“Stand up straight!”
Most of us have heard this command at one point in our childhoods or another. Strangely though, most young children start out with pretty good postures. Its us adults that badly need a good reminder about postural adjustment, and an excellent set of exercises to right the many years of terrible posture that can seriously affect our health and wellbeing. Proper body position affects the way our organs, muscles and joints function, can eliminate chronic pains often experienced in the back, neck and knees, and also makes people appear slimmer, more upright and confident.
The first step towards improving your posture is becoming aware of how you stand or sit. Once you’re mindful of the positions you habitually undertake, you can begin to make adjustments. Then it’s important to strengthen the muscles of good posture that typically weaken from lack of use, building a healthier body that looks and feels better. Practice these 6 exercises every week to improve your posture.
1. SQUAT HOLD
Strengthen your core and train your body’s stabilizer muscles by squatting down and holding that position. Begin with feet hip-width apart and shoulders retracted. Next, sit back and down – with your weight in your heels – as if you were sitting into a chair. Squat as low as you can, working towards the position when your quads are parallel to the ground. Once you achieve that position, hold it for up to 90 seconds.
Like the famed superhero, this move will make you feel as though you’re flying. Begin face down on the ground. Tighten your core and legs, before lifting your arms and legs off the ground while lifting your face slightly as well, isolating your lower back. Hold for three seconds at the top of the move before lowering your arms and legs down. Repeat for 10 repetitions.
Exercise every muscle in your core and low back with the plank. This move will have you supporting your bodyweight on your forearms, elbows, and toes, while stabilizing with your abdominal muscles, glutes and back. Lying flat on your stomach, plant your forearms, elbows, and toes on the ground. When you’re ready, engage your body – especially your core – as you press your body off the ground, and think about tucking your belly button into your spine as you keep your back straight. Hold this position for 30 seconds.
4. HIP BRIDGE
Use this move to target the lower back, glutes, and core. To start, lay flat on your back. With your arms at your side, bend your knees, planting your feet flat on the floor while engaging your abs and glutes. Press through your heels to lift your hips off the ground, towards the sky. Hold for 10 seconds at the top, before lowering your pelvis back to the ground.
5. SHOULDER RETRACTION
This simple exercise will teach you to keep your chest up and shoulders back. Grip a body bar, broomstick or yardstick at shoulder-width. Stand up straight, roll your shoulders back and extend your arms in front of you while holding the bar. Next, squeeze your shoulder blades down and together towards your spine. Hold this position for 10 seconds and repeat up to 10 times.
6. MODIFIED V-SIT
This exercise is completed on the ground. Lay back onto the floor with knees bent. Extend your arms forward. Reaching forward, flex your abdominals and sit up, straightening your back to form a V-position with your hips. Once in this position, reach your arms up by your ears. Hold for ten seconds, then bring your arms back forward and lower yourself slowly back to the floor.