“Stand up straight!”
If your parents were anything like mine, you heard that growing up and when I started my career as a physical therapist, I assumed that I would be telling my patients to do the same.
However, that has not been the case.
As a sports physical therapist here in Bethesda, I find this cue to be detrimental to how the body functions. In fact, correcting the need to stand up straight has been one of the most helpful suggestions during physical therapy sessions and throughout the injury rehabilitation process.
Standing up straight causes you to pull your shoulder blades down and back, which limits the amount of movement available to your shoulder blades. The shoulder blades are meant to elevate and abduct (move apart) as the arm is moving away from the body. Just try to keep your shoulder blades down and back as your reach for something!
The cue to stand up straight also commonly causes people to arch their back and tip their pelvis forward. This position places increased strain on the lower back and pelvis, while limiting the amount of motion that is available at the hips.
Correcting this posture is of particular importance for athletes. Every sport has an amount of movement that is necessary to perform it. Golf requires a large amount of rotation at the hips, serving a tennis ball requires a great deal of shoulder flexion, and sprinting requires lot of hip extension.
“Standing up straight” while performing these activities will limit the movements necessary to perform these activities and can often lead to injuries.
This is not to say that this cue is a bad thing. However, it is important to understand when this cue is helpful and when it is not.
Cues like “standing up straight” may work for drills such as deadlifts, rows, and farmers carries, however it is useful to forget this cue for other activities and when attempting to correct your posture!