The Myth of Recovery Posture – Your Coach Taught You Wrong

If you ever played a sport growing up, chances are you heard a coach yell, “Get your hands off your knees!” while you and your teammates were gasping for air.

Said coach would then insist you put your hands on your hips or on top of your head, instead. Their reasoning was that one, standing tall allowed their team to open their lungs and take in more oxygen, and two, bending over is a sign of weakness to be avoided at all costs.

The funny thing about this is that a recent study found bending over to be the superior recovery posture compared to the classic “hands on the head” pose.

d-2.PNG

The study (Michaelson et. al, 2019) compared two postures (“hands on knees” vs. “hands on head”) to see how they impacted athletes’ recovery from high-intensity interval training.

The study found that the “hand on knees” posture resulted in superior heart rate recovery and greater tidal volume (the amount of air inhaled into the lungs with each breath) compared to the “hands on head” posture.

How could this possibly be? After all, doesn’t having your hands on your head “open up your lungs” while bending over close them off?

Not quite. The problem with the hands on the head posture is that it flares your ribcage upwards, extends your back, and closes off your posterior ribcage so it cannot effectively expand during inhalation. The posterior ribcage actually contains a large volume of your lung tissue, so closing it off is far from ideal. This inhibits the diaphragm, the primary muscle of inhalation, from working effectively. To overcome this, many of your back and neck muscles will try to make up for the lack of diaphragm function during inhalation.

This is a textbook example of inefficient breathing.

A more optimal position would be to place your hands on your knees and look slightly upwards. Unfortunately, the athlete in the above photo from the study is looking down instead of up, but is she were looking up, she’d be in a more efficient position for her airway, as the cervical extension would allow proper airflow into her lungs.

There’s a reason your body naturally gravitates to the “hands on your knees” position when you’re absolutely gassed during a workout. When you’re really tired, your body will want to bend over and put your hands on your knees. The body knows best when it comes to these things, so why fight it? With your hand on your knees, your lungs are allowed to fill with a greater volume of air. This in turn supplies more oxygen to the working tissue so you can more quickly clear the oxygen debt you’ve accumulated through exercise. Your oxygen debt is essentially the specific amount of oxygen you need to recover when fatigued post-activity.

Why you SHOULDN’T stretch your hamstrings

How many times have you spoken, thought, or heard the following sentence?

“Man, my hamstrings are so tight!”​

The next logical idea would be to stretch them out. You might bend over and reach for those toes, or maybe prop your leg up one at a time on a desk and feel that sweet relief.

The problem is, you just made you problem worse. That’s right, worse.

For too long the fitness industry has been a proponent of hamstring stretching to relieve tightness in your back and legs. However, what they didn’t consider is that the body naturally gravitates to a state of anterior pelvic tilt and lumbar extension. In layman’s terms, we live our lives with our backs arched and our ribs flared up. It’s comfortable, it’s familiar.

Anterior-Pelvic-Tilt.jpg

Take a look at the image above. If you have any back pain, hamstring tightness, or dysfunction in general, changes are you are stuck in this anteriorly tilted position. Look at the hamstrings – they attach on the back of your pelvis and knees.

So here’s the question: If we live in a state of constant anterior tilt and our hamstrings are lengthened, WHY are we stretching them?!

Imagine a rope that has two people on each end. If both people are pulling on each end, of course that rope is going to be very tight. Your hamstrings are that rope and they aren’t tight because they’re short and overactive, they’re tight because they over-lengthened and being pulled on all the time from both directions!

Here’s an even more interesting thought: The way to fix your hamstring tightness is to turn on your hamstrings. We need to restore them to a more optimal resting length so they can relax and your pelvis can get out of an overly-rotated state.

We are very fortunate to be able to implement Postural Restoration Institute methodology at our clinic, where we specialize in recognizing the patterns the human body falls into, just like this one. Every day we get to work with individuals who have this anterior tilt and we help them get out of it!

Get your FREE copy of “The 5 Best Exercises For Golf You Aren’t Doing”

Enter your email below to sign up.

We respect your privacy. Your info will never be shared.

Why all golfers must have reaching in their training

Why All Golfers Must REACH

Do you feel that your backswing or follow through isn’t what it used to be? Are you unable to dissociate your pelvis from your hips? Does your swing feel stuck even after hours of practice? Those are just a few examples of symptoms of a stiff ribcage. A lot of humans, golfers included, have stiff ribcages that limit proper breathing mechanics. If you cannot breathe into your posterior mediastinum (your back ribs), your diaphragm cannot function optimally. To compensate, you will likely kick in your neck to assist you in pulling in air, further stiffening the muscles around your ribcage.

The-Superior-Anterior-Middle-and-Posterior-Mediastina.jpg

The secret is this: The posterior mediastinum can unlock your golf game. If you can breathe into it, you have the ability to rotate your thorax and thoracic spine freely. A good golf swing involves a posteriorly-rotated pelvis with the ribs back, which allows for optimal rotation. A free thorax will equal a smooth, controlled swing without mobility limitations. A stiff thorax will force you to compensate and use improper muscles such as your back to make up for a lack of mobility where it should be (in your thorax).

Reaching is absolutely one of the most necessary movements a golfer can have in their exercise program. Reaching activities bring down your ribcage to force air into your posterior mediastinum. A great example of this would be a Wall Supported Reach. Notice how her ribs are down and just her low back is on that wall, opening up her upper back to take in air.

d-5.jpg

Correct breathing is the key to everything. Good respiration during activity will involve a inhalation through the nose and full exhalation through the mouth. Every day at Sandhills Sports Performance, I have every client do at least one reaching activity. It keeps them healthy, feeling good, and fires up all the right muscles.

Get your FREE copy of “The 5 Best Exercises For Golf You Aren’t Doing”

Enter your email below to sign up.

We respect your privacy. Your info will never be shared.