Highlights of the episode:

  • What is postural stability
  • How to improve posture
  • Optimum posture for different sports
  • How to build posture awareness to young athletes
  • How to develop curiosity in athletes

#markmcgrath #preparelikeapro #plplivechats #podcast #melbournestrengthcoach

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Interview Transcript

Jack: Thanks for tuning into this episode of ‘Prepare Like A Pro’ podcast bite size. This clip comes from episode 2 with Mark McGrath, a rehabilitation expert in the AFL circles. He has worked for the likes such as Dylan Shiel, Chris Judd, Tom Mitchell, and Luke Hodge. Mark discusses the DNS methods, as well as what it’s like working with world class athletes. Hope you enjoy it.

You mentioned postural stability was something you was big on. What does that mean to you and how have you evolved your practices with improving? Is there such thing as optimal posture or is it just an evolving thing that you’re working on? 

Mark: It’s so basic to us that we overlook it. Posture is our basic uprighting now. And then how that’s being achieved.

If we go back to the baby, because the baby’s the ultimate, because it hasn’t been taught anything and yet it’s got perfect posture. So, it’s more like we lose the perfection, and then we’ve got to go through stages to gain it. With uprighting and then weight shifting. If you watch a baby move, it never muscles, it shifts its weight to get ideal recruitment based on the task. And then uses the free ride of uprighting to do that.

The classic example is a full squat. Our basic posture is this uprighting plus the coactivation of tonic and phasic, that I mentioned at the start, plus intra-abdominal pressure. So, that’s our overall posture in order to not only to move, but also to rest. 

Jack: And do you think, whether it’d be schools or young athletes would take it upon themselves, what should they be doing to prevent that? Is it standing desks? Is it sitting on Swiss balls? What would be the optimal?

Mark: It’s tapping into the aliveness of posture. Like the uprighting is like a basic aliveness and an alertness and it’s being accurate with up and down. So, if my chest is forward, then I can’t be accurate with up and down because now my diaphragm’s not aligned. The diaphragm fiber is a purely vertical and the transversus is purely horizontal. So, that’s showing us how that deeper system wants to be organized in order for those fibers to be accurate with their orientation. 

Jack: If your whole focus is for performance, is there a ballet posture that is better for performance opposed to? Or is it just a matter of the human body has an anatomy that has a stronger say? If you’re in good alignment, how the diaphragm’s supposed to be aligned with the transverse abdominis and that’s superior opposed to the sport dictating your postural dominance? Does that make sense?

Mark: Yeah, it does. If you look at an elite male ballet dancer, really high perched with the sternocleidomastoid. So, they’re lifting, they can do it, but they’ve changed the nature of optimal shoulder stabilization. And again, you can get around these things with treatment and so on. The thing is this is a great point because if you look at the male model and what we also do to female shapes, why is the contorted shape in our mind’s eye preferable? 

Jack: And I remember you saying with the younger athletes, if they haven’t had a chronic experience where they’re in pain, they’re young, so they haven’t had maybe trauma or whatever it might be, so they’re going okay, but they’re not functioning at their best. It can take a bit of time for them to see it. How do you build that awareness?

Mark: I think really realizing the role of the diaphragm and the fact that it changes its shape. We’re not talking respiration, we’re talking a shape change of a large parachute-shape muscle. That shape change is the piston effect of intra-abdominal pressure. Because when I first try to do that, I’ll just mainly tense abdominal muscles. But I’ve got to realize I have no other way to stabilize my spine. This is it. That has to become a priority for me. But when I’m young, it’s easy for it just to slip and say, ‘Well, I’m doing plenty for the abdominal wall or the low back.’ But none of that’s from this inside piston perspective. Because when the push is good, we know the level of the hips as well. 

Jack: And you mentioned the importance of curiosity, working with athletes that are curious. How important is that? And how can you develop curiosity, if it’s something that isn’t there or might not be at a level where it needs to be for an elite athlete? 

Mark: There’s a good quote: ‘Curiosity is why you learn.’ Because it’s the free ride of you already have an interest in the material. I think what happens when we go to school, because you’re already told to learn more about like third person information and regurgitated, we switch off and think that that’s what the world’s about. But in actual fact, that’s the menu that we’re looking at to see what we want to eat.

So, curiosity is how I interact with the menu. And then my network, the relationships, bridges between the first person curiosity and the third person menu, that’s the second person interaction. That’s your mentors, your coaches, your guides. But who are particularly working with this curiosity, they’re not just tipping more from the content.

Jack: Thanks for tuning into the ‘Prepare Like A Pro’ podcast. This clip came from episode 2 with Mark McGrath. You can find us on iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube. Big thanks for listening. If you enjoyed this episode, make sure to take a second to leave us a review. It helps us reach more listeners and is greatly appreciated. I’ll see you on the next episode.


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