BY OWNER/TRAINER NEDRA LOPEZ
Upon initially meeting a new client, their top goals are usually a variation of weight loss and increased muscle tone. Little do they know, I sneak in posture strengthening exercises into every program, because we all need it! Most people don’t realize the importance of maintaining a strong posture and how it affects the rest of your body from muscle development to injury prevention.
So let me give you a little background on what Posture is and why it is so important! When we use the term posture we are basically describing how your body is positioned when you're sitting, standing and lying down. “Proper posture” is when your bones are properly aligned, so your muscles joints and ligaments can move in their intended manner.
If knowing your body is properly aligned isn’t enough...then here are some more benefits of having a good posture:
- Aids in digestion
- Increases Lung Capacity
- Wards off chronic back, and neck pain
- Keeps shoulder, neck and back injuries at bay
- Looks good
- Lose weight (According to Chiropractor James Emmett, “You can burn up to 350 calories/day by standing properly.”)
- Helps to build a flat and toned core
- Improves your mood & reduces stress
- Makes you more productive since you are able to get more oxygen uptake.
With that said, here are my 5 Favorite Moves to Improve your Posture:
Perform these exercises + foam rolling 4 times a week to see an improvement in just a few weeks! (If you are pregnant or have an existing back injury, please seek advice from your physician first.)
What you will need:
- Foam Roller “6x36” (HERE is the one I recommend!)
- Yoga Block
PRE-WORKOUT: Foam Rolling
Before performing any of the exercises, you need to foam roll. I know most of you are rolling your eyes at this, because this can be quite painful and unenjoyable. But before we can strengthen and manipulate your muscles, they have to be playable to do so.
Opens chest & shoulders; increases mobility in the shoulder blades.
Lay on the foam roller lengthwise along your spine, with one end at your tailbone and the other supporting your head. Try and press your low back into the foam roller, by holding your abs tight, keep your knees bent and feet on the floor. Extend your arms out to the side (Like a “T”) with your elbows slightly bent and your palms facing up. Let gravity open your chest and shoulders as your hands get closer to the floor. Don’t worry if you can’t touch the floor right away, with consistency they will! Hold this position for a count of 30 seconds, and then begin to move your arms overhead and down by your side, with your palms still facing up. This movement is very similar to making a snow angel. The ultimate goal is to keep the back of your hands touching the ground with full range of motion. Perform 10 “Angels” inhaling as you extend your arms overhead, and exhaling as you bring them down by your sides.
Increases circulation, mobility & addresses any tightness in your back.
Next, place the foam roller perpendicular to you at the top of your shoulders, with your feet on the floor, and hands interlaced behind your head for support. Begin by lifting your bottom off the floor opening your elbows out to the side as you roll back and forth over your back from your shoulders to end of the rib cage. As you rock back and forth keep breathing deeply and allow your back to arch just slightly by tipping your head back. Rock back and forth 10 times and then repeat with your arms extending overhead and rock back and forth another 10 times.
1.) Cat-Cow Exercise
Increases mobility in the spine, neck, abs, and relieves stress.
Begin on all fours, with your hands placed directly below your shoulders, fingers spread wide with your knees hip width apart. Begin by moving into “Cow pose” inhale as you drop your belly towards the mat. Lift your chin and chest, gaze up towards the ceiling. As you exhale draw your belly into your spine rounding the back and tucking your tailbone into “Cat pose”.
CUES & REPS
Continue this movement matching your breath 10 times.
2.) Wall Angels
Increases mobility in your shoulder blades needed for posture strength.
Wall angels are great because you are able to keep your body in proper alignment while moving your scapula (shoulder blades) through it’s full range of motion. Stand with your head, upper back and lower back pressed against a wall with your feet propped out in front of you for leverage. Extend your arms out to your side and make the letter, “W” with your palms facing forward against the wall. Try and keep all 5 points (head, upper back, lower back, elbows & back of hands) pressed against the wall as you extend your arms overhead and down by your side. Inhale as you move your arms overhead and exhale as your arms come down.
CUES & REPS
- Press your back, head & arms against the wall.
- Keep your feet 6-10 inches away from the wall.
- Move your hands along the wall while maintaining contact.
- Repeat 10x.
3.) YTI Laying Down
Strengthens your upper back, shoulders, glutes and abs.
Your upper back is responsible for maintaining proper posture, and protecting the shoulders from injury. Start by laying on your stomach face down, legs extended behind you with the tops of your feet on the ground. Extend your arms overhead to make a “Y” with palms facing each other. Begin to press your pubic bone into the ground, which will automatically lift your belly off the floor and keep your lower back safe. Next, lift your arms, head neck and shoulders off the ground while maintaining a tucked pelvis, and breathe deeply in and out while holding your arms off the floor for a count of 5. Keep your face relaxed, neck long and gaze forward, along with keeping your traps pushed down away from your ears.
CUES & REPS
- Always keep your pelvis pressed against the mat.
- Y: Arms extended w/thumbs up. Hold for 5 sec. and repeat 10x.
- T: Arms extended to the side w/ thumbs up. Hold for 5 sec. and repeat 10x.
- I: Arms extend back w/ palms up. Hold for 5 sec. and repeat 10x.
- Make sure you perform this exercise slowly with your breath and do the same for the T and the I, as shown in the video.
4.) Scapula Retraction
Strengthens your muscles around the shoulder blades.
Begin on all fours, with your hands placed directly below your shoulders, fingers spread wide with your knees hip width apart. While keeping your arms straight, gaze forward with your neck long, spine neutral, and ribcage closed (stomach tight) start to squeeze your scapula (shoulder blades) together and then open.
CUES & REPS
- Repeat this opening and closing 10 times, without using your neck shoulders, traps or abs to compensate.
- This is one of the more challenging exercises so take your time and breathe.
- To progress this movement, you can perform this exercise in a high plank position.
5) Quadruped YTI
Strengthens shoulders, upper and mid back.
Begin on all fours, with your hands placed directly below your shoulders, fingers spread wide with your knees hip width apart. Place a yoga block under your right hand, and push your traps down away from your ears (shoulders), along with pulling your belly in tight. You will be fighting to maintain this posture while performing this exercise so be aware. Extend your left arm into a “Y” position and squeeze your scapula (shoulder blades) together and down simultaneously, then lower back to starting position.
CUES & REPS
- Place a block under the stationary arm for support.
- Keep your abs tight, and shoulders down while you extend your arm to a Y.
- Perform 10 slow, controlled “Y”, “T”, and “I"'s and then switch to the opposite side.
- To progress this movement you can use 3lb-5lb dumbells.
- Move slowly with control, and don’t forget to breathe!
Remember, improving your posture isn’t something that happens overnight, so be patient. These exercises are my favorite because they not only strengthen your back, and increase mobility, but show you what it actually feels like to be in alignment.
Maintain that feeling throughout the day by...
- Keeping your shoulders down and back,
- Stomach in tight,
- Legs straight but never locked, (no leaning)
- Keep your chin lifted looking straight ahead
Finally, incorporating Yoga, Pilates and TRX are also great options to strengthen and maintain proper posture. Remember at The P.E. Club we are all about alignment, and proper form, so wherever you take classes or train, make sure they are too!