16 easy exercises that can improve your posture


have you been relaxation in the posture department?

Thanks to our smartphones, iPads and the like, many of us go through our days with our necks bent looking at our devices. Working from home has also created complications, which experts affectionately call “pandemic stance.”

Correcting your posture can not only relieve back or neck pain, “it can also have a significant impact on everything related to our respiratory function, core and pelvic health,” explained Trista Zinn, trainer and founder of Fitness Basic Set.

Taking small steps to improve your posture is the best way forward. Here are 16 exercises to try to help you stand and sit straighter.

Seated row

“This exercise works all the muscles in the back and helps counterbalance the weight of the chest and support the spine,” explained Sébastien Lagrée, trainer and founder of Lagree Fitness.

Sit cross-legged or straddle a bench with cables or bands wrapped around a doorknob or floor support in front of you. Then pull the handles toward your rib cage.

“As you continue to pull the handles toward you, focus on lifting your spine or sitting higher,” Lagree said. “Every time you pull the handles, try to sit higher.”

Curve-On the lines

If you don’t have a cable system at home or access to a gym, grab some free weights and perform leaning rows.

“Strengthening the muscles that retract the shoulder blade leads to better posture,” said Dr. Alejandro Badia, an orthopedic surgeon in Miami. “It also helps prevent shoulder pain, which often occurs when we slouch or work in a slouched position.”

Bend your knees and lean your upper body forward, keeping your spine straight. Start with your arms straight out in front of you with your palms facing your body, then pull the weights back, squeezing your shoulder blades together at the top. Try not to extend the movement too much: just stop when you get to where your pockets on your pants would be, which is near your hips. Lower your weights and repeat the movement.

cat-cow

This is a no-equipment exercise and a popular yoga move. Get on all fours on your hands and knees. From there, arch your back, bringing your chest and head up as your belly lowers.

“You then move in the opposite direction, rounding your back towards the ceiling, bringing your belly and chin towards your chest,” said Pilates instructor Joy Puleo and Responsible for the balanced body education program. Hold each position for a second or two and repeat eight to 10 times.

This exercise, she says, can provide a good stretch in the front of your body where muscles are tight, as well as strengthen back muscles to help maintain good posture.

Band Pull-Aparts

For this exercise you will need a resistance band. “Hold the band with your arms stretched out in front of you at chest level,” Puleo said. “Retract your shoulders back, keep your core tight and your spine neutral, and spread the band apart so your hands come out in opposite directions.”

This exercise stretches tight chest muscles and strengthens underused back muscles. Puleo said to aim for 10 to 15 reps, rest for a minute, and repeat for a total of three rounds.

A cat-cow yoga pose can help relieve some of the tension in your back and neck.

Door Chest Stretch

“Since the chest is usually tight in someone with poor posture, doing a doorway stretch can really help relax those muscles and make it easier to maintain good posture throughout the day,” Puleo explained.

Place your hands and elbows on a door frame and take a small step forward until you feel a stretch in your chest. Hold the stretch for 15 to 25 seconds, rest for a minute, and repeat as needed.

Extension of the spine

This exercise strengthens the spinal erector muscles, which are responsible for helping the body extend and rotate the spine.

“This move doesn’t require any apparatus and can be done on the ground,” Lagree said. Lie face down on a mat. Keep your arms at your sides and slowly lift your head and chest off the floor. Repeat for 30-60 seconds.

dead lifts

Badia said this exercise strengthens the paraspinal muscles that support your back and hamstrings, which helps with posture.

Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Hold free weights in front of your thighs ― you can also perform the movement with just your body weight. “Make sure your back is not arched, your feet are flat, and your butt is pushed back,” Badia explained.

Keep your shoulders straight and push your hips back, with your knees slightly bent, lower the weights below your knees, keeping them as close to your body as possible. Then straighten up.

Scapular compressions

When sitting or working at a computer all day, people’s posture tends to become hunched and their shoulders rounded forward.

“The shoulder blade presses strengthen the upper back muscles that keep your upper body in good posture,” said Kandis Daroski, a physical therapist with Hinge Health. To perform them, stand or sit straight with your arms at your sides and your elbows bent. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and down your back. Hold for five seconds. Relax your arms and shoulders. Repeat 10 to 15 times.

Open Book Rotations

“In order to assume or adopt good posture, one must have the necessary flexibility and mobility,” Daroski said. The open book exercise, she explained, improves upper back and neck mobility and provides a gentle stretch in the front of the shoulders.

Start by lying on your side with your knees bent, your arms extended in front of your chest, and your hands clasped. Keeping your legs together, slowly raise your upper arm and rotate your trunk open. Follow your moving hand with your gaze to rotate the neck as well. Hold for five seconds in the open position and perform 10 times on each side. “It’s a great exercise to start or end your day with,” Daroski said. “Try doing it in bed.”

Chin straps can help relieve neck pain caused by poor posture.

FG Commerce via Getty Images

Chin straps can help relieve neck pain caused by poor posture.

Chinstraps

Daroski said chin tucks are a great way to negate the effects of forward head posture. “They help strengthen the deep neck muscles that hold the head back in good posture,” she said.

Start in a lying or standing position. Slowly pull your head back so that your ears are aligned with your shoulders; it’s a small movement. Hold this position for five seconds. Repeat for five to 10 reps.

Abdominal bracing

“With prolonged sitting or standing in poor posture, the muscles in the abdomen can weaken, allowing for increased arch in the lower back,” Daroski said.

The abdominal brace can help improve core muscle strength by providing lower back support and improving your standing posture, she explained.

Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Next, engage your abdominal muscles as if pulling your navel toward your spine. Hold the position for five seconds, then repeat 10 to 15 times. “This exercise can also be done while sitting or standing,” Daroski said.

Shrugs

Shrugs are another exercise that can help target technical neck. These exercises “relax and loosen the muscles in the neck, like the trapezius, which can get overworked when the neck is in a forward position,” explained Dr. Oluseun Olufade, assistant professor of orthopedics at Emory School of Medicine and adviser to BackHug.

Raise your shoulders towards your ears. Shrug your shoulders at the same time and hold for three seconds. Try three sets of 10 reps, twice a day.

Clasped hands trunk opener

“It opens up the chest and stretches the front of the shoulders, helping to improve posture,” said Alissa Tucker, Certified Personal Trainer and Master Trainer at AKT.

Start sitting or standing. Roll your shoulders down and back and clasp your hands behind your back. Hold for up to 30 seconds. It’s a great stretch that can be done during the workday, Tucker said. “Rehearse several times a day while you’re at your desk.”

Chest extension

“It can be done lying on the floor with a foam roller or sitting at your desk, using the back of the chair,” Tucker explained.

Start seated with the foam roller or chair at ― or just below ― your shoulder blades. Bring both hands behind your head and pull the elbows towards your face. Keep your abs tight and your lower back straight as you lean back on the chair or foam roller, then slowly return to your starting position, bringing your chin in toward your chest.

Move slowly and repeat eight to 10 times. “This stretch is great for counteracting the forward rounded position of the thoracic spine by bringing the thoracic spine into a bit of extension,” Tucker said.

Neck retraction

This is another exercise you can do while sitting at your desk. “I like to use a small towel for this one, although it can be done without it,” Tucker said.

Sit up straight, place the towel behind your head, holding it with both hands near your ears. Press your head into the towel and hold for five seconds, then release. Repeat 10 to 15 times.

Tucker said to be careful not to keep too much tension in your neck during this exercise. “It should be a smooth move,” she explained. “This strengthens the deep flexor muscles at the back of the neck to help keep the neck in proper alignment with the shoulders.”

lying angels

Do you remember making snow angels when you were a kid? It’s a similar idea and is “a great exercise for shoulder mobility,” said Online Fitness Center CEO Joshua Kozak HAS fit.

Lie on your back with your hands above your hand, elbows flat on the floor and palms up. “Slide those elbows and hands down into your body while keeping your arms flat on the floor,” Kozak said. “When you reach the furthest point, stretch them straight above your head.”

Do your best to keep your arms in contact with the floor and your lower back flat on the floor throughout the movement.




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