Sweat it Out to Straighten Up: 4 Exercises to Improve Posture
by Anna Johnson of Little Bloke Fitness
With growing numbers of people leading a relatively sedentary lifestyle, bad posture is becoming an increasing problem. Sitting at a computer for long hours, staring down at your smartphone, or vegging out on the sofa on a Netflix binge are no help for your general or postural health. All this sitting around, slouching, and inactivity is a major cause of bad posture. Thanks to these bad posture habits our bodies are pushed and pulled out of alignment and if it’s not caught early, it can become a permanent problem and may result in other muscular issues related to postural misalignment. There are ways to counteract postural problems if you catch them early and using exercise and weights can be a great way to bring back balance to your body. Here are four ways to use simple exercises to improve posture.
Working out most of the major muscles in the legs, glutes, lower back, and your core, the deadlift is a great exercise to incorporate into your workout. Seek professional advice before performing any new exercises with free weights to avoid injuries, however to perform a deadlift correctly stand with your feet shoulder width apart, barbell on the floor in front of you. Grip the bar on the outside of your legs and lower your hips so your back is at a 45 degree angle to the floor. Looking straight ahead, engage your abdominal muscles and lift the bar keeping your arms straight and straightening your knees and hips to a standing position leaving the bar at hip level. Return the bar to the floor keeping your arms straight and bending again at the hips and knees. Deadlifts work to increase strength in the legs, glutes, and back including the whole spine which is important for correct posture.
Your core abdominal area is probably the most important for posture. Having a weak core will result in slouching forward and holds no stability for your lower back resulting in an increased back arch. You will be amazed at how much your posture will change once you start strengthening this area.
One of the fastest ways to increase strength in your core is to perform a plank. Face downward as if you were going to do a press-up. Prop yourself up on either your hands or forearms and on your toes with feet shoulder width apart. Keeping your back as straight as you can (bottom down) engage your core and hold for as long as possible. Planking can be hard at first if you have no strength in your abdominals, however you can always start out holding for 30 seconds and gradually build up to longer planks of over a minute.
Your arms and chest muscles do a lot of work each day without you even realizing it. The chest can quite often become tight resulting in an upper back hunch or kyphosis. Performing exercises that counteract this dominance in the chest will help to keep your back strong to avoid any postural problems. There are always a myriad of ways to perform any one exercise however using dumbbells is easy for doing these dumbbell rows. If doing both sides at once stand as you would with the deadlift with a dumbbell in each hand. Looking forward engage the upper back muscles and pull your elbow up past your back and then lowering back down. Repeat this action for 3 sets of 15. If doing one side only, kneel with one knee on bench and one hand also on the bench and perform the same motion with just one side then swap.
Stretching is so important to counteract muscular tension. After performing repeated contractions your muscles are left in a shortened position therefore after any workout you should ensure to perform stretches on all the muscle areas you have worked out. This will not only help to relieve the excess tension but helps to release any built up lactic acid reducing any post workout soreness.
Remember, it is important to remember to work out opposite muscle groups to ensure you aren’t overworking one set of muscles. For example only doing exercises for your chest will result in overly tight muscles in that area. Your posterior shoulder and back muscles will be weakened and cause your shoulders to slouch forward resulting in a hunch back. The same goes for your legs, tight quadriceps will create an anterior pelvic tilt which usually results in a lower back arch which then causes a knock-on effect into your upper back.
Movement and strength are an important combination for keeping our bodies in optimal condition. If you are spending long periods of time sitting down at work it would be wise to at least get up and move about and stretch during the day. Talk to a professional trainer about adding some weights to your workouts. Weight training is beneficial not only for strengthening but also burns calories long after your training session ends! What are you waiting for?!