16 Simple Exercises That Can Improve Your Posture

Have you been? slack in the post office?

Thanks to our smartphones, iPads and more, many of us spend our days with our necks down to stare at our devices. Working from home has also led to complications, affectionately referred to by experts as “pandemic attitude.”

Correcting your posture can not only relieve back or neck pain, “it can also have a significant impact on all things related to our respiratory function, core and pelvic health,” explains Trista Zinn, a trainer and founder of Coreset fitness.

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

Seated row

“This exercise works all the muscles of the back and helps offset the weight of the chest and support the spine,” explains Sebastien Lagree, a trainer and founder of Lowre Fitness.

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

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

curvedAbout rows

If you don’t have a cable system at home, or don’t have access to a gym, grab some free weights and do your best bent rows.

“Strengthening the muscles that retract the scapula leads to better posture,” said dr. Alejandro Badia, an orthopedic surgeon in Miami. “This also helps prevent shoulder pain, which often occurs when we slump or work in a slumped position.”

Bend your knees and lean your torso forward, keeping your spine straight. Start with your arms straight down in front of you with your palms facing your body, then pull the weights back and squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top. Try not to stretch the movement too much: stop exactly when you get to where your pockets would be on your pants, ie near your hips. Lower your weights and repeat the movement.

cat-cow

This is a no-equipment exercise and a popular yoga move. Get into an all-fours position on your hands and knees. From here, arch your back, raising your chest and head as your stomach sinks down.

“You then move the other way, with your back to the ceiling, bringing your stomach in and your chin to your chest,” said Joy Puleo, a Pilates instructor and Program Manager for Balanced Body Education. Hold each position for a second or two and repeat eight to 10 times.

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

Band Pull-Aparts

You will need a resistance band for this exercise. “With your arms outstretched, hold the band at chest height,” Puleo said. “Pull your shoulders back, keeping your core tight and your spine neutral, and pull the band apart so your hands go out in opposite directions.”

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

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

Doorway chest stretch

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

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

Spine Extension

This exercise strengthens the muscles of the erector spinae, which are responsible for helping the body stretch and rotate the spine.

“This move requires no equipment and can be done on the floor,” 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 elevators

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

Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width. Keep free weights in front of your thighs – you can also perform the move using just your body weight. “Make sure your back is not arched, 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 and keep them as close to your body as possible. Then get up again.

Scapular squeezes

When people sit or work in front of a computer all day, people’s posture tends to get hunched over and bend their shoulders forward.

“Shoulderblade squeezes strengthen the muscles in the upper back that keep the upper body in good posture,” says Kandis Daroski, a physical therapist with Hinge Health. To perform these, stand or sit up straight with your arms at your side and elbows bent. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and along your back. Hold for five seconds. Relax your arms and shoulders. Repeat 10-15 times.

Open book rotations

“In order to adopt or gain 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 knees bent, arms extended in front of your chest and hands together. Keeping your legs together, slowly lift your top arm and open your torso. Follow your moving hand with your gaze to turn the neck as well. Hold for five seconds in the open position and perform 10 times on each side. “This is a great exercise to start or end your day with,” Daroski said. “Try to perform it in bed.”

Chin tucks can help relieve neck pain that comes from poor posture.

FG Trade via Getty Images

Chin tucks can help relieve neck pain that comes from poor posture.

Chin pleats

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

Start in a lying or standing position. Slowly pull your head back so that your ears are in line with your shoulders; this is a small move. Hold this position for five seconds. Repeat for five to 10 reps.

Abdominal Strengthening

“Sitting or standing in poor posture for long periods of time can weaken the abs, causing an increase in the arch of the low back,” Daroski said.

Abdominal bracing can help improve core muscle strength by supporting your low back and improving your standing posture, she explained.

Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Then tighten your abs as if you were pulling your navel toward your spine. Hold for five seconds, then repeat 10-15 times. “This exercise can also be performed sitting or standing,” Daroski said.

Shoulder shrugs

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

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

Hand-clamped chest opener

“This opens up the chest and stretches the front of the shoulders, improving posture,” said Alissa Tucker, a certified personal trainer and master trainer at AKT.

Start sitting or standing upright. Roll your shoulders down and back and fold your hands behind your back. Hold for up to 30 seconds. This is a great piece that can be performed during the workday, Tucker said. “Repeat several times a day while sitting at your desk.”

Thoracic extension

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

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

Move slowly and repeat eight to ten times. “This stretch is great for counteracting the rounded forward position of the thoracic spine by bringing the thoracic spine into extension a little bit,” 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, although I can do without it,” Tucker said.

Sit up straight, place the towel on the back of your head and hold it by your ears with both hands. Press the head back into the towel and hold for five seconds, then release. Repeat 10-15 times.

Tucker said you need to be careful not to keep too much tension in your neck during this exercise. “It should be a gentle movement,” she explained. “This strengthens the deep flexors in the back of the neck to keep the neck properly aligned over the shoulders.”

lying angels

Remember when you were a kid making snow angels? This is a similar idea and is “a great exercise for shoulder mobility,” said Joshua Kozak, CEO of the online fitness center HASfit.

Lie on your back with your hands over your hand, elbows flat on the floor and palms facing up. “Drag those elbows and your hands straight down into your body while keeping your arms flat on the floor,” Kozak said. “When you get to the furthest point, stretch them right over your head.”

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


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