Nobody wants to have a rounded upper back and look like The Hunchback of Notre Dame. We were all told at a young age to “sit up straight” but the problem is that most of us who tend to slouch and have poor posture are guilty only of having a lack of back strength. Most of us just need to add some conditioning to the muscles that help us sit up straight. This lack of postural strength can be painful and cause all sorts of neck and back issues including headaches!
Regular chest stretching performed daily is one simple and cost-free way of adjusting your poor posture. The pectoral or chest muscles that attach to the shoulder area have a tendency to get tight and in-turn, pull the shoulders forward, weakening and overstretching the mid back and rotator cuff muscles which are the core foundation for achieving better posture. The domino affect here results in a sore upper back, alignment issues from the hips to the neck, tension and also migraine headaches. Try to hold your chest stretching movements for up to 60 seconds per side and “pull” only to a comfortable position while avoiding any type of painful movements.
In order to alleviate this issue you need to regularly condition those postural muscles using simple yet effective movements. There is no need to use heavy weights or bodybuilding exercises when you’re working on improving your posture.
The rotator cuff, also knows as the “SITS” muscles (supraspinatous, infraspinatous, teres minor, and subscapularis), are made up of four muscles that support the shoulder joint. When these muscles are weak, they can cause serious issues to other parts of your upper body. By doing 2-3 sets of 15-20 reps using very basic rotator cuff exercises such as internal and external rotations using an exercise band, these movements can be very effective for helping to improve weak muscles and imbalances. Make sure to keep a towel between your elbow and hip and hold it in that position throughout the entire exercise to maintain proper technique and form. Also, ensure you are sitting or standing aligned with your abs engaged (try to pull your belly button into your lower back).
Rhomboid squeezes (reverse flies) are excellent for helping to strengthen the rhomboids which sit between the left and right shoulder blades. It’s a small and controlled movement but very effective for strengthening this area.
Another great movement is to perform a plank on your elbows with your toes face down and your side facing a mirror so you can align your body straight. Watch your hips, belly, chest and neck areas and make sure they do not droop or become too elevated which is usually a sign of compensating for being too weak. Proper technique is crucial to get the most out of any exercise, so always focus on form first! Increase the amount of time you hold this plank pose as you slowly get better. Mastering the proper form can take weeks so be patient! Having a person spot you can help with your form and they can use a stick placed along your back to help you see the areas you need to adjust in order to become perfectly level.
It helps to train your overall core routinely since this affects the entire body, especially the muscles of your torso which helps to improve your posture. When you stand up you’re using your core to align the body above and below it by pulling the belly button into the lower back. Simple exercises like pelvic tucks and low back extensions will take little effort yet will result in positive benefits for your overall posture.
Start all of your posture exercises with 10-20 reps and then try to increase them to 30-50 reps per set since these are done with very little weight-bearing movements which allow for high rep training. A combination of these different exercises can take as little as 15 minutes twice per week and will help you with your every day life so it is worth the effort to invest the time it takes in order to pay off huge dividends for your health and posture.