Posture Correction for Women Wearing High Heels
High heels present some specific structural issues for the ladies who wear them frequently.
This condition is what’s known as hyperlordosis. Lordosis refers to the curve of the spine that passes through the lumbar vertebrae. Hyperlordosis is an excessive arching of this curve, and it results in a compression of the discs in the lumbar region, as well as a shortening of the spinal erectors and the hip flexors.
Another population that frequently experiences this imbalance is the weightlifting community. Due to a large amount of squatting, deadlifting, and overhead lifts in various forms, the lumbar spine becomes very strong to bear the brunt of the loads placed on the body. Without proper corrective work, this can lead to a strength imbalance between the spinal erectors and the abdominals.
What happens as a result is that the pelvis becomes anteriorly rotated to maintain balance. High heels actually force one into this position by compressing the spine, causing the pelvis to rotate so that the legs can fully extend without the upper body being oriented towards the ground.
The abdominal muscles lengthen to accommodate the tight spinal erectors, causing them to become weak and deactivated. This allows the weight of the belly (specifically the internal organs) to drop to the front. It’s not uncommon for those at a healthy bodyweight experiencing hyperlordosis to mistakenly believe they are fat because they don’t control the muscles surrounding the stomach & intestines (conversely, large amounts of belly fat can actually push one into hyperlordosis from the sheer weight of the fat tissue).
When someone suffering this condition carries some kind of load, their back often gets fatigued quickly. This is because the glutes are not in an optimal position to receive the loads they’re supposed to. As such, they also become weak and deactivated. Another condition that accompanies this posture is tightness around the muscles in the ankles (calves, peroneals, etc.)
The real root of this problem lies in an inability to control one’s pelvis. So to provide lasting relief, we should retrain the nervous system to activate those muscles and then apply those cues to more advanced exercises.
One drill that will do wonders to help you correct hyperlordosis is called a root lock.
A root lock is a drill to strengthen your transverse abdominus (think of it as an internal belt surrounding your internal organs & spine). Some also refer to this exercise as a stomach vacuum. To execute it properly, you want to squeeze your glutes so that your hips tuck underneath you slightly. Then exhale through pursed lips some of the air in your lungs so your abdominals have room to contract. Next, flex your abs (as if bracing for a punch) while trying to pull your belly-button and rectal sphincter towards each other. You can also isometrically drive your heels together to compound the contraction.
Doing this helps to wake up the deep muscles of the lower abs and the pelvic floor that are otherwise inactive during hyperlordosis. While walking around, you can actually refer to a less strict version of this drill to pull you back into optimal posture.
Once you’ve become proficient at the root lock, there are two exercises in which to apply it to help restore balance to your body. The first is the root lock plank. Get into a high pushup and flex your glutes & abs as you do in a root lock. From there, walk your hands out in front of you ’til you feel tension across your abdominal wall. To increase the difficulty, walk your hands further out or use an ab-wheel.
The other is a lying leg raise, with a specific emphasis on the bottom portion of the exercise. Lie on the floor with a neutral pelvis (a normal curve in your spine, but not excessive). Hold your legs just off the ground and squeeze your glutes hard (this tells the hip flexors to turn off, allowing the work to be done by the abdominals). Raise your legs as high as you comfortably can and lower again to the same starting point. Squeeze your glutes as you lower your legs.
If you feel your back get tight, you’re slipping into hyperlodorsis. Take a minute to reset your posture and start over.
The other thing to do is to strengthen the glutes. My favorite exercise for this is the hip bridge. It helps target the glutes while simultaneously stretching the hip flexors.
Stretching and rolling of the hip flexors is also a good idea. If you have tight ankles, do the same for those muscles as well.
Retraining your body to develop pelvic control will help to keep you in proper alignment in the face of adverse conditions. Doing so keeps you free of pain and cultivates efficient movement patterns.
Until next time…
Keep it strong, keep it vegan.