5 simple and effective exercises to improve your posture and get rid of the slouch for good.
Learn how to fix your posture with these 5 exercises to incorporate into your daily routine!
Do you find yourself constantly slouching, suffering from back pain or sore neck muscles? It’s time to tune into your posture. Posture plays such an important role in decreasing pain, maintaining muscle strength, and let’s face it, overall appearance! When you have good posture your muscles work more efficiently to decrease pressure on the spine throughout your daily activities. You will also experience improved flexibility, strength and overall comfort. Oftentimes, poor posture is the result of bad habits created over time. These bad habits tend to include more of a sedentary lifestyle with increased time sitting and slouching forward. Perhaps you have a desk job with a long commute each way and you find yourself sitting most of your day. This over time, causes certain muscles ( chest and abdominals) to become very tight and other muscles of your shoulders and upper back ( trapezius and rhomboids) to weaken thus creating a forward slumped posture. It may feel awkward and take some effort at first to fix these bad habits, but your body will thank you in the long run. I find that I can help patients with a wide range of diagnoses decrease their pain just by simply correcting posture through exercise. It’s important to point out that some postural abnormalities are genetic or related to structural changes in the spine such as scoliosis. For educational purposes here I am focusing on postural changes formed from muscle imbalances as mentioned above.
First it’s important to identify bad posture versus good posture. The picture on the left is an example of bad posture: forward head, rounded shoulders, increased kyphosis ( rounded upper back), loss of normal lumbar lordosis ( normal curve in the lower back) and a lack of proper abdominal activation. The picture on the right demonstrates good postural awareness with normal spinal curves. There is a slight curve in the lower back, navel is drawn in towards the spine ( proper abdominal activation), shoulders are drawn down and back, the thoracic spine ( upper back) is straight and the head is in a neutral position ( not forward nor extended back too far). The picture on the right is where you want to be all the time on a daily basis. So how can you help yourself get there? Try these 5 easy moves and work them into your routine on a daily basis to start seeing some improvements in your posture. Always consult with your doctor first before beginning any exercise program.
- Chin tucks
- Reverse your forward head posture by performing chin tucks. This is a very effective exercise for improving posture and decreasing neck pain as it helps to strengthen the muscles that pull the head back into alignment over the shoulders. When you are first learning this exercise it is best to perform in a supine position ( laying on your back), just to get the hang of it and make sure you have proper form. Then you can progress to performing in seated or standing positons. To perform, lay on your back with you knees bent feet flat on the floor with a small pillow under your head. Gently tuck your chin and press the back of your head into the pillow. Do not lift you head off the pillow. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat for 3 sets of 10 reps. Once this becomes easier for you, progress to a sitting position.
- Scapular Retraction or shoulder blade squeezes
- This is my favorite exercise for correcting posture especially forward rounded shoulders. It’s easy to perform and can be done anywhere, anytime throughout the day. In fact, you should always be conscious of keeping your shoulders from rounding forward. To perform sit with your chin tucked, your back nice and straight and your arms resting by your sides. Draw your shoulders down and back focusing on squeezing your shoulder blades together. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat for 3 sets of 10 reps.
- Wall push ups
- This exercise if great for strengthening the upper back muscles ( rhomboids) to help pull your shoulders back thus improving your posture. To perform, find a wall in your home and place you hands on the wall at shoulder height in front of you, fingertips slightly turned in. Lean in to the wall as you perform a push up focusing on squeezing your shoulder blades together and return to start position. Make sure you keep your navel drawn into your spine, back straight, shoulders down away from your ears and chin tucked the entire time. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
- Corner stretch
- This exercise targets the Pectoralis or chest muscles in the front of your body that tend to tighten with forward rounded posture. When your pec muscles tighten, this only worsens your posture by drawing your shoulders forward. To perform this exercise, find a corner in your home and place your forearms on the wall as shown below, standing with one foot in front of the other. Gently lean forward as your squeeze your shoulder blades together until you feel a stretch across the front of your chest. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 3x
- Thoracic stretch
- This exercise is great for reversing bad posture and it just feels good! This stretch is shown using a foam roller, but if you don’t have one you can use a rolled towel, a few books or a yoga block. To perform: place your foam roller on the floor and lie on your back with the roller at the level of your shoulder blades. With your arms behind your head or relaxed out to the side ( whatever feels better for you) lower your head to the floor as your feel a nice stretch behind your upper back. If you are really tight in your neck and shoulders ( and your head does not reach the floor), place a pillow under your head so you are not straining you neck. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 3x
Incorporate these moves into your daily routine and improve your posture today!
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