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What are the best free materials to start studying about good posture and spinal cord anatomy ? The overall muscle and tissue physiology books will also do.

Background: I'm doing different exercises (mostly tai-chi and qìgōng based) to correct my posture and compensate the extensive time spend working on laptop, but I'm not sure how to achive maximum results from these exercises. I want to build my own knowledge base regarding posture/spinal cord/muscles and analyze exercises from scientific point of view. I release, that it would take a lot of time just to build a ground for the knowledge, but I'm actually ready for this.

My ultimate goal is to compile and apply my own (very specific for me) exercise set, work schedule, nutrition program to have healthy spine and good posture being actively involved into SW-development industry (which in my case 10-12h a day on laptop).

Thanks for your answers.

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The question is rather broad. You just want to gather knowledge? I think you would get better answers if you explain what your specific goal is and the exercises you want to do. I don't recommend polling for the "best" books or resources; the answers are otherwise going to vary wildly, and you should edit your question to be more objective. –  Matt Chan Mar 13 '12 at 13:40
    
@mattchan Recently I've read the book by Victor Seluyanov "Physical training of middle distance runner". I haven't found in English, but there is related article. In the book the issues is raise that most of coaches build a training not on scientific facts but on empiric knowledge and own experience. I have decided to build my own knowledge base. Qs: Do I need weight training or not (me, not some person. As I'm actually skinny) ? What is the optimal duration of the static training (again, for me) ? ETC. –  4erkas Mar 13 '12 at 22:14
    
You are free to ask those things as their own questions. –  Matt Chan Mar 14 '12 at 3:23
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2 Answers

The Alexander Technique may be something to look into, it's used (at least by the NHS in the UK) for rehabilitation of spinal injury victims. However, it does concentrate on posture rather than muscle building exercises.

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Tai Chi is an excellent exercise for your posture. While not free, Bruce Frantzis' book, Opening the Energy Gates of Your Body, gives a very nice explanation of standing and sitting alignments as it relates to Tai Chi, as well as the flow of Chi. (It costs less on amazon if you can find it.)

Since you are concerned about prolonged sitting with all its negative effects, you want to think about corrective exercises to stretch out tightness and strengthen weaknesses that develop over time, as well as prevention.

Prolonged sitting affects your posture negatively by tightening muscles that are in the shortened position when you sit (such as hamstrings, hip flexors, pecs etc.) and lengthens muscles that are in the rounded position (such as across your upper back like mid-traps and rhomboids). A muscle that is too short or too long is no longer at it’s optimal length, which causes it to weaken and lessens its postural support.

Exercises for Tightness vrs. Weakness: To compensate for the prolonged sitting position at your laptop, think about the positions your joints and muscles are held in while you sit and design your exercise program to “undo” those positions.

  • Stretch flexors that tighten such as hip flexors, pecs, and hamstrings. Cobra and lying backward over a ball help to stretch out your front side. (This question/answer gives some more information about stretching).

  • Strengthen back extensors, mid and lower traps, rhomboids, lats and core muscles. Something as simple as using resistance bands at your desk can help you strengthen some of these muscles. The seated rows using cables, or bent-over rows using weights are good for strengthening the upper back. Plank and bird-dog work your core and back muscles.

Prevention Using good posture while you sit helps to prevent multiple problems. Our site has some free info on sitting and standing posture. Additionally, you may want to check into the Alexander Technique, a posture and movement method, Pilates or yoga. Use a good ergonomic chair. Some people find that using an exercise ball intermittently as a desk chair or a balance disc in your chair helps improve sitting posture.

Spinal cord anatomy: Here is a spinal cord overview and diagram of the different vertebral levels, cervical, thoracic, lumbar and sacral vertebrae along with the nerve root levels. If you sit with a posture that compresses at certain points of the spine, you can irratate both joints and nerves.

Hope that gives you a good start. Also take a look at exrx's posture page for other corrective exercises. As you said it will take some time to get your own program set up, but to get started, try taking short breaks to do a cobra stretch (assuming you don't have a back problem), some bird-dogs, a few rhomboid contractions against gravity or with a resistance band, and a quick plank exercise.

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Thanks for the Bruce Frantzis' book reference and spinal cord references! –  4erkas Mar 13 '12 at 22:30
    
You are welcome. I've actually taken classes from Bruce and his instructors and have a lot of respect for his knowledge. –  BackInShapeBuddy Mar 14 '12 at 2:26
    
I wonder, are there also good references regarding Tai Chi exercises without the esoteric BS? There is no such thing as Chi energy flowing through the body. –  Lagerbaer Mar 14 '12 at 3:44
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@Lagerbaer I wonder, do you have a good reference to support your statement? –  BackInShapeBuddy Mar 14 '12 at 6:38
    
You are asserting the existence of something (Chi) and assert that it has specific properties (regarding how it flows through the body). The burden of proof, therefore, lies with you. Note that I do not question the effectiveness of Tai Chi in itself, I only doubt that "Chi" is the explanation for it. You can be right about something for the wrong reasons. I suggest to move this exchange over to skeptics.stackexchange.com where I'll open a question about this right now. –  Lagerbaer Mar 14 '12 at 20:26
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