Most of us are guilty of it… Horrible posture. Rounded shoulders, relaxed back, and a slouched stance. In today’s society, proper posture is a thing of the past.
I used to be so good about maintaining correct posture, mostly when I was working as a personal trainer every day. Now that I sit behind a desk more often than not, alike the majority of the population, my posture is taking a hit. A big hit. I’ve become aware of this at the end of the day (when my neck aches), in photos (when my slouched shoulders make a regretful appearance), and during my workouts (when my form suffers). Sound familiar?
Growing up, my mom would always tell me, “pull your shoulders down and back.” I have never forgotten it. And when I went through my personal training education, it was emphasized once more. Now, it’s time to put my momma’s good advice and fitness training to good use!
Take a look at the photos below (ignore the sleep eyes, makeup less face, and bedhead):
Do you see the difference? Can you tell which stances are right and wrong?
One way to assess your upper body posture is by noticing the placement and direction of your palms. Here’s what you do: stand up naturally, as you would any other day. Look down at your hands. Are they in front of you or beside you? Are they facing towards your back or facing each other?
If you have proper posture, your palms should naturally lay at your side, facing each other. Unfortunately, if you take a look around, that’s not the case for the majority of people.
So, in a long-overdue effort to correct my own posture, I dug out my dusty personal training books. I wanted to share my findings, here, with you, too! Below are simple exercises* that you can do daily to help improve your posture, all by yourself:
- Prisoner Rotations – Start in a kneeling position and interlock hands behind the head without pulling head forward. Engage core muscles to stabilize lumbar spine. Exhale and rotate arms to the right until a point of resistance is reached (no bouncing or rotating the hips). Hold for 15 seconds and then [bend at the waist], pointing the right elbow toward the floor. Hold for 5 seconds, and then return to upright position. [Bend at the waist] in the opposite direction before returning to upright position and allowing the trunk to rotate further into the movement. Perform 2-4 repetitions on each side.
- Bird Dog – Start in a hands and knees position on a mat, with knees underneath hips and the crease of wrists underneath shoulders, fingers pointing forward. Engage core, keep spine in a neutral position and avoid sagging hips. Lengthen left leg, engage quadricep, and lift your left leg off the floor until parallel with the mat. Do not lift above hip height. Slowly raise and straighten right arm so that it’s parallel with the floor and head is aligned with spine. Do not allow shoulders to tilt upward. Shoulders and hips should stay square or parallel to the mat throughout exercise. Hold for no more than 7 seconds, then slowly lower back to starting position.
- Table-Top Kneeling Lat Stretch – Kneel facing a low table, couch or chair, bending forward to place both extended arms on the object (rest forearms). Engage core to stabilize spine and prevent lordosis. Start with arms internally rotated, thumbs pointing inward. Exhale and gently collapse trunk and head toward the floor, maintaining a neutral spine while externally rotating the arms. Hold for 15 seconds, and then perform a series of slow anterior and posterior pelvic tilts. Relax and repeat 2-4 times.
- Shoulder Packing – Start lying on the back with knees bent 90 degrees and feet flat on floor, aligning the anterior superior iliac spine with knee and second toe. Position arms at sides of trunk with palms facing upward. Engage core to stabilize lumbar spine. Exhale and perform 2-4 repetitions of scapular depression and scapular retraction, holding each for 5-10 seconds. Using passive assistance from the opposite arm, gently push down on the shoulder without losing lumbar stability. Hold for 15-60 seconds. Relax and repeat 2-4 times on each shoulder.
*These exercises were found on Ace Fitness. Click on the link to see video demos of each exercise.
Join me in doing these easy movements, daily! Trust me, your body with thank you!