Health risks caused by digital device overuse may include digital eyestrain, computer vision syndrome, and possibly myopia, but now there’s more. The process of looking down at your screen(s) for long periods of time can apparently result in a new ailment called “tech neck”.
Spine-Health describes tech neck as the result of “holding your head flexed and forward while looking down at your handheld device and/or laptop screen, which places your cervical spine in a tenuous position.”
“Over long periods of time, maintaining this head-forward posture can lead to muscle strain, disc injury, nerve impingement, and arthritic changes of the neck — and the potential for developing ongoing neck & shoulder pain, headaches, and pain radiating down the arms.”
Correct Posture Techniques:
QUICK NOTE – I might be a bit straight-forward with what I’m explaining today. For that, I apologize in advance. If my advice is something you’re struggling with or if it’s completely unreasonable, please DO NOT get discouraged. You can make progress, even if it’s just one small step at a time. If none of this pertains to you, there’s so many other things you can try out. I encourage you to use your best judgment. Thanks.
Right off the bat, let’s go over ideal posture.
You might assume I’m gonna tell you to sit up straight at your desk, or to put your feet flat on the ground, or to uncross your legs and sit an arms distance away from the computer. Maybe you think I’m gonna tell you to purchase a fluffy neck pillow or even try a stand-up desk? Now these are all decent ideas (which should help to a certain extent), but why not just get to the root of the problem?
To be honest, poor posture runs deeper than any quick fix. Even worse, correct posture is the culmination of lots of hard work and it’s not fun at all (at least until you get used to it).
You might think correct posture starts with standing up straight, or pulling your shoulders and your neck back, or positioning yourself correctly. But it doesn’t. Correct posture starts with CORE strength. The more core strength, the better.
Let me explain.
Power comes from the ground up and your core is the center of gravity between the ground and the top of your head. Your legs support your core, but your core supports everything on top of it. Think of your core as the base of your chest, shoulders, neck and head. Without a strong base (or foundation so to speak), your posture barely has a chance.
Good. Now that we’re on the same page, let’s do a test. From a standing position, complete the following movements.
- Tuck your butt up
- Drive your hips forward
- Engage your abdominal muscles
- Feel your lower back in a supported position
- Pinch your shoulders back
- Lift your chin
Congratulations, you’ve just executed proper posture (and it was mostly core based). If you tighten your core accordingly, you’re spine naturally falls into the correct position. The stronger your core, the better your posture. Without a strong core, this whole concept means nothing.
You can try the same thing while sitting down. Flex the butt, push the hips forward, tighten down the stomach muscles, support the lower back, pinch back the shoulders, and lift your head. Gently pressing your feet into the ground will assist the process.
Building Core Strength:
It’s important to keep core strength in mind when working out. In fact, it’s actually the most important thing. In a perfect world, every exercise you do should focus on keeping a strong core (easier said than done, I know).
Most people think a bunch of sit-ups or crunches are needed to build a strong core, but that’s not true. Sit-up and crunches may have a cosmetic effect, but you’re gonna have to dig deeper. Actively engaging your core and not breaking the line is much more important than sit-ups or crunches.
The following exercises work on core-engagement basics. Try to hold each position for 30 seconds, then 45 seconds, then a minute, then more:
- Plank hold
- Hollow body hold
When you get the hang of these two exercises, you can advance to:
If you just do a regular air-squat, you’re only working your leg muscles (for the most part). But the exercise changes the second you hold something in front of you. Pick up a (light) barbell or a (small) medicine ball and now try your squats. You’re now engaging your core AND with working out your leg muscles.
If you’re looking for a bit more of a challenge, do the following exercises. Try 5 reps, then 10, then 15 (or more):
It’s very important to keep your core engaged during these exercises. Try not to let your core “fall apart” at the bottom of the squat.
Once you’ve built a strong core, you’ll start doing things you’ve never imagined (at the gym). Workouts will become a bit easier, and you’ll gladly accept any challenge thrown your way.
Advanced athletes should be proficient with the following movements:
If you’ve gone this far, you most likely understand the importance of core strength. Exercises like thrusters and toes to bars will send “tech neck” running for the hills. In fact, you may even put your digital device away altogether. With your new found core strength, you’ll most likely be confident enough to talk to actual people now.
Just kidding !!
Drop me a line and let me know if I missed anything.
*Credit Crossfit.com for the exercise demos