Out  of  Kilter  Part  2  -  How  to Identify and  Correct  Imbalances  by  Ian King

Now, lets start out with my postural model to identify potential  imbalances. You may be surprised at the absence of reference to strength parameters as a measure of muscle balance. I don't endorse  these. Ironically, the same people promoting these concepts are  debasing the use of machines such as Cybex to identify muscle balance  around the knee. Too many variables contribute to the ability to displace load. For me, strength ratios are of limited value in the true identification at the early stage of potential muscle imbalances.
So, let's get into what I want in my postural model. As you compare  yourself to this, you'll likely note a significant difference between  your model and mine. Yet, if you choose, you can adapt your posture  to my model. Is it worth doing? After all, you'll need to memorize and  apply it, day in and day out, and this will take effort. I'd say it's  worth it, but I'm also quite happy for you to form an alternative  opinion. I promise I'll take no delight when, in the years to come, you experience conditions I call predictable and avoidable.

Okay, here we go.

Your feet should be parallel, shoulder-width apart, and toes on the  same imaginary line, i.e. totally symmetrical. They should be like  this all the time; never stand any other way!

Failure to adopt this position: If you stand with your feet externally rotated, you are creating shortening of the external rotators which may contribute to lower back or referred pain down the legs at some time in the future. Individuals who stand this way may also inhibit the  strength and growth of their external rotators, including their  gluteals.

How to check this in yourself:
Look down at your feet.

Weight Distribution

Weight distribution should be even right to left and 60% towards the  front of the feet, 40% to the back. This is like the ready stance. Your feet are flat, but weight is forward. This may cause you  initially to feel like you're falling forward.

Failure to adopt this position: When you rock your weight back on the heels, this is mechanically less work but can result in the hips being moved in front of the shoulders (vertically) which increases pressure on lumber joints and nerves, throws the head forward and curves the upper back, resulting in discomfort at any level of the spine or neck.

How to check this in yourself:
Feel for the weight distribution.
Experiment with various options to get a comparison.


Knees should be slightly bent, but not much. Just unlock them and definitely avoid hyperextension at this joint in standing or walking.

Failure to adopt this position: Extending the knees increases the anterior rotation of the pelvis. This increases pressure on the joints and nerves of the lower back and may result in pain at the back or referred down the legs. People who typically hyperextend may also have reduced quad development and increased joint wear at the knee.

How to check this in yourself:
Force the knees into lockout. If it took no or minimal travel to that position, you're probably too extended. Experiment with different levels of knee bend. You only need the slightest amount.

Pelvis Position Relative to Shoulders

The center of hips should be directly under center of shoulders.

Failure to adopt this position: When the hips are in front of the vertical line of the shoulders, you'll have increased pressure on the lumbar joints and nerves. Remember, when a muscle is excessively shortened or lengthened chronically, it can be inhibited in power and growth. People with this stance characteristic usually have poorly developed gluteals because they're kept in a shortened state too often.

How to check this in yourself:
Stand side on to a mirror or have  someone else assess this from a side position. When the pelvis and shoulders are aligned vertically and you feel you're falling forward, this adds confirmation that you normally stand with your hips in front of your shoulders.
Pelvis Position Relative to Itself

When the top of the pelvis moves forward this is called anterior rotation. When it moves backward its called posterior rotation. While its normal to have some degree of anterior rotation, excessive anterior rotation contributes to excessive lower back (lumbar) curvature, which means more pressure on these joints and the nerves coming out from these joints supplying the lower body.

Failure to adopt this position: Jam the lumbar joints up and you'll have reduced power output in the lower body, followed by pain. People with excessive anteriorly rotated hips usually suffer lower back and sciatic pain more often and more severely, and are more likely to experience hamstring, groin, calf, and abdominal wall pain or tearing (or what I call symptoms of tearing, at least until it manifests as a true tear).

How to check this in yourself:
Stand side-on to a mirror or have someone else assess this from a side position. Experiment with degrees of anterior and posterior rotation. This position may only require a subtle adjustment. You aren't looking for a totally vertical pelvis, but are seeking something that approaches this position.
Lower Abdomen

The low abdomen should have constant lower level tension to maintain appropriate degree of posterior rotation in the hips.

Failure to adopt this position: Inadequate firing of these corset-like muscles will leave the pelvis too anteriorly rotated too often resulting in increased pressure on the joints of the lower back and the nerves coming out from these joints feeding the lower back. So this means less power to the legs and more risk of pain in the lower back, hips, and or leg regions.

How to check this in yourself:
Place your hands down along the lower abdomen angling in with the oblique's, including just under the belt line. Feel for level of tension with your fingers. You should be able to feel some tension under the skin, especially at and under the belt line.


The sternum should be held high. This not only improves lung function (which affects total body health and function), but also ensures the upper back isn't excessively rounded or kyphotic.

Failure to adopt this position: This may result in rounded upper back and less effective lung function.

How to check this in yourself:
Experiment with your sternum position. Lift it up as high as you can, lower it down as low as you can. Are you normally close to maximum height? This is ideal.


The shoulders should be back and down, symmetrically. When looking laterally at the shoulders (say, looking sideways into a mirror), you shouldn't be able to see any of your upper back because the deltoids are blocking the view.

Failure to adopt this position: This position is key to shoulder health. Failure to master this position can result in a variety of shoulder health issues and also referred pain or challenges down the arms and back through the chest.

How to check this in yourself:

1. From the front: Check that your shoulder height is even by looking into a mirror. If one shoulder is lower, it usually means you're dominating in this arm and that the chest and lat on that side are tighter. This can result in increased neck pain and shoulder issues.

2. From the side: As stated above, when looking sideways into a mirror you should not be able to see any of your upper back. This is a measure of your shoulder blade retraction.

3. From the back: Have someone run his or her hands across your upper back. If he feels his hand catching the medial (inside) vertical borders of your shoulder blades, you're probably still lacking in shoulder blade retraction (squeezing together).

Now have him run his hand up your back vertically. If his hands catch on the lower end of your scapula, you may be lacking in scapula retraction (lower and pulling in towards the body of the lower end of the scapula).
Finally, have him place a hand on each of your shoulder blades to determine if your shoulder blades are sitting symmetrically when in the standing position.


The arms should be by your side, not out in front. They should be positioned symmetrically by the side of the body, not one in or out more than the other.

Failure to adopt this position: This will reinforce internal rotation of the chest and shoulders, one of the more common shoulder/arm positions evident in inappropriately designed weight training programs (which sums up about 99% of training programs from a joint/tissue health perspective).

How to check this in yourself:
Look at yourself front-on in the mirror. Are your hands by your side or are they playing pocket billiards? Are they positioned the same right to left?


The hands should be facing inwards, not backwards.

Failure to adopt this position: This will reinforce internal rotation of the upper arm. This condition will increase the incidence of shoulder and referred pain into the arm conditions.

How to check this in yourself:
Face the mirror. Where are your palms facing Inwards or backwards? Are they symmetrical? (That is, are they doing the same thing?)


The center of the head should be close to the vertical line of the hips and shoulders; not exactly so, but not excessively away from this position. Look to minimise the curvature of the neck.

Failure to adopt this position: This will result in increased neck and head pain, and will also reinforce the hips forward position, as they act together to counterbalance the center of gravity.

How to check this in yourself:
If you're by yourself, stand side-on to the mirror and attempt to get a glimpse at your head position. Other methods include experimenting with putting your head more forward and retracting it. Remember, when you retract it keep the chin flat. If you find you have a fair bit of travel back inwards, you are probably standing with your head protruding excessively.


I understand that for some, especially the younger or less injured ones, this info may seem less relevant. It?s amazing how facing a serious injury can change one's perspective!

My firm recommendation is don't wait until later in your training career to learn the hard way. Take steps now to reduce the incidence and severity of any challenges you may face at the joint and/or tissue level. But I understand we must all learn in our own way and life is full of choices! Choose to be injury free!

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Posture - Part 2