It doesn’t matter how fit you are, if you have poor posture, you will still suffer unnecessary aches and pains. In fact, the American Chiropractic Association estimates that as many as 80% of all Americans will suffer from back pain at some point, and a good number of those cases result from a routine failure to sit or stand properly. To ensure good spinal alignment, here are just a few exercises and tips to improve posture.
Back rows are important for maintaining a strong upper/middle back. In so doing will allow you to keep your back straighter during regular daily activities. To perform a back row, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart holding a barbell un an underhand grip. Make sure to use an appropriate weight (starting light or with no weight at all initially). Bend over slightly while keeping your back straight. While looking forward, squeeze your back muscles as your pull the bar toward your chest. Return to the starting position and repeat for 8-12 repetitions. For both safety and performance, try using a one rep max calculator while doing any weight assisted exercises.
The plank pose develops your core, which in turn helps to stabilize your spine. Begin in a push-up position although lying on your forearms with your elbows at a 90 degrees, so that most of your weight is resting on your forearms. Keep your elbows directly beneath your shoulders and your body in a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles. Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds, gradually increasing that amount of time until you are able to hold it for a full two minutes. You only need to perform plank pose once or twice during each workout session to notice results. Your can use a variation of plank exercises as you become more advanced.
Reverse Dumbbell Fly
Lie face down on an incline bench, or sit in a chair while bent forward slightly at the waist with feet planted firmly on the floor. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with palms facing one another. With elbows slightly bent, lift the arms in an arc motion until they are nearly parallel wiith the floor. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as you lift your elbows, then use a controlled motion to return to the starting position. Perform for 8-12 repetitions. This exercise will help to keep your shoulders back so you maintain a more correct posture.
Plate Side Bends
Stand up tall, feet planted about shoulder-width apart and with the head and neck straight. Holding a weight plate in one hand slowly bend toward that side until you feel a ‘pull’ on the other side. Focus on that side as you use your oblique muscles to bring your torso back straight. Repeat for 10-15 repetitions before transitioning the plate to the other side. This will help strengthen your oblique and hip flexor muscles.
Begin on your stomach with your legs stretched out behind you and feet about six inches apart. Extend your arms straight out in front of you with your palms facing the floor. Simultaneously raise your legs and your arms, lifting both as high as possible while still keeping your back straight. Beginners may lift only the arms, while more advanced exercisers can also raise the chest and shoulders. Once you are in position, “flutter” both your arms and your legs as though you were swimming. Perform this continuous swimming motion for one to two minutes to strengthen your core and lower back.
Other ways to improve your posture outside of the gym include:
- Using lumbar supports when sitting to keep from slouching.
- Adjusting your television set and/or computer screen in order to keep from straining your neck while viewing.
- Limiting the amount of weight you carry in shoulder bags or backpacks.
- Making a conscious effort to check the alignment of your spine so you can correct yourself whenever you notice that you are slumping.
- Following a well-rounded weight lifting/fitness routine so that certain areas of your body aren’t neglected.
When it comes to improving posture, awareness is key. Add the above exercises to improve posture to your routine, and then pay attention to your body positioning throughout the day to ensure your spine is properly aligned at all times. Continue adding exercises to assist with building and maintaining good posture.