With many of us sitting at a desk or staring at our cell phones for long hours, what can you do to correct the inevitable poor posture slouch or text neck?
Especially the long-term effects or chronic pain!
How can you battle the stiffness, strain, muscle pain, and muscle tension stemming from bad posture?
First, let’s check your posture for misalignments.
Stand in front of a mirror in mountain pose and go through this checklist:
- Stand up tall with a flat back, stacking your vertebrae and your head upright.
- Pull your shoulders back and your stomach in.
- Evenly distribute your weight between both feet.
- Keep your feet shoulder-width distance apart.
- Let your arms hang down by your sides.
How does that feel? Take a few breaths.
Do you have pain relief? Orientate yourself with this setup.
You may be fighting against muscle memory but keep going. Poor posture is a common problem.
Now let’s cover the benefits of better posture, your postural muscles, and 5 exercises for better posture.
The Importance of Having Good posture
Having better posture is more than standing or sitting up tall.
It can reduce low back pain, increase your energy levels, and you’ll have less tension in your head, neck, and shoulders.
You can say goodbye to those tension headaches (1)!
To take it further, having good posture helps with better breathing, improving your mood, and improved concentration.
My personal favorite benefit of better posture is more self-confidence. “Look good, feel good” as they say (2).
Fixing the imbalance in areas of tightness and aches will improve your terrible posture in no time!
Your Postural Muscles
There are several muscles responsible for your posture and they can be broken into 4 groups (3).
The first group is your spinal, pelvic, and abdominal muscles.
These include your erector spinae which holds your spine upright.
Your core muscles support the front of your torso while balancing your back extensors.
The muscles at the top of your pelvis, your quadratus luborum muscles, stabilize the lower back.
Next are your shoulder and neck muscles. Your rhomboids keep your shoulder blades back and your neck muscles keep your head in an upright position.
Your hip muscles also contribute, specifically your gluteus medius.
This muscle prevents your hips from swaying while standing. It is assisted by the tensor fascia lata.
Lastly, your lower leg muscles. Your calf and ankle muscles contract when you’re standing.
Assess your body, find your muscle imbalances in your postural muscles. Do you have lower right back pain?
As you develop strength, flexibility, and balance in these specific muscles, your better posture will come more naturally.
It will also reduce stress and strain on your muscles, joints, and ligaments which in turn, reduces your risk for injury.
Exercises to Improve Posture
As we’ve covered, numerous muscles affect your posture, not just your core strength.
And! Not only while exercising but in your every day life. With these moves, your tight muscles will loosen.
Note: there are medical reasons or a health condition for poor postures such as bone spurs, spinal stenosis, a sprain in your postural muscles, disc degeneration, or scoliosis. Consult a medical professional or physical therapist if you are experiencing joint dysfunction or any of the previously listed ailments.
Consider a posture trainer with a back strap to kick your training up a notch.
That being said, check out these 5 posture exercises to improve your bad posture.
5 Best Posture Exercises for a Better Back
1. Prone Cobra
The prone cobra pose is a great stretch that focuses on your back body, specifically your low back muscles, glutes, and core. This bodyweight exercise will strengthen the muscles of your back to stabilize your spine.
To perform, lie facedown with your arms by your sides. Engage your buttocks and on an exhale, lift your chest, roll your shoulders back and lift your head off of the floor in a back-bending motion. Be careful not to strain your neck.
As you rise, squeeze your shoulder blades together and turn your palms away from your body. Extend your elbows, stretching through the front of the chest, with your thumbs turned up.
Pro tip: prior, take a few chest stretches to get the most out of this exercise.
Elongate your neck and keep your chin neutral. Hold for 20 seconds. Repeat 3 – 4 repetitions of this stretch.
2. High Plank
The high plank pose strengthens your entire body so naturally, it is great for your posture!
Begin in a tabletop position with your hands directly underneath your shoulders… Step your right leg out, and then the left leg, toes tucked and hip-width distance apart.
Engage your abs, buttocks, and back muscles. Lengthen your neck and gaze slightly forward. You want a flat back, aligning your vertebrae, a straight line from the top of your head to your heels.
Hold the plank for 30 seconds. Repeat for 2 – 3 reps. Hold for long periods with experience.
If the high plank is too intense, consider these adjustments: drop your knees on knee pads or practice on your forearms.
Take a downward facing dog between reps.
3. Glute Bridges
To focus on the engagement of your abs and buttocks, meet the glute bridge pose.
This exercise aligns your pelvis and strengthens your glutes for less back pain and you’ve guessed it, better posture.
Lie on your back with bent knees. Place your feet hip-width distance apart and parallel with each other. Your left knee should be in line with your right knee.
Press through your feet and hamstrings to engage your glutes and lower back. Smooth like an elevator, lift your hips off the ground with a flat back and in line with your knees.
With control, slowly lower your hips back to the mat. Repeat 10 repetitions of this stretch for 3 sets.
4. Thoracic Spine Rotation
Twists are a great exercise for spine mobility, detoxification, digestion, and relieving back pain (4). All are amazing benefits in addition to improving your posture.
Begin in your tabletop position with your knees under your hips and your wrists under your shoulders. Sink your seat back, almost as if you’re going into a child’s pose, resting on your shins. Use knee pads for sensitive knees.
Place your right hand behind your head, elbow out. Think: same arms as crunches but only with the right arm.
Stretch your left hand out in front of you, extending through the arm; keep the hand underneath your left shoulder or forearm on the mat, elbow under your shoulder. As you move through this exercise, you will learn which arm position works best for your body.
As you exhale, rotate your right elbow towards the ceiling, opening up your chest. Take a full round of breath.
Return back to the starting position. Use deep breaths for each movement.
Repeat 7 – 10 repetitions of this stretch for 3 sets. Complete the same number of reps on the opposite side.
Take a few minutes of the child’s pose before moving onto the pigeon pose.
5. Pigeon Pose
Pigeon pose is a personal favorite hip opener that targets your glutes, hip flexors, quads, and hamstrings.
Begin in a standing forward fold. Step back to a downward facing dog. Lift your right leg towards the back of the room in the 3-legged dog.
Place your right knee to the outside of your right wrist with your shin on the ground at a 45-degree angle. Your right foot will be turned out.
Extend your left leg behind you, resting the top of your foot, shin, and thigh on the mat. Lower your torso down with a flat back to rest over your right shin and extend your arms in front of you.
Hold for up to 1 minute or 10 breaths.
Adjustments to consider: use a yoga block underneath your forehead or under your seat.
To come out of this hip flexor stretch, walk your hands back underneath your shoulders and take a downward-facing dog or child’s pose.
Repeat an even number of repetitions of this stretch on the left side.
Tips for Sitting
Now that we’ve covered exercises great for your standing posture, what can you do to continue your improvement while sitting?
Here are some tips to further your progress (5):
- Switch around your sitting position often.
- Take brief walks.
- Occasionally stretch your muscles throughout the day.
- Don’t cross your legs and make sure your feet touch the floor.
- Relax your shoulders and keep your elbows close to your body.
- Make sure your back, thighs, and hips are supported.
- Keep your screen at eye level
You’ll feel a significant difference on the first day!
The Bottom Line
Poor posture is a common problem. It can come from sitting for long hours, muscular imbalance, disc degeneration, or joint dysfunction. The benefits of proper posture are vast, not only physically (like pain relief) but mentally.
First, identify the cause of your lower right back pain, joint or muscle imbalances.
While many of us find ourselves sitting most of the day with poor posture, these 5 exercises will alleviate tension and strengthen our bodies to work better in our everyday lives.
Use a chair with proper lumbar support, stack your spinal vertebrae and you’ll be well on your way to perfect posture.
If that’s not enough, consider a high-quality effective product like a posture trainer with a portable design and back strap for back support. You’ll notice a big difference and feel instant relief in no time!
Note that if you are experiencing muscle imbalances, scoliosis, spinal stenosis, or numbness, consider a medical professional or physical therapy.
So what are you waiting for? Fix your bad posture and your body’s default posture now!