Exercises to Improve Posture
Benefits of Good Posture
When you have good posture, there are 5 main areas that reap benefits.
- Breathing Ability: The correct posture lifts your rib cage and allows your lungs to fill to a greater capacity because there is less pressure on them and your diaphragm.
- Concentration & Thinking: It is essential for your brain to receive oxygen to perform complex thought processes. Because good posture allows you to get more oxygen into your body via increased breathing capacity, brain oxygenation increases as well.
- Attractiveness: When you stand, walk or sit with the correct posture, it changes the aesthetics of your body. You will look more slender, smarter, more appealing and assertive.
- Self Confidence: The mind and body are very connected. When you have good posture, your body tells your mind that you are better looking, capable and confident. This easily increases your self-worth and confidence.
- General Health: Bad posture can actually create health problems that may not arise otherwise. Some complications include increase risks of slipped discs, back pain, pressure on your chest and decreased blood circulation.
What Exactly is "Good Posture"?
Good posture does not mean that your spine is in a completely straight line. The spinal column has a natural curvature to it that is essential for optimum functioning. See picture to the right for an example of what the healthy, natural curvature of the spinal column looks like.
Correct posture allows for a straight line to go from the center of your head to your feet. This allows proper pressure points and evenly distributes the body's weight.
How to Improve Posture
You can improve your posture by simply strengthening and stretching the muscles that are involved in keeping your body upright when you sit or stand.
These muscles include:
- Erector Spinae
- External Obliques
- Internal Obliques
- Rectus Abdominis
- Transverse Abdominis
Erector Spinae Exercises
The Erector Spinae is actually a group of three muscles and tendons that lie to the side of your spinal column. These muscles begin at the base of your skull and run the entire length of your back. They function to keep your spine aligned from side to side and front to back.
- Lay down on your stomach on a flat surface with your legs and arms out straight.
- Slowly lift both of your arms and legs up like you are trying to touch the ceiling. The higher you go, the more difficult it will be. Breathe in as you lift and be sure you aren't putting tension on your neck.
- Hold for a few seconds. Be careful not
- Slowly relax back down to flat on the floor. Breathe out as you come down.
- Do this a total of 15 times, rest and repeat the cycle 2 more times.
Back Extensions Video
Internal and External Oblique Exercises
The internal and external obliques are located in the area typically thought of as your "love handles". These muscles support the lower back and provide structural stability of the spine in twisting movements.
These are very very simple to do. The only equipment you need is dumbbells or even a canned good, bucket of water or anything to serve as a weight.
- Stand up straight, feet shoulder width apart, holding your weight in one hand. Your arm holding the weight should be dangling naturally at your side. The non-weight-bearing arm should also be hanging loosely at your side.
- Slowly bend your upper body towards the side of your weight-bearing arm. Bend as far as you can without shifting your hips. The weight should be moving closer to the floor and both feet should remain firmly on the ground.
- Pause for a few seconds.
- Return to the starting position.
- Do a total of 15 repetitions and then switch the weight to the other side.
- Repeat steps 1 through 5 a total of 3 times.
Side Bends Video
Rectus Abdominis Exercises
The Rectus Abdominis are most commonly known as the "six pack" when they are very well defined with little fat covering them. These muscles control movement and the curvature of the spine.
This exercise really focuses on all of the muscles used for good posture. However, most people will feel it is their abdominal muscles.
- Lie face down resting on the forearms, palms flat on the floor.
- Push off the floor, raising up onto your toes with your forearms still touching the ground.
- Keep your back flat, in a straight line from your head to your heels.
- Keep your stomach tight to keep from sagging.
- Hold for 20 to 60 seconds, lower and repeat 3 to 5 times.
Transverse Abdominis Exercises
The transverse abdominis muscles are the deepest abdominal muscles. They are located under the retus abdominis. These muscles stabilize the lower back and pelvis prior to movement.
Transverse Pull Ins
- Lie on the floor with your back flat, knees bent and feet on the floor.
- Place your hands on the lowest part of your stomach.
- Pull in your belly button towards the back of your spine.
- Hold for 30 to 60 seconds then relax and repeat for several more times.
You can actually do this same maneuver sitting or standing as well.
Transverse Pull Ins Video
The rhomboids are located on the middle portion of your upper back between your shoulder blades. One of their functions is to pull your shoulders down and back. If these muscles are weaker, your shoulders can easily hunch forward and cause bad posture.
- Kneel over the side of a bench, couch or chair by placing your knee and hand of your supporting arm on the bench.
- Keep your back in a straight line parallel to the ground. Position foot of opposite leg slightly back and to the side.
- Grab dumbbell (or canned goods at home) from the floor.
- Slowly pull the dumbbell to up to your side until your until upper arm is at the level of your back and the weight is at about chest level.
- Lower your arm slowly back down to a relaxed hanging position.
- Repeat 10-15 times and repeat with the opposite arm.
- Repeat steps 1 through 6 a total of 3 times.
Dumbbell Rows Video
The trapezius muscles are very large and form a diamond-like shape on the upper back. They lie over top of the rhomboids. The trapezius starts at the base of the skull, expands out to the shoulders and then joins at the center of the mid to lower back. It functions to help keep your shoulder and head aligned with the spine.
- Stand up straight with your feet shoulder width as you hold a barbell with both hands in front and facing you.
- Use only your shoulders, and keeping your arms straight, lift the bar as far as you can go as you breathe out.
- Hold for a few seconds.
- Slowly return to the starting position as you breathe in.
- Repeat 15 times.
- Repeat steps 1 through 5, for a total of 3 times.