By Isabella Broggini
Most modern-day jobs require us to sit still at a desk for the better part of the day. Not only does this sedentary lifestyle wreak havoc on our health, but it also forces us to adopt unhealthy postures that can become permanent over time. Having bad posture isn’t only an aesthetic concern; according to the American Journal of Pain Management “Posture effects and moderates every physiological function from breathing to hormonal production. Spinal pain, headache, mood, blood pressure, pulse, and lung capacity are among the functions most easily influenced by posture.” For this reason, it is really important for us to combat bad posture by engaging in specific exercises meant to strengthen the muscles that allow us to keep our shoulders retracted and a straight head and back. Here are six of the best exercises that you should be doing for better posture:
Bent Over Rows
How to do it: The bent over row can be done with either two Dumbbells or a Barbell. To do this movement:
- Stand with your feet about hip-width apart, holding two dumbbells in each hand with a neutral grip.
- Hinge forward until your back is parallel to the floor, bending your knees slightly.
- Retract your shoulder blades and begin the movement by pulling the dumbells towards your body until they are at (or just past) your torso. Hold for 5 seconds.
- Slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.
- Repeat the movement for 12 to 15 repetitions.
Why It’s good for you: This exercise is great for the upper back, and it works to strengthen your Rhomboids, Lower Traps, and Erector Spinae; all muscles that are essential for keeping your shoulders down and back. In order to develop the muscular endurance in these muscles necessary for maintaining a good posture, focus on doing more repetitions with slightly lower weights. Try doing three sets of 15 repetitions to start.
How to do it:
- Lie face down on the floor, extend your arms fully in front of you, bringing them into a Y position.
- Raise your arms, legs, and chest simultaneously. Hold this position for 10 seconds, squeezing your glutes and lower back.
- Slowly lower your arms, legs, and chest back to the starting position.
- Repeat for 12-15 repetitions.
Why It’s good for you: This exercise works your glutes, hamstrings, upper and lower back. It is a great exercise to alleviate lower back pain. It will also help prevent Anterior Pelvic Tilt (a.k.a. the condition of an excessively curved spine and protruding abdomen) by strengthening your glutes and core muscles.
Glute Hip Bridge
How to do it:
- Begin by lying on the floor on your back. Bend your knees, placing your feet firmly on the floor and extend your arms by your side.
- Tuck your pelvis and slowly lift your hips off of the floor while squeezing your abs. Lift hips up until your hips, knees, and shoulders are in alignment. Hold for 5 seconds.
- Slowly return to the starting position.
- Repeat for three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions.
Why It’s good for you: Strengthening your glutes and core muscles will help prevent Anterior Pelvic Tilt and also help alleviate back pain.
Seated Cable Row
How to do it:
- Grabbing on to a V-bar attached to a cable machine, sit upright with your arms extended, legs slightly bent, and back at a 90 degree angle.
- Maintaining this position, pull the handles of the V-bar back towards your torso until they reach your abdominals. Squeeze your back muscles and hold this contraction for about five seconds before returning to the original position.
Why it’s good for you: This exercise teaches you to retract your shoulders, strengthening the muscles of your middle back that help keep your shoulders down and back. This is a great exercise for those who struggle with rounded shoulders and an excessively forward head.
The V Move
How to do it:
- Stand with staggered feet, so that one is slightly behind the other. Grasp the handles of the resistance band. Lift your hands upwards and slightly outwards at about a 30 degree angle to your body.
- Raise your arms into a T position with your elbows slightly bent. Hold for five seconds and return to the starting position. Make sure to keep your shoulder blades down and your back straight throughout the entire movement.
- Repeat the movement for about two minutes.
Why it’s good for you: This exercise strengthens your upper back muscles and forces you to practice scapular retraction and depression. If done at least five times a week for two minutes, this exercise will help you keep your shoulders down and back at your desk and keep you from slouching.
How to do it:
- Stand with your back against wall and your feet about four inches from the base of the wall. Make sure that your glutes, spine, and the back of your head are all touching the wall. Slightly bend your knees.
- Bring your arms up and bend your elbows so that your upper arms are parallel to the floor and your elbows are at a 90 degree angle.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together and form the letter W with your arms. Hold for three seconds.
- Straighten your elbows and bring your arms overhead to form the letter Y. Relax your shoulders and keep them away from your ears. Hold for three seconds.
- Repeat this sequence 10 times: starting with your arms in the W position before transitioning to the Y position, holding for three seconds in each position.
Why it’s good for you: This exercise will help you combat an overly rounded upper back by strengthening your shoulders and back muscles while simultaneously stretching and opening up tight chest muscles. This is essential for those who spend the majority of their time bent over, sitting at a desk or texting on their phone.
Do you want more exercises to help you improve your posture? Schedule a free consultation with one of our personal trainers to figure out what specific postural problems you struggle with and find out what exercises you should be doing to fix them. Taking a group exercise class such as pilates is also a great way to help strengthen weak postural muscles and can aid you in achieving perfect postural alignment.