Health Education

Training Variables: The Positions

The human body is a wonder of versatility and function.  The sequences and combinations of motions and actions that we put together are truly amazing.  We all strive to age well while looking and feeling our best.  If you understand the foundational positions that our bodies can operate from, you can work to maintain them well into your later years.  

Our muscles, bones, and nerves have been developing and refining themselves since before we were born.  As a baby, the various positions we go through lay the foundation of how we will eventually stand and move around.  As an adult, it’s important to stay in touch with these positions as part of our daily and weekly self care.  Here are the ones to check in with:

On Your Back (Supine):  Simply laying flat on the ground should be relaxing.  For some though, changes to the natural curves of our spine can make this challenging.  Try laying flat on your back with your arms open and by your side.  Let your legs stretch all the way out, or leave them bent if you need to alleviate pressure on your low back.  Many gentle stretches and core movements can be performed from this position.  Gravity, for the most part, is removed from the equation.

Side Lying:  Rolling from your back to your sides is the first step towards gravity.  You have to use core muscles to do it while gently changing the positions of your spine and pelvis.  Check in to see if you are comfortable laying on both sides.  Can you support your head with the underlying arm?  That requires a certain amount of flexibility and strength.  You can try simple leg lifts, side crunches, or plank holds from this position as well.  

On Your Stomach (Prone):  Laying on your stomach and lifting your head up begins to set the arch in your lower back and open the chest and shoulders.  Depending on who you are this could be a nice stretch or mildly uncomfortable.  Gentle stretches for the neck and spine can be completed from this position.  Extending the arms out in front provide a nice extended stretch.  You can easily load into a forearm plank from this position as well to challenge core strength. 

Seated on Floor:  Desks, chairs and comfy couches can strip us of this fundamental ability.  Being able to comfortably sit on the floor in a few positions demonstrates baseline flexibility.  Think of sitting cross legged or in a butterfly position (feet together knees open).  Try sitting on your butt and hugging your knees or reaching for your toes.  Allow one leg to lay open in a runners stretch.  There are many strength and flexibility moves from this position.  If you are a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle, you better be comfortable down there!

Hands and Knees:  Making your way to all fours was the beginning of movement for most of us.  Crawling, in whatever style you chose, was the way to get around as a baby.  As an adult, the hands and knees position is a great way to stretch the spine, hips, and shoulders.  Sway your hips from side to side or tilt them forward and back in a cat/dog motion.  Sit your butt back towards your heels for a nice stretch.  Go ahead and do some crawling as a full body stretch and core exercise.  

Kneeling:  Being able to get yourself up onto one knee is the last stage before standing.  It requires deep hip flexion, tilts your pelvis, and winds up all of your core muscles.  Being able to stand up from this position is fundamentally important at all ages.  You can hold a kneeling position on both sides as both a stretch and strengthening exercise.  Try putting your hands on the floor, your hips, or over your head to change things up.  

Standing:  We’ve made it all the way up!  This may seem obvious, but there are dozens of ways to change your standing position.  Start with your feet next to each other, directly under your hips.  You can change to wide stance or bring your feet really close to each other.  A stride stance, or split stance, is another option (one foot in front of the other like walking).  By changing where your toes point, you change the whole setup of your ankles, knees, and hip motion.  Try turning your toes in or out.  Whether you are raking leaves, swinging a tennis racket, or completing a shoulder press with dumbbells, you have a wide variety of options to stimulate your core with.  Have fun experimenting!

Sean Fitzpatrick

Author Sean Fitzpatrick

More posts by Sean Fitzpatrick

Leave a Reply