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Video Guide: Exercises for Better Posture

More than ever, we are a sedentary society. Whether working at computers all day or spending our evenings online or in front of a T.V., we sit for hours on end, which wreaks havoc on our health, alignment and flexibility. Even when we're walking, we may be hanging our heads as we check texts or social media messages! How can we counter the negative effects of our sedentary time and its toll on our posture? Check out these exercises with video demonstrations for stretches that can put you in better alignment each day.  

Improving Posture in the Upper Body

When you see people’s shoulders rounded forward with their heads forward, you can bet that they sit on chairs in front of computers most of the day. This is usually caused by upper body muscles such as the Pectoralis Major and Latissimus Dorsi being tight and the lower and middle Trapezius, Rhomboids and rear part of the deltoid being weak. Below are some static stretches for the upper body that can help work the muscles that are tight.  

  • Pec Wall Stretch: This is a simple stretch that can be done at home, in the office or the gym, since all you need is a wall. To do the stretch, just walk up to a corner of a wall, bring your arm to a ninety degree angle and gently turn your body until you feel a stretch in your chest (Pectoralis Major). Check out this short video with further directions on how to do it.   
  • Stability Ball Lat Stretch:  Even though the video shows this exercise being done with a stability ball, you can also use a chair if you are at the office or don’t have a ball at home. With the chair variation, all you have to do is get into a kneeling position and place your hands on the edge of a chair. From there, gently extend your arms, arch your back and sink your body toward the floor. This is a great way to stretch the Latissimus Dorsi muscles and other muscles of the upper back. This video includes a variation with the stability ball.   
  • Lying Foam Roll Static Stretch: This is an effective posture correcting stretch that I learned from Strength Coach Charles Poliquin. In addition to being effective at stretching the muscles of the chest and neck, it's a great way to calm your body at the end of the day and can even help improve sleep quality if it's done before bed. This exercise is a little different than the others as you want to lay on the foam roller for up to 5-10 minutes. Find a video demonstration here.   

Improving Posture in the Lower Body

When you see people with an excessive arch in their low backs and their bellys sticking out (even if they are thin), it is usually a result of tight hip flexor muscles (Rectus Femoris and Illio Psoas) and weak glute muscles (Gluteus Minimus, Medius and Maximus). Similar to the issues in the upper body, this distortion is also caused by excessive sitting. Here are three static stretches to improve lower body posture.

  • Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch: The beauty of this stretch is that it can be done anywhere as all you need is a carpeted floor. If you have a wood floor, just fold a towel and place it under the knee you are kneeling on. This stretch is for the Illio Psoas muscle, which is in the front of the hip. Here is a video demonstration.   
  • Runner Stretch: This stretch is often performed by people before they go out for a run. Ideally, it is best done after exercise and - like many exercises described in this article - it can be done anywhere. It stretches the Rectus Femoris muscle in the front of your leg. This video includes a demonstration.   
  • Calf Stretch in a Lunge Position: The outer calf muscle (Gastrocnemius, for you anatomy buffs) isn’t part of the muscle of the hip. However, it is important to mention because many people wear heeled dress shoes at work in addition to having to sit all day. When doing this stretch, a key cue is to make sure you squeeze the butt on the back leg. This stretch can be done anywhere. You'll find a video demonstration here.   

In putting the above routines into practice, start with a few stretches, and do 2 sets. Hold the stretch for 30-45 seconds (with the exception of the Lying Foam Roller Static Stretch). Ideally, if you can alternate the three upper body stretches with the three lower body stretches on a daily basis, you will see significant improvements in posture in as little as five minutes/day.   

Enjoy these stretches anytime, and share this article with those you believe may benefit. We all could use support for better posture! Thanks for reading.

Written by Corey Grenz, Personal Trainer

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.

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