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Young athlete in hands-on-knees posture to promote performance recovery.

Performance Recovery: Check Your Posture

I don’t know about you, but after a hard workout, my instinct is to put my hands on my knees. And yet my coaches would always tell me “Get your hands off of your knees!” I was also told that standing up tall after exercise will allow for better expansion of my lungs and increase my oxygen intake. Another perception was that bending forward is a sign of weakness.

A recent study has disproved this logic. Researchers compared the two postures: hands on knees and hands on head following high-intensity interval training to see which one produced more favorable outcomes for performance recovery. In the study, 20 female Division II soccer players were analyzed following a four-minute treadmill run during a period of three-minute passive recovery. They found that the hands-on-knees position was actually better for recovery. This position allowed for faster recovery of heart rate, tidal volume (the amount of air moving in and out of the lungs), and carbon dioxide elimination.

So, why is that? The hands-on-head posture promotes thoracic extension and external rotation of the rib cage. This flares the rib cage upwards and closes off the back of it. There is a large portion of the lungs toward the back of the rib cage. In turn, closing off the back of the rib cage inhibits the diaphragm (an important muscle for breathing) from working effectively. This leads to a poorly recovered and fatigued athlete.

When one places their hands on their knees, it causes internal rotation of the rib cage and thoracic flexion. This position allows the diaphragm to be placed in an optimal position for breathing, helping the lungs fill with a greater amount of air. In conclusion, the hands-on-knees posture has been proven to be the best posture to promote performance recovery. This will minimize fatigue, leading to improvements in physical performance for the next set of exercise.

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About CHKD Sports Medicine  CHKD's sports medicine program offers the most comprehensive care for your young athlete. From diagnosis and treatment to customized rehabilitation plans, we specialize in physical therapy and injury prevention programs for active children and teens. Our team is composed of pediatric orthopedic surgeons, sports medicine specialists, physician assistants, certified athletic trainers and pediatric sports medicine physical therapists.