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Never Settle, Never Slouch: Expert Advice for Good Posture

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As part of our exciting new partnership with leading esports organization, Fnatic, we’re bringing you insights you can use from the intersection of the esports and fitness worlds.

Here, we highlight the risks and remedies for something that we’re all familiar with but probably take for granted: long hours sitting in a chair.

Whether you’re a pro gamer or working a desk job, how you sit matters. A lot. Here’s why:

During competition, esports players spend anywhere from three to eight hours seated. This means that there is little to no time for stretch breaks and the players remain incredibly focused on the game for long periods of time.

Sound familiar?

That’s because it is. With our current WFH lifestyle, there are many parallels that can be drawn between people with sitting desk jobs and esports players.

Although our recent survey data shows positive trends--Americans have been working out almost 41% more than they did prior to the pandemic, for example--it seems that many people still struggle with integrating regular breaks and movement into their working day. Not to mention the blurred line between work and personal life and ever-increasing screen time.

We are always on. Always chasing the next assignment, project, or goal.

So, how can the esports pros balance the sitting nature of their sport to absolutely crush the competition and take home first place?

And how can we as Free Athletes improve our posture and habits no matter what our 9-5 life entails? Well, to answer all of these questions and more, we sat down with the Head of Fitness at Fnatic, Brad Bowie.

Spoiler alert, it all comes down to your mindset…

Fnatic’s Head of Fitness on physical training for esports: An interview with Brad Bowie

Thanks for joining us, Brad. Can you please introduce yourself?

My name is Brad Bowie and I am Head of Fitness in the Fnatic HPU. My passion for fitness and training comes from my teenage years. I spent the better half of my life very underweight for my height and as a result, had very poor self-esteem and internal dialogue.

What started as a goal to just gain weight and put on muscle to make myself feel better, resulted in me finding the sport of Strongman and the thrill and drive of competition. I have competed for the last three years, have had a podium finish in almost all of my competitions and was even crowned my town’s strongest male under 105kg this year.

Can you talk a little bit about how to train an esports player?

Esports is a unique professional sport, in that getting physically stronger or faster doesn’t directly lead to improved performance like it does for most other sports. The benefit is seen by proxy or indirectly. So the most important aspect of the player’s training is safety in the movements.

Our training sessions last no longer than 45-60 minutes. And because no two players’ goals are the same, each one is given an individualised program.

We start with a dynamic warm up and then move onto the output-driven exercises. These are compound exercises which we progressively overload in order to ensure measurable progress. Next up are the accessory exercises, these are the ones used to combat the imbalances caused by excessive sitting and also to help strengthen the smaller muscles involved in their output-driven lifts. Lastly, we finish with some conditioning and/or mobility exercises.

Are there specific exercises you do to combat the damaging effects of sitting?

Every player is a little different because not everyone sits the same, or undergoes the same stressors while sitting. For example, some players play with their arms spread very wide and are lower to their desk, while others may only have one leg touching the ground and the other tucked up to their chest or under the other knee.

Each posture presents different stressors on the body and our exercise selection reflects this. However, there are a few uniform exercises that can help everybody, no matter their posture while sitting.

Brad’s Top 3 Exercises for Serious Gamers

My top three exercises would be:

  1. Face Pulls: This exercise strengthens weak mid-back and posterior delts. It also can greatly increase shoulder health and healthy movement patterns which is of course, very ideal for someone that sits for long periods of time. For even more resistance, this exercise can be done with a band.
  2. Dead Bugs: Dead bugs are an incredible exercise for working out the abdominal muscles and building up a strong core. Our center is what holds us up when sitting down and it is essential for healthy postural endurance.
  3. Elevated Split Squats: Not only does this lower body exercise work to strengthen the quads, glutes, and the calves but it also helps with supporting a strong core.
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Dealing with the threat of postural problems

How does gaming take a toll on a player’s posture, [and] how can you correct this?

Gamers not only battle other players but they also battle gravity the entire time. And unfortunately for us, turning gravity off or lowering its difficulty setting isn’t an option.

In a seated position, your postural muscles are firing in order to keep your hips straight, your torso upright and your head looking forward.

Once these muscles begin to tire, your body will find a position in which these muscles can rest and become more efficient to continue the task at hand (sitting).

This position is referred to as “Upper Crossed Syndrome” and is characterised by your upper body being rounded forward and your neck being extended to compensate.

How to beat Upper Crossed Syndrome before it gets you:

  1. Take breaks: It is key to understand that regular posture breaks are necessary for enjoying gaming (or any seated activity) for long durations - all the corrective exercises in the world will not help if you don’t start addressing the cause.

  2. Invest time in corrective exercises: These should be a combination of strengthening the muscles that have lengthened (muscles of the upper back and front of the neck) and mobilising the muscles that have shortened (pecs/anterior delts, lats, biceps, and cervical (neck) extensors).

What physically happens to your body when you sit for more than five hours straight?

Evolutionarily, our bodies have followed the “path of least resistance'' - the act of getting [maximum effects from our actions] while expending the least amount of energy.

When we sit in a single position for more than five hours straight, your body is going to find the easiest way to keep you there while expending the least amount of energy doing so.

Unfortunately, this means [the body] will [settle on a position that will] begin to shorten certain muscles and, by consequence, lengthen others.

When you eventually get up, these muscles will remain in that position, making it harder for you to switch between sitting, standing, walking, reaching, bending - all the positions that life forces our body into.

In the short term, this may mean some discomfort while transitioning through life’s postures, in the long term however this may lead to consistent pain, postural imbalances, or, even worse, injury.

What advice can you give to someone who is required to sit all day long?

Our body thrives when it is moved through multiple postures a day. To anyone that has a typical 9 to 5 job, I would recommend working in micro- and macro-posture breaks throughout the day.

A micro-posture break is one that you can do by moving your limbs and extremities to increase blood flow.

It can be anything from shaking out your hands or stretching your legs while seated. These kinds of breaks can be utilised every 10-20 minutes.

A macro-posture break is characterised by changing your posture entirely, and helps to break the cycle that sitting places on our bodies. These kinds of breaks are best utilised every 30 minutes at best and at least every 60 minutes at worst.

Try incorporating these exercises into your macro break:

Brad’s parting advice for fixing your posture:

Overall, I would encourage people to change their mindset around sitting. Because sitting is easy, and is both a working and a resting posture, its ill effects can sneak up on us.

We often don’t realise it’s a problem until it’s too late, whether that means injury or consistent pain. Listen to your body throughout the day and aim to move as much as possible. Challenge yourself to take the path of least resistance and get moving!
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