Posture, posture, posture. We know it’s important but we can’t stand around single-mindedly ensuring that we are in impeccable stature. So how can we help our body to stay in better alignment without having to obsess on it night and day? Strengthening our postural muscles is a great start. While disengaging problem areas which may be overactive or overdeveloped such as the hip flexors or pecs is always a good step too, we must also strengthen the antagonists to these trouble areas. Here are three exercises you can do to focus on postural muscles and help your body stay in line subconsciously. Let’s go top down!
Exercise #1: Neck retractions
Neck protraction, more colloquially known as neck poke, is wildly common nowadays with people looking down at their phones, sitting at desks and generally just slouching. Meanwhile, neck REtraction is going to be your ticket to a happier neck. Sitting tall, simply direct your face straight forward and pull your head straight backwards, keeping your head level. A cue often used is “give yourself a double-chin". Return your head back to neutral and repeat. This action will be the exact opposite of the dreaded chin poke that can lead to headaches and poor spinal alignment. If you are having trouble telling if you are doing this action in the right plane of motion, stand with your back against a wall and retract to press the back of your head against the wall. This will quickly tell you if you are raising or lowering your head.
One way to amplify the range of this motion is through giving gentle pressure on your chin pushing straight backwards. This is known as overpressure. Also, try the wall trick and push the back of your head into the wall with what effort you can handle for a good isometric exercise.
Exercise #2: Hinged Plate Shoulder Retractions
Next up is a great one for low back, glute and hamstring stability while using the upper back musculatures appropriately. To perform this exercise, hold a weight plate in your hands, grabbing each side of the plate and holding it flat. Bend over, hinging your hips back, facing your chest to the ground. Keep your legs only slightly bent. From here, your hands should be holding the plate at arms length parallel to the floor. Make sure your back isn’t rounding and your hips are pushed back. Keeping your core tight, shrug your shoulder blades together like you are squeezing a pencil between your shoulder blades. Relax the shoulders back toward the ground and repeat. Ensure your arms stay locked out and back stays flat.
Try 3 or 4 sets of 12 squeezing the shoulder blades together for a 2 count each rep.
Keep in mind you can use other objects that allow you to hold your arms down at about shoulder-width. If your hamstrings are too tight and don’t allow you to hinge your torso to face the ground, cable and banded bent over rows at a higher angle will suit you best for now.
Exercise #3: Good Mornings
Keeping your spine straight and head in line, push your hips back, allowing the knees to bend. Keeping your shins vertical, let your shoulders lean out the front so you fold at the hips while your core keeps your spine straight. Stomp through the heels to come back up to a standing position and repeat. This move is great for core stability, glute and hamstring recruitment. You can do this one with a barbell on your back OR read our article on utilizing a mobility cane to keep your spine in line.
Bad posture is a habit, and it is hard to break. But with these exercises, I am sure you can break that habit much more easily!