Posture is important to muscular development as well as your skeleton, but is really overlooked. Most of the time we are more concerned about improving physique weaknesses, like making sure we have rounded medial deltoids or bigger calves, rather than worrying about our shoulders getting rounded from sitting at a desk all day long. As much as we’d all love to make training our career, this is not always the case. Sitting at a desk staring at a computer screen consumes a lot of time for a big portion of the population and really messes with your posture.
Not only that, hunching is a normal stance our bodies take. There’s time when our backs get tired or muscles get sore or we’ve been sitting in the same position for a while and slouching naturally happens. We are not going to sit or stand in the best possible posture for ourselves one hundred percent of the time. But, there’s exercises to correct the stance we’ve managed to acquire from the hours of staring at a computer screen at a desk or slouching or whatever else has been causing the piss poor posture.
Thoracic Spine Extension
This needs one piece of equipment to be accomplished while lying on the floor. Good news is, the foam roller is lying around almost every gym I have ever been in. This exercise is a great way to relieve pressure and extend the back without using muscular forces to do so. Gravity will take a hold and help the extension of your back over the foam roller.
Start by placing the foam roller perpendicular to the way you will be laying your back down on the floor. Next, position yourself so that you’re sitting with the foam roller behind your back. Lower your back towards the floor so it is laying over the foam roller under your thoracic spine. Tuck your hands behind your head and proceed to lower your upper back over the foam roller towards the floor. Then, rock forward like you’re doing a crunch. This exercise is more of a relaxing stretch for all of the muscles responsible for holding the proper posture. As a bonus, it can double as some extra abdominal work.
Walking Lunges with Bent Over Rotation
This exercise is great way to work all different parts of the back with your body weight as well as stretch the muscles that help to support correct posture. You can also think of this exercise as a twist on a Spiderman walk. You start by lunging forward with one leg while keeping your upper body still strait up, then bend over and place both of your hands on the inside of your foot. Meaning, your hands will always be placed on the side of the foot that is closer to the other foot.
Next, keep on hand on the ground next to the foot and, without bending the elbow, reach the other directly overhead towards the sky or ceiling. Place that hand back on the ground and repeat that same motion with the other hand and twisting in the other direction. Straiten the back upwards towards a standing position and perform the next lunge and bent over rotation. I find that three sets of ten reps per each leg works the muscles sufficiently.
Weighted Scapular Slide
Typically, this exercise is done in a standing position against the wall without any weight added – appropriately called a wall slide. The purpose is to teach improvement in shoulder rotation, contraction of the upper back muscles, mobility in the shoulders as well the added benefit of the stretch and relaxation of the large pectoral muscles and anterior deltoids.
It’s performed by standing with the entire posterior of your body touching the wall – the heels, butt, lower arch in the lumbar spine relaxed, thoracic spine, shoulders and head. Your arms are going to be held out parallel to the floor with your palms facing away from the wall and elbows bent at a ninety-degree angle. Without dumbbells, or any resistance for that matter, follow the same motions of an overhead press. Although this form of exercise is appropriate in certain circumstances, it can become ineffective because you can become easily conditioned to the movement rendering it not nearly as effective as it could be.
Adding resistance to this exercise is an excellent way to challenge the body and make this motion more effective and conducive towards its purpose of improving posture supporting muscles. The weight added does not need to be heavy, mild weight will do the trick along with a neutral grip to encourage external shoulder rotation and improve bad posture.
Modify the wall slide by using a seated position and cable machine. The seated position is to prevent you from hyperextending your back, which happens when you compensate due to poor shoulder mobility while performing the lift. This modification of the wall slide uses the same shoulder press motion while holding a cable rope in a neutral position and facing the cable machine.
Posture improvement can be done in a variety of exercises but utilizing a wholistic approach to muscle improvement in the shoulders and upper back tends to be most effective. This can be achieved through resistance training, body weight training as well as stretching and relaxing the muscles. Another variable to be conscious of is shoulder rotation and mobility to support posture and ability to perform posture correcting exercises. Remember that slouching is normal and can occur daily. What’s most important is the ability to have the muscular control to stand upright in proper posture on command.
Written by: Samantha Meinrod