I’ve had several conversations with moms lately about their tween and teen daughters interest in fitness and sports. Understandably so, the moms are concerned about alignment and keeping their tween girls healthy so they can remain active. Preventing non-contact injury can be accomplished by improving alignment and establishing a solid foundation to build on.
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: muscular imbalances start early on in life. When I’ve had the opportunity to assess tween and teen boys and girls, I often find the pelvis is out of alignment at age 12.
It’s crucial that parents and coaches know what to look for when it comes to alignment! Before we ask these young fitness enthusiasts to perform on the field, let’s first prescribe exercises to correct alignment and decrease the chance of injury.
Let’s first understand what ideal alignment is. Although…it’s hard to find someone with perfect posture these days (in our tech-laden society!)
One easy check for alignment is to take a full body, side-facing picture. Use a ruler to draw a plum line starting behind the ear. In ideal alignment, the plum line should go right through the shoulder, just slightly behind the center of the pelvis, a tiny bit forward on the knee and just in front of the ankle bone into the floor.
We’ll get to how I would address these posture concerns, but I just want to reiterate that without a corrective exercise program in place, this alignment will progressively get worse. Typically what follows rounded shoulders is a rounded spine….like a hunchback. But let’s not go there quite yet.
Let’s assume she is asked to do pushups. With her arm bone positioned in the shoulder socket like that, she can damage her shoulder capsule over time with the wear and tear of the pushup movement grinding inside restricted space in the joint. Since we’re catching it early, we can improve this alignment and prevent shoulder concerns down the line.
Pelvis Alignment Check
If you have a better visual of the pelvis in the side-facing resting posture view, then you may be able to see whether or not it is in line. But even if you can see the pelvis, I still suggest doing this simple evaluation to assess pelvis position.
Among the issues mentioned in the video, if your tween has an anterior pelvic tilt it can prevent her from being able to do a split, or get her legs high in a leap in dance, or even limit her squat depth. The video below explains how a forward tipped pelvis causes bone on bone contact.
Now that you know how to identify the alignment concerns, you can establish a corrective exercise program to realign the body. This will require strengthening weak muscles and releasing tight muscles.
First up…the glutes. The glutes are so incredibly important when it comes to restoring pelvis posture! In an anterior pelvic tilt, the glutes are lengthened and weak. Sitting for extended periods each day exacerbates over-stretched glutes. So getting your glutes to wake up and do their job takes some coaxing.
I love the bridge exercise because it’s effective and simple. The video below explains how to do bridges correctly. I encourage you to read this blog post I wrote about the glutes as well which has more glute activation exercises.
When you’re doing any exercises specifically for the glutes, be very aware of not using your lower back. The glutes drive hip extension…..not lumbar extension. Learn the difference between the two by watching this video on my YouTube channel.
Next up…the core! Like the glutes, the abs are resting in a stretch when the pelvis is tipped forward. So they are weak and can’t contract well. It also means the core is not very stable.
Addressing the abs goes way deeper than doing hundreds of crunches. First, focus on keeping the ribs down and over the pelvis. Flared ribs is all too common in an anterior pelvic tilt.
Second, work on core strength through stability exercises. Planks are great, but there are plenty of other exercises that may keep your tween more engaged. Read my blog, 5 Core Exercises You Need to Do, which includes video demonstrations of non-traditional core stability exercises.
Lastly, I didn’t forget about my 10 year old friend above. Her rounded shoulders can be found on many adults as well due to too much computer work and texting. She really needs to strengthen her upper back muscles to pull her shoulders back into alignment. Any kind of row (Seated Row, 1-Arm Row) will be an excellent strength exercise to offset her overly tight chest muscles. For more ideas and videos on back strengthening exercises, check out this blog, The Easy Guide to Back Exercises.
Keeping your tween girl healthy for sports is all about what she does off the field. Get her to love body weight strength training exercises and progress up to dumbbells. Prioritize the muscles on the backside of the body. Make sure alignment during workouts is on point.
This article is written with the tween girl in mind, but the same principles apply to tween boys and adults. If you’re a parent reading this post, try out all these assessments and exercises on yourself too!