AAt one point or another, almost everyone has been told to “sit up straight” or “fix your posture,” but is improving your posture really a matter of consciously thinking about how you’re sitting or standing? Or, what exercises can you do to improve your posture?
We think of “posture” as a fixed position that should be held throughout the day, but physical therapist June Sreesethneel, DPT, OCS, says that’s not true. “The pose is dynamic, it involves the whole body—yes, even your toes—and varies with different positions and activities to promote ideal spinal alignment,” she says, adding that the core muscles of the pose are the deep stabilizers that run along the spine, mainly the erector spinae. .
Other muscle groups involved in maintaining ideal posture include the diaphragm, abdominal muscles (rectus abdominis, obliques, and transverse abdominis), and pelvic floor muscles.
How working out and being physically active can improve your posture
“Most importantly, exercise keeps your body’s joints and muscles strong and flexible,” explains Dr. Sreesethneel. Every time you exercise the postural muscles, they get an increase in blood flow, which keeps them stretched [meaning able to stretch] and healthy. Whether you want to prevent an injury or treat a current one, exercises that build your awareness of the way you hold your body will ultimately help your posture.”
Additionally, you can strengthen the upper back and core muscles involved in supporting ideal posture by performing specific exercises that target the postural muscles.
Let’s look at five exercises to improve your posture
1. Dead bugs
Dr. Sreesethnil says the dead bug exercise is great for postural training because it helps you master the ability to activate the lower abdominal muscles as well as your deep core stabilizers, such as the transverse abdominis, which is where you should almost always start. Core training.
This exercise helps create a mind-body connection with your core muscles, enabling you to recruit them more easily and naturally during activities of daily living.
“Being able to stabilize your spine while moving your arms helps with everyday activities, such as walking,” says Dr. Sreesethneel. Thus, the dead bug move is a great functional core exercise—“functional” because it helps you better manage core functions in everyday life, such as stabilizing the spine and trunk while moving your limbs in opposition to walking.
Cat-Cow works to flex and stretch the spine, increase mobility and blood flow, and release tension in the muscles that stabilize the spine.
Thus, the cat-cow stretch increases spinal flexibility and can improve posture by stretching and elongating your neck and back rather than a hunched or slouched posture. This can loosen tight muscles around the spine that can otherwise limit your spine from a healthy, tall posture.
3. Bird dog
According to Dr. Sreesethneel, bird dog is an excellent total-body exercise that strengthens some of the postural muscles we often forget and improves balance at the same time. “It’s especially good for people who sit at a desk all day, and can help combat the effects of sitting too much,” she says.
Like dead bugs, the bird dog exercise is a functional core exercise that helps train your core to stabilize your spine while moving your limbs. It strengthens your deep core muscles, lower back muscles, glutes, upper back and shoulders, making it a highly efficient and effective core exercise.
Bird dog can help improve your posture because it strengthens the entire core and back, which can prevent slouching, and it can strengthen the smaller muscles in the upper back, such as the rhomboids and levator scapula, which can help you keep your shoulders back and better. Down to pose (not crouched, crouched, or hiked).
4. Tricep dip
Of course, tricep dips aren’t usually the first exercise that comes to mind when people think of exercises to improve posture. “This move may seem like it only works the arms, but to properly target the triceps requires maintaining an ideal static posture,” says Dr. Sreesethneel. However, he says that to make this exercise one that improves your posture, you must focus on your form. “People tend to let their shoulders go too far because they lower their bottom toward the ground,” she notes. “You should focus on keeping your shoulders back and changing your range of motion as needed.”
One way tricep dips can improve your posture is by strengthening the chest. It can help you keep your chest high and proud when you sit and stand.
This is one of the most effective exercises for improving your posture because it strengthens the entire posterior chain (back side of your body), which is important for being able to keep the spine upright during daily activities.
Poor posture usually involves slouching, which puts the spine in an overflexed position. This exercise strengthens the muscles that extend the spine, enabling them to better hold the spine so it doesn’t sag.
A form check: Dr. Sreesethneel says it’s important not to over-arch your lower back.
Adding these exercises to your workout routine can make it easier to stand tall, sit up straight, and maintain healthy posture throughout your day.