclusively on the development of a PILATES–based Physiotherapy treatment system. While living in Hong Kong Rochenda had the privilege to work extensively with Julia Ellis (RBS (TTC), FISTD, ARAD), a gifted ballet teacher, choreographer and Pilates ‘guru’ and together they founded the successful BET Pilates Centre in 1994. They were the first to introduce Pilates in Hong Kong and East Asia and the first in the region to offer an exclusively Pilates-based Physiotherapy approach. In 2013, Rochenda returned to her native Toronto and established a small PhysioPilates clinic in the West- end where she continues to maintain a full-time practice. In 2006, Rochenda published the first rigorously designed research study on a Pilates-based physiotherapy intervention, the results of this study presented at several conferences internationally.
Rochenda is a passionate educator having co-developed the BET Pilates training curriculum and she has been active internationally teaching and mentoring Physiotherapists in this system since 1996.
In her spare time, Rochenda enjoys competitive swimming, outdoor activities, cycling, travel, spending time with her two daughters and a good espresso.
Blog editor: Nataliya Zlotnikov