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Stop Slouching and Stand-up Straight
to Improve Your Speed

A common phrase often heard from parents, teachers, and coaches is to “stand-up straight and stop slouching!”  This saying is so common that it usually goes in one ear and out the other.  Is this just some twisted way to harp on kids or does this advice actually have some merit?
Although this phrase is yelled at just about everyone, it is particularly valuable for people who play sports.  Believe it or not, the advice of keeping good posture and “standing-up straight” may be the single-most important bit of information that athletes will receive in their entire playing career!
One is said to have bad posture when they are slouching or not “standing-up straight”.  This usually means that:
  1. Shoulders are rounded forward… leading to tight/shortened chest and upper neck muscles and weak/lengthened posterior shoulder/mid back muscles.
  2. Hip flexors muscles are tight/shortened… leading to weak glute (butt muscles) and core stabilizing muscles… possibly leading to back pain.
Good posture = good muscle balance.  Basically, muscle balance describes when all muscles surrounding a joint are pulling appropriately.  Muscle balance should be the goal of every athlete because it decreases the likelihood of injuries.  However, it also means that the muscles are more capable of exerting strength, power, and explosiveness due to the muscles being at their appropriate length and tension.  A tight muscle on one side of a joint usually leads to a weak and lengthened muscle on the other.

By now, I’m guessing that you understand how muscles imbalances may lead to injuries?  However, I’m also guessing that you might still be questioning how it can affect your speed?
In addition to muscles not being able to exert full force as described in the last paragraph, bad posture may lead to limited range of motion in certain joints of the body making it difficult to run with proper form.  For example, a rounded shoulder posture will make it difficult for one to run with correct arm action.  Instead of appropriately swinging the arms in a back-to-front manner, they usually will cross the body.  This leads to forces being applied in the wrong direction and a slower overall run.
Tight hip flexors (which lead to weak glutes and core stabilizers) are also a result of bad posture.  Overall hip range of motion will be affected and stride length will probably be less than ideal.  Weak glute/hip extensor muscles mean that you will not be able to generate maximum power and speed.  Finally, a weak core will mean that energy will be lost as it tries to get from the upper to the lower body. 
So instead of getting defensive the next time someone tells you to “stand-up straight and stop slouching,” you may just want to listen to them and say “thanks!"

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