It is often said that how we carry ourselves is our business card to the world. I could not agree more. Standing up straight conveys confidence and invites respect. Beyond that, proper posture ensures less wear and tear on our joints, and improved alignment of the spine allows for fluidity in our daily movements. I discuss proper posture with almost every patient that walks in the door, because it an important aspect of healing and unweighting tender joints.
There are a handful of different types of poor posture, and this article will focus on the most common one, the kyphosis posture, commonly known as slumped. There are a few reasons why one might find themselves habitually in this poor posture. Swimmers and overhead throwing athletes tend to be tight in the front of the shoulders and pectoralis muscles, pulling the head, shoulders, and middle back forward.
Another reason for poor posture is weakness in the postural muscles and the core that support the spine. This is often attributed to desk jobs where gravity pulls people forward towards their computers for prolonged periods, leading to generalized weakenss and an ingrained habit of maintaining the forward head and shoulders position throughout the day.
Alas, there is hope! There are many exercises to retrain posture, and I have included a few to get you started. The most important component of carryover to daily life is awareness. It is human nature to forget and slump from time to time, but the more aware of your posture you are, the more success you will have.
Here are examples of 1: Poor posture and 2: Proper Posture. Please pardon the baby bump!
In the proper posture (Picture 2), the ear is directly over the shoulder, which is in line with the hip, the knee, and the ankle. My knees are slightly bent (though you can’t see it in the pants), and my sternum (breast bone) is lifted towards the ceiling.
Here is a beginners course in postural strengthening to counteract poor posture!
Breast Stroke Prep 1: Warm up stretch
Begin face down with feet shoulder width apart. Bring your bellybutton towards your spine to stabilize your low back, secure your shoulder blades down, elongating your neck. Keep your eye gaze down towards the mat, and slowly press shoulders away from the mat into a slight extension. Keep your eye gaze down, avoiding extending the neck. Slowly return back down to the mat. Repeat 10x.
Breast Stroke Prep 2
Still face down, keep abdominals engaged and bring your palms towards your hips, elevated off the ground. Shoulders are also lifted off the ground with shoulder blades slightly squeezed together (first pic). Then, keeping abdominals pulled in, squeeze shoulder blades even tighter together and lift your head and chest off the mat approximatly 1″into a slight hover. Avoid holding your breath. Lower back down with control. If you have low back pain when doing this, squeeze your glutes together as well to help stabilize the lower vertebrae. Repeat 10x.
Breast Stroke Prep 2:
Similar to the previous exercise, maintain face down position and bring hands under your forehead. Keep shoulders lifted off the mat with a slight shoulder blade squeeze (picture 1). With abdominals engaged, increase the squeeze of your shoulder bladeas and lift head and elbows off the mat approximately 1 inch into a slight hover, then lower down with control. As with the previous exercise, if you have low back pain during this exercise, squeeze your glutes together.
Begin with feet shoulder width apart and arms stretched overhead slightly wider than shoulder width. Keep abdominals engaged and lift the opposite arm and opposite leg towards the ceiling approximately 3 inches. (In the picutre my leg is slighly higher than that to demonstrate the lift, you do not need to lift this high). Lower them down with control and lift the other opposite arm and leg simultaneously, all the while keeping your belly button pulled in towards your spine. Repeat 10x on each side.
Child’s Pose Stretch
After all that time on your stomach, stretch your shoulders and low back by pushing back into child’s pose. Hold 30 seconds-1 min.
These exercises are designed to strengthen the muscles in the neck, middle and lower back, and shoulder blades for tall posture. The other end of the coin is to open up tight muscles in the chest. To combat tightness in the front of the chest see my post on foam roller exercises:
This is a great start, and there are many other great postural strengthening exercises to come. Be mindful of how you sit at work, and when you are driving, and the posture will come along.
Make your day great,