Good ergonomics is absolutely vital for Esports professionals and serious gamers that want to improve their gaming performance. To help my fellow gamers perform at their best, I’ve put together 10 crucial ergonomics tips for serious gamers.
Let’s start with the basics: what is ergonomics and why is it important? Ergonomics relates to muscular efficiency. Some people refer to it by the much-cooler-sounding term ‘human engineering’. It’s all about creating an environment that helps you to maintain optimal posture. This helps to reduce the risk of injuring yourself, keeps you comfortable, and improves your performance.
Ergonomics is a term that’s thrown about a lot in office environments by bosses that want to improve productivity, but it might be even more important to gamers. Here’s why.
Why Ergonomics Are Important For Gamers
You’d be forgiven for thinking that gaming is pretty much a ‘risk-free’ kind of sport. After all, there’s hardly any physical activity involved, right?
Well, you’d be wrong. There is actually a substantial risk of injury to gamers. Why? Two reasons:
- Firstly, if you’re serious about gaming, you probably spend an awful lot of time sat down.
- Secondly, you also probably tend to do the same hand and wrist movements over and over again.
These two factors put you at risk of all sorts of repetitive strain injuries, musculoskeletal disorders, and other ailments, including:
- ‘Gamers thumb’ (De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis)
- Tennis elbow.
- Chronic lower back pain
- Carpal tunnel.
- Trigger finger
I know, scary isn’t it?
Fortunately, following some basic ergonomics principles will help you to avoid all that by creating an environment and adopting a posture in which your muscles can operate at maximum efficiency and are less prone to injury.
The upshot of all this (aside from maintaining general good health) is that your performance in-game will benefit too. This is both because you’ll be less distracted by aches, pains, and general discomfort, and because your muscles will be in a position to be more responsive.
Now you understand what the goal is, we can jump into the 10 tips. All you need to do is follow these tips to the letter and you’ll be golden!
Before I move on though, I think it’s worth mentioning that your gaming setup will play a big part in this. Many of the tips relate to positioning your body in a certain way in relation to your equipment, and ergonomic gaming chairs and other equipment will help you to do that.
1. Maintain Good Back Posture
The reason so many gamers complain of lower back pain is that they’re not exercising proper back posture while playing. This is probably the most important tip on this list, and the easiest to implement.
All you really need to do is make sure that you sit up straight, don’t slouch forward, and maintain the slight (natural) curvature of your back. Here’s how to achieve that:
- Start by sitting down on your chair with your back pressed firmly against your backrest
- Next, push your shoulders slightly backward while pushing your chest slightly forward
- Finally, lift your head up straight so that it’s in line with both your neck and core
The aim is to maintain that position while you play and resist the urge to slouch forward. This will be easier once if you follow the next two tips. With that in mind, let’s move on.
2. Use a Lumbar Support Cushion
Remember that natural curvature of your spine that I talked about in the last tip? Well, lumbar support is there to help you maintain that curvature.
The ‘lumbar region’ of your body is basically your lower back. Lumbar support is a cushion or similar piece of material that you place behind your back in this region so that you can lean back while still keeping good posture.
Lumbar support is a key feature in specially-designed ergonomic gaming chairs for this very reason. Some chairs have built-in adjustable lumbar support while others come with a lumbar cushion.
The advantage of chairs that have adjustable lumbar support is that you can adapt them to fit your body shape. Remember, we’re trying to maintain the natural curvature of our backs, emphasis on the ‘natural’.
In an ideal world, you’d consult a professional and have a lumbar cushion handmade to perfectly fit your body. In reality, most of us don’t have the money or time, so the next best thing is to use your own initiative. Listen to your body and set your lumbar support to the level that feels natural and comfortable.
If you don’t have a chair with adjustable support, try to get your hands on a lumbar cushion that feels right for you. Even if it’s not a perfect fit, it’s probably better than nothing!
3. Set the Right Backrest Angle
Most experts believe that the best angle (from an ergonomics perspective) to set your chair at is 90 degrees. This means you’ll be sitting fully upright.
This might not sound all that appealing to you if you’re a chronic sloucher who likes to recline while gaming, but you’ll thank me in the long run. If you slouch forward or recline backward too often, you’re putting unnecessary pressure on your spine which can lead to aches and pains later down the line.
However, maintaining an upright position and proper posture for hours on end is easier said than done. You’ll find that the longer you sit in this position, the harder it becomes, and you may begin to feel uncomfortable after a while.
This happens because the stabilizer muscles you’re using to maintain that posture become fatigued over time. The aim here is to avoid injury, and you don’t want to strain these muscles.
That’s why it’s equally important to change up your seating position and backrest angle fairly frequently. Once you start to feel uncomfortable, or ideally before you do, mix it up and change your backrest angle so that you recline a few degrees.
A good rule-of-thumb is to vary your backrest recline within the range of 90 degrees to 135 degrees. This should provide enough variation while allowing you to maintain good posture.
4. Set the Right Seat Height
Seat height is important for three reasons:
- It affects your eye-level in relation to the screen
- It affects the angle of your hips and knees
- It affects how firmly your feet are against the floor
The aim with seat height is to choose a height that allows your feet to be pressed firmly against the floor, your eyes to be level with the upper third of your screen, and your hips and knees to be at roughly the same level.
Having your eyes at this level means that you won’t have to lean your head forward to see the screen, thus allowing you to maintain that neck and head position we mentioned in tip number one.
Many gaming chairs and office chairs have adjustable seat heights for this exact reason. If yours doesn’t, you might need to get innovative and use cushions and other things to prop you up.
Sometimes (depending on how high your desk/screen is), it might not be possible to have your knees and feet in the correct position and your eyes at the right level at the same time.
If this is the case, you’ll need to position your chair so your hips, knees, and feet are in the correct position and then modify the height of your screen so that it ends up level with your eyes.
This might mean getting a taller/smaller desk or, failing that, propping your monitor/laptop up on some books for a little extra height.
While we’re on the topic of your screen…
5. Move Your Screen the Correct Distance Away
I’ve already mentioned that ergonomics is about efficiency and reducing the strain on your body, but that doesn’t just mean your back muscles, it also applies to your eyes.
To reduce eye strain, it’s important for your screen to be far enough away from your eyes that they don’t experience ‘overconvergence’, meaning they don’t have to work too hard to focus on close objects.
There’s a really simple tip that will help you to make sure your screen is the correct distance:
Move your screen 1 arm’s length away give or take the length of your hand. The hand part of that is there so that you can adjust the distance to suit your own vision, as everyone’s eyes are slightly different.
6. Make Sure Your Arms are Supported
If your arms aren’t properly supported while you’re gaming, your shoulder and neck muscles will be exhausted by the end of the day.
To make sure they’re supported, you should lean them on either your desk or your gaming chair armrests (the latter is obviously preferred). The armrest/desk should be positioned so that your shoulders aren’t hunched and your elbows are more or less at a 90-degree angle.
Resist the urge to push down on the desk/armrests and lean on your arms. Instead, try to leave your arms relaxed. This will prevent them from becoming strained and also allow you to be more mobile (and get those killer snipes in quicker).
You should also try to relax your wrists. Ergonomic keyboards and mice can help you to keep your wrists in a neutral position while you play and further reduce the risk of repetitive strain injury. However, they may also lower your response time.
7. Take Frequent Breaks
To keep the blood flowing around your body and prevent your muscles from becoming too tight, you should try to take a break and move around every 30 minutes or so.
It doesn’t have to be a long break, 2 to 5 minutes should be plenty, as long as you move around a little and get the blood flowing.
I know, I know, you can’t pause some games, so what if you’re in the middle of something? Well, if you really can’t take a break, at least stand up and move around a little while you’re playing, then take a break as soon as you get a chance.
8. Control Your Breathing
Our eighth ergonomic tip is to make sure your breathing remains regular and relaxed. I get that this can be tough when you’re in the final 5 left standing in PUBG and the adrenaline is pumping, but practice and you’ll get there.
Why is breathing important for ergonomics? Well, breathing deeply can have a calming effect, which will, in turn, have a physical effect on your body. It can help to relax your muscles so that you stop tensing up, helping you to have better posture and reducing the risk of injury.
9. Exercise Regularly
I know what you’re thinking, ‘do I really need to exercise to play games?!’. The answer is yes, you do.
Gaming isn’t quite as active as physical sports and athletics, but you’re still using muscles regularly, so you need to train those muscles for endurance if you want to keep them healthy and do what you can to prevent injury.
Depending on the type of game you play, you’ll be working various muscles in your forearms, hands, and fingers. A professional or physiotherapist may be able to advise you on a good exercise routine to warm these muscles up and build endurance.
Our final ergonomics tip is to relax. It’s simple, but it works. Stress often manifests itself physically, and you don’t want to let that stress make you tense up and ruin your game.
Whenever you get sniped and feel your emotions bubbling to the surface, take a minute to relax, or take a break if you need to. Control your emotions as best you can and aim to remain in a focused, calm mindset, and you may just see your gaming performance improve!
What is the most ergonomic gaming chair? There are many ergonomic gaming chairs out there to suit different budgets. Many people believe that the best – and most expensive – gaming chair is the Embody chair by Herman Miller. I’ve already written extensively about the top 20 best options here.
What is the most ergonomic mouse grip? The most ergonomic grip is one in which your wrist is in as neutral a position as possible. This means that a regular palm grip would be the most ergonomic, and a claw grip would be the least ergonomic. However, the difference between them would be minimal. An ergonomic mouse can also help you to achieve a more ergonomic grip.
What are ergonomic keyboards? Ergonomic keyboards are keyboards designed to help you maintain a neutral wrist position while typing. They tend to mimic the curvature of your wrist and fingertips and allow you to position your hands more naturally. Many gamers favor standard LED mechanical keyboards over ergonomic keyboards on account of the performance benefits.