The Best Exercises to Improve Posture

Exercises to improve posture will help you look taller, thinner, and more confident. Sound too good to be true? You mean standing straight and throwing back your shoulders is all it takes to look like you've lost 10 pounds? 

It just might be that easy. There is no scientific proof for this, but all you have to do is look in the mirror to know that slouching your shoulders, tilting your pelvis forward, and arching your lower back does nothing to flatter your abs or improve your appearance.

Poor posture kind of sneaks up on us. We spend so much time in cars, behind desks, in front of computers, or texting on our mobile devices that eventually we develop a bent head, rounded shoulder, stooped over type of look. 

But, this slumpy, slouchy, Quasimodo appearance can take a serious toll on our bodies. Our muscles, bones and joints need to be properly aligned for efficient functioning. 

What Does Proper Posture Look Like?

Proper posture means good alignment. Your ears should be above your shoulders (not in front of them), your neck should be straight with your spine (not jutting forward), and your hips should also be aligned with your spine. Your body should form a straight line from the top of your head to the bottom of your tailbone.

To achieve proper position try the following:

  • Stand with your back against a wall or door
  • Push your heels against the wall, toes facing forward
  • Keep your feet about hip width apart
  • Make sure your buttocks and shoulder blades are also touching the wall or door
  • Pull your belly button in and tighten your abs slightly. This will support your hips and spine.
  • There should be a small gap between your lower back and the wall/door. Too large of a gap indicates poor posture. No gap at all is unnatural and may cause you to lean forward when walking.
  • Make sure your neck is straight and the back of your head is also touching the wall/door.
  • Hold this position until it becomes comfortable then step away from the wall/door

Benefits of Good Posture

  • Less Muscle Stiffness and Pain. When your spine is aligned and your muscles and bones can move smoothly there will be less strain on your body. Studies show that everything from a stiff neck to headaches, back pain, and even tendonitis can be caused by muscle imbalance due to poor posture.

  • Less Joint Pain. When your spine is misaligned and your muscles are under strain, there is a lot of extra pressure being put on your joints. Good posture will prevent wear and tear and help protect the joints from damage that can often lead to chronic conditions such as arthritis. Improper alignment can also lead to pinched nerves and other conditions that cause pain, numbness, or irritation. 
  • Allows For Proper Breathing. Do you ever wonder why Yoga and Pilates instructors tell you to sit up straight and extend your spine? One of the main reasons is because it opens up your abdomen and gives your lungs the room needed for proper breathing. When we slouch on the sofa or lean over a desk we squash all our organs together.

    And when we “cramp their style”, they can't  function efficiently. This means it is harder to breath and there is less oxygen flow to the organs and tissues. Proper posture gives your lungs room to expand so  they can do their job without added pressure. 
  • Improved Flexibility. Poor posture can cause tight muscles which can limit flexibility and range of motion. After a while, you will have difficulty pulling your shoulders straight or lengthening your spine. Including some gentle stretching into your workout routine will help keep your muscles supple so you can maintain proper posture.
  • Improved Appearance. When your body is aligned properly you will look thinner, confident, poised, and maybe even a little taller. You will look better, which means you will feel better. And with all your muscles, nerves, joints, and organs functioning properly, you will also be healthier.

  • Less Risk Of Injury. Whether you are playing a sport, lifting weights, or simply doing the laundry, proper posture is essential to preventing injury. Tight, sore muscles and joints are more susceptible to damage and take longer to recover. 

Exercises to Improve Posture

Neck Stretch

You can start your exercises to improve posture and feel more comfortable up at your neck area. When you develop bad posture your head and shoulders start leaning forward.

This slowly causes tightness in a number of upper body muscles which can cause neck pain from the restriction. Basic exercises like the neck stretch can help to relieve some of the tightness.

  • Sit cross-legged on the floor, back straight and tall.
  • Keep your shoulders back and down, your neck straight, and your hands resting loosely on your thighs.
  • Slowly bring your left ear down towards your left shoulder as far as you can. You do not want to over-strain your neck so stop if you feel pain.
  • Hold this position for 10-15 seconds.
  • Slowly roll your head towards the front until your chin is touching your sternum.
  • Hold for 10-15 seconds.
  • Finally, move your chin to the right and press your right ear toward your right shoulder.
  • Hold for 10-15 seconds.
  • Repeat sequence 2-3 times.

This exercise can also be performed while sitting on a sturdy chair that allows for proper posture. 

Shoulder Rolls

Bad posture generally affects the shoulders as well as the spine. Exercises to improve posture should include shoulder rolls that help to align the shoulders and spine together.

  • Begin in a standing position with feet about shoulder-width apart and arms hanging straight down at your sides.
  • Raise your shoulders towards your ears and then slowly roll then down and toward the back, pulling your shoulder blades together.
  • Repeat 10 times.
  • Switch directions by lifting your shoulders towards your ears then slowly rolling them forward, pulling your shoulder blade apart and feeling the stretch across your upper back.
  • Repeat 10 times.

Dumbbell Reverse Fly

Strength training exercises like the dumbbell reverse fly are movements designed to strengthen and balance the upper back and shoulder muscles. This added strength and development will improve upper body posture. 

  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing each other.
  • Begin in a standing position with your feet about hip distance apart and knees slightly bent.
  • Keeping your back straight, lean forward until your torso is at about a 45-degree angle.
  • Bring the weights together in front of you until your arms form a circle (like you are hugging a tree).
  • Raise the weights up to shoulder height, keeping your arms bent at the elbows.
  • Use your shoulder and back muscles to do the lifting rather than your arms.
  • Bring weights back down
  • Repeat for 10-20 reps.

Seated Rows

Rows are one of the best exercises to improve posture as you strengthen your upper and mid-back muscles. There are several variations that can be performed in either a standing or seated position using cables/bands or dumbbells.

For a seated row, anchor a resistance band in a doorway at about knee height (or wrap a band around a sturdy piece of furniture like a table leg).

  • Sit at the row machine with your back straight, knees bent, and arms extended straight out in front of you holding the handles.
  • Hold the handles with each hand, palms facing each other.
  • Pull your arms back until your hands touch your ribcage.
  • Try to expand your chest, squeeze your shoulder blades together, and make sure that your elbows are pointing directly behind you (no flaring).
  • Repeat for 10-20 reps.

seated row position #1
seated row position #2

Lying Hamstring Curls

  • Lie on the hamstring curl machine as pictured.
  • Bend your arms and rest your head on your hands.
  • With your legs extended and your feet under the padded bar, Flex your feet and bend your knees as you lift your heels toward your buttocks as far as possible.
  • Lower your legs to starting position.
  • Repeat for 10-20 reps.

lying hamstring curl position #1
lying tricep curl position #2

I will continue to share ideas about diet and exercise that have helped me along the way. If you have any questions I can help you with, or ideas you would like to share, feel free to contact me or visit our Q&A forum

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