Improve Your Posture with these Workouts
We’ve all seen the familiar silhouette; a person sitting at the computer with their shoulders slouched forward. If you’re reading this while hunched in front of a laptop you’re probably sitting the same way. Did you just straighten up a little bit? Nice, because good posture matters. Let’s be real, bad posture is uncomfortable, bad for your long-term health and at times can be downright painful. To improve your posture, you don’t need a trendy girdle gadget either. Let’s perk up your posture with these simple exercises.
What is proper posture?
Simply put, proper posture is sitting or standing with your body in its natural, intended alignment as dictated by your spine. There will be the natural curves in your spine at your neck, mid-back, and low back while having your head over your shoulders, and shoulders over your hips. Poor posture can easily happen with the effect of gravity, injury, illness, stress, muscle tension or weakness. Holding prolonged postures throughout the day leads to aches, pains and poor posture. By focusing on your posture muscles this can be corrected. Shoulders back, let’s do this.
Banded “Y” raise
This overhead raise exercise requires an exercise band and can be done 2 ways.
Option 1 – Wrap the band around the squat rack at about chin height. With a bit of tension in the band, stand with arms outstretched slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Then for 1 count raise arms overhead, focusing on shoulder blades and lower.
Option 2 – If you don’t have anything high to attach the band to, you can stand on the band, with either one foot or both feet, depending on the length of your band and the desired tension. With arms the same width apart as in the previous option, raise arms up and then lower.
This exercise is done with a band and there are a couple options, same as above.
Option 1 – Wrap the band around the squat rack at about chin height. With a bit of tension in the band, stand with arms outstretched at shoulder width apart. Hold the band closer in from the ends to get your desired tension. Squeezing shoulder blades together and bending at elbows bring arms back and then release.
Option 2 – If you don’t have anything to attach the band to, you can do this free standing. Holding the band in each hand, stand with arms raised, shoulder width apart. Wrap the band around your fists or hold it closer from the ends to get your desired tension. Squeezing shoulder blades together and bending at elbows bring arms back and then release. This can easily be done at your desk in the middle of the work day to remind you of that posture reset.
Wall breathing with chest expansion
Kneel tall on the floor, facing away from the wall. If you have any challenges being on your knees, this can easily be adapted by sitting in a chat. Let arms rest long at your sides. Take a breath here in this posture, so you can feel the rib cage settle into place, and head and chin in alignment, not pressed forward. Inhale, feeling chest expand and then bring straight arms back towards the wall, hold for a moment and then release. Repeat for 10 breaths.
This is a relaxing exercise to do in the middle of the workday and strengthens shoulders and upper back. Take a step away from the computer and lie on the floor or yoga mat on your back, with knees bent, feet on the floor. Stretch arms out at your sides and then bend at elbows creating a 90-degree angle. Gradually slide forearms along the floor to an overhead position, maintaining floor contact with elbows and wrists. Hold for a moment and then bring back down. Repeat 10 times. If you have any lower back issues be sure to contract your abdominals, pushing your lower back into the floor.
Yoga chest opener
When you’re in a slouch position, shoulders rolled forward, your chest wall muscles can become quite tight. You may benefit from a simple chest opening exercise before going for the band or weights. Laying on the floor or yoga mat, put a bolster, foam roller (topped with a blanket if it’s quite firm) or firm pillow underneath you running lengthwise down the length of your back. You can put a small pillow or folded blanket under your head. Have your arms in the angel position or simply outstretched at your sides. Allow yourself to sink into this position, taking slow deep breaths, staying for a few minutes. This is a great chest opener and stress reliever.
Hip flexor stretch
Hip flexors are the group of muscles towards the front of the hip that help you move your legs and knees up towards the body. If you spend a lot of time sitting, hip flexors will become quite tight which in turn causes tightness in your lower back, stiffness in back and neck and pain in your glutes. The hip flexor muscles shorten hindering your posture by hinging you forward creating a curve in your lower back. It’s importance to have loose, flexible hip flexors for proper standing posture. There are a variety of hip flexor stretches, such as lunges, basic bridge pose, and the kneeling hip flexor stretch.
For a kneeling hip flexor stretch kneel on both knees on a yoga or exercise mat. Put your hands on your hips. Bring your left knee forward placing your foot flat on the floor, creating a 90-degree angle. Squeeze your right glute muscle so it pushes that right hip forward. If you’re tight you’ll feel the stretch here. If you need more, keep squeezing the right glute bringing that right hip forward and bending further with your left knee until you feel a stretch. Hold this for 30-60 seconds, then switch to the other side.
If you’re a regular gym go-er or have invested in a home gym and have regular access to weights, other posture exercises include:
- Seated rows
- Lat pulldowns
- Upper back rows with barbell
- Rear deltoid fly (a version of this can also be down with a band)
- Renegade rows
Having good posture aligns your bones and ligaments, uses your muscles as they should be used, reduces fatigue and tension, and increases your energy and vitality. Posture is often overlooked but it’s one of those fundamental health attributes that contributes to your long-term enjoyment of life.