Have you ever wanted to stand a little taller than you do? Or maybe you have a nagging ache in your back and neck from sitting hunched over a laptop for hours. One smart way to ease that pain and stop looking like the stand-in for the HunchBack of Notre Dame is to improve your posture.
In this article, you will see 6 simple exercises to correct posture are designed to build muscle, ease tension and give you a more statuesque posture. If you’d like a step-by-step guide that you can complete in 10 minutes, check out our exercise guide.
These exercises will focus on various parts of your body. Some will strengthen your core, others will improve your flexibility and others will return your spine and neck to the natural curves they should have. As always, consult with your doctor before beginning any new exercise regimen.
Let’s start by loosening your chest and hip muscles. Morgan Sutherland, an award-winning massage therapist with 14 years experience treating clients with chronic pain and sports injuries, suggests these 4 exercises.
This exercise loosens those tight chest muscles. Standing in a doorway, lift your arm so it’s parallel to the floor and bend at the elbow so your fingers point toward the ceiling. Place your hand on the door jamb. Slowly lean into your raised arm and push against the door jamb for 7-10 seconds.
Relax the pressure and then press your arm against the doorjamb again, this time coming into a slight lunge with your legs so your chest moves forward past the door jamb for 7-10 seconds. Repeat this stretch two to three times on each side.
Kneel on your right knee with toes down, and place your left foot flat on the floor in front of you. Place both hands on your left thigh and press your hips forward until you feel a good stretch in the hip flexors. Contract your abdominals and slightly tilt your pelvis back while keeping your chin parallel to the floor. Hold this pose for 20-30 seconds, and then switch sides.
Now that your core is loosened up, let’s work on straightening your stance.
Stand with your back against a flat wall with your feet about four inches from the base. Maintain a slight bend in your knees. Your glutes, spine, and head should all be against the wall. Bring your arms up with elbows bent so your upper arms are parallel to the floor and squeeze your shoulder blades together, forming a letter “W”. Hold for 3 seconds.
Next, straighten your elbows to raise your arms up to form the letter “Y.” Make sure not to shrug your shoulders to your ears. Repeat this 10 times, starting at “W,” holding for 3 seconds and then raising your arms into a “Y.” Do 2-3 sets.
Here’s one you can do almost anywhere. The Chin Tuck can help reverse forward-head posture by strengthening the neck muscles. This exercise can be done sitting or standing. Start with your shoulders rolled back and down. While looking straight ahead, place two fingers on your chin, slightly tuck your chin and move your head back (image at left). Hold for 3-5 seconds and then release. Repeat 10 times.
Tip: The more of a double chin you create, the better the results. If you’re in a parked car, try doing the Chin Tuck pressing the back of your head into the headrest for 3-5 seconds. Do 15-20 repetitions.
Now that you are standing a little taller, let’s strengthen your core and legs. Our friends at WebMD have a couple great ideas.
Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and hands behind your head. Press your low back into the floor, and curl your head up off the floor. Exhale strongly and pull your navel in and up toward your spine. Slowly pull one knee into your chest, keeping your low back pressed to the floor while extending your other leg straight at about a 45-degree angle off the floor.
Keep your abdominals pulled in and your low back on the floor. If your low back arches off the floor, extend your leg higher toward the ceiling. Switch legs. Start with five to 10 extensions on each side.
Why It’s Good for You: This move trains your core muscles to work together to stabilize your pelvis.
The New Crunch
Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Press your low back into the floor. Place your hands behind your head, or reach your arms toward your knees if it doesn’t create too much tension in your neck. Exhale strongly and pull your navel in and up toward your spine. Curl your head and shoulders slowly off the floor. Hold, then slowly lower back down. Repeat three times.
Why It’s Good for You
Also called a “curl-up,” this exercise works the rectus abdominis (the six-pack muscle) and obliques (which run diagonally around your waist and rotate your torso).
These are just the start. Check out the links provided for more exercises you can add to your daily routine which will strengthen your core, give you flexibility and the energy you need to take on your day. But, remember that technique matters as much as repetition. Study the proper forms to get the most benefit. And listen to what your doctor (and your body) tells you. Here are some things to remember when you are exercising:
- Remember to exhale forcefully and tighten your core muscles as you perform these exercises to help gain the most benefit.
- Pull your abdominal muscles in and up toward your spine as you exercise.
- Work with slow, controlled movements, breathing evenly, without holding your breath.
- Tailor your number of repetitions and sets to your current level of core fitness.
- If you have mild back pain, core-strengthening exercises may improve posture, ease symptoms, and prevent future pain. If you have severe back pain or injury, are out of shape, or have any medical problems, talk to your doctor before you start any exercise program. Some exercises may not be recommended.
- Stop doing any activity that causes pain or makes pain worse.