Having good posture isn’t just about reminding yourself to stand up straight whenever you think about it. It’s really about having the strength needed to maintain that upright position, giving your spine the muscular support it needs.
For this, you need 360 degrees of strength from both your back muscles and your core (which actually surrounds some of your back muscles, like the erector spinae and spina multifidus).
“A major role of the back muscles is to keep the spine upright or extended,” Erin Policely, a physical therapist and founder of Stretch Kinetics in Atlanta, previously told Well + Good. “Conversely, work the abdominal muscles to counterbalance them and flex the spine. If you feel that gravity is pulling us, then the spine muscles need to be constantly working to keep us straight.”
That’s a big responsibility, so it makes sense that we need to work those stabilizers, just as we build our core muscles.
To do this, trainer and creator of Le Sweat Charlie Atkins created a 15-minute bodyweight workout specifically designed to set your body up for good posture. You’ll do exercises to activate your upper body, such as T-pulls and Y-pull downs, where you’ll work to mobilize your shoulder blades. This will strengthen your back and lats, which you need to keep your shoulders from rolling forward. But many workouts will be compound moves that work your upper body, back and core together.
“A lot of posture is going to be core exercise,” Atkins says.
It includes some of the best exercises for posture, such as bird dog, dead bug, and cat cow. You can move your spine slowly and with control, which requires the muscles to focus.
Doing these small movements that require you to squeeze your muscles to create tension and push and pull your limbs in opposite directions may not be as glamorous as heavy lifting or HIIT. It’s just as effective if you want to stand tall.