This 9-Move Workout Will Improve Your Posture
A workout that gets you properly aligned will make you feel great for years to come. Welcome to the ache-free zone.
If sitting at a desk or reclining on the couch for hours a day has you feeling sore in your neck, back, or hips, put this workout on your calendar, stat! The mix of moves created by Rena Eleázar, DPT, CSCS, sports physical therapist and cofounder and co-owner of Match Fit Performance in New York City, will help you stand (and sit) taller and stronger.
The routine is designed to strengthen spots that are weakened by a hunched-over, seated posture, and stretches out the areas that feel tight (you know the ones!). But you'll also be improving stability and mobility for when you do get up from that chair, Eleázar says.
"This program can help with posture and getting strong in all different kinds of positions. But what's even more important when it comes to combating pain from prolonged sitting is just moving more frequently," she says. Inactivity is really what causes discomfort.
Grab a resistance band and a towel, and do these eight exercises as midday movement to shake off those aches. Repeat each move 6 to 10 times, for 3 to 4 sets. You want to reach fatigue by the end of each set, but not the point of failure, Eleázar says. As you get stronger, add resistance for a challenge.
Try this workout two to three times a week, along with taking more steps throughout the day. These adjustments to your daily life won't only improve your fitness and posture, but they can enhance your quality of life, too.
Resisted chin retractions
Why: Strengthens neck flexors and will counteract pain from the forward-and-down head position held when scrolling on the phone or looking at your laptop. (A) Start seated, shoulders over hips. Place a resistance band around the back of the head, right in the middle. Keep eyes straight ahead. (B) Push head backward into the band. Avoid tucking the chin down and instead press back. Return to neutral, and repeat.
Seated thoracic extension
Why: Encourages movement in the upper (or thoracic) spine and ribs to help reverse a hunched-forward position. (A) Start seated, shoulders over hips with top of the chair or couch lined up just below shoulder blades (a rolled-up towel placed at the mid back also works, if your chair is too high). Place both hands behind head. (B) Engage abs and flatten back, creating a neutral spine. Then extend upper spine backward, elbows pointing toward the ceiling. Keep abs engaged and lower spine neutral. Return to upright position, and repeat.
Seated thoracic rotation
Why: Practice this move regularly, and you can then twist and turn with more ease and less risk of injury. (A) Start seated, shoulders over hips, knees over ankles. Gently press butt into the seat so lower half remains steady. Place hands on opposite shoulders, crossing arms, and bring elbows to shoulder height. (B) Keeping eyes and chin forward, and butt in the seat, rotate to the right. Return to center, then rotate to the left. Continue alternating, moving slowly.
Why: Stretches tightened chest muscles, while adding mobility and strength to the shoulders and upper back. (A) Start standing in front of a wall, butt and back against it. Extend arms overhead, palms facing away from wall, and engage abs and flatten back for neutral spine. (B) Gently squeeze shoulder blades back. Then, pull elbows down to about shoulder height. Extend arms back overhead, and repeat. Keep back flat against the wall the entire time. If you can't get arms to the wall, instead hover arms slightly away from the wall as you move with control.
Why: Strengthens upper-back muscles between shoulder blades to help offset a rounded upper body. (A) Start standing, feet about hip-width apart. Hold a resistance band with both hands at shoulder height, wider than shoulder-width apart. Keep a neutral spine, engage abs, and squeeze shoulder blades together. (B) Pull the band out to the sides and slightly downward. With control, bring arms back to position A, and repeat. Maintain tension on the band the entire time.
Bent-over row with band tension
Why: Increases strength in the muscles that run down the spine, back of shoulders, and upper back. (A) Start standing, feet about hip-width apart. Hold a resistance band with both hands. Hinge forward at the hips and extend arms down in front of you, palms facing behind you and hands about shoulder-width apart. (B) Keeping tension on the band by pulling it apart and engaging core, squeeze the shoulders down and back, away from ears. Then pull the elbows back to the sides of torso. Extend arms back out, and repeat.
Plank to downward dog
Why: Builds hand and wrist strength, as well as shoulder and core stability. Maintain a neutral neck position (read: not dropping your head toward the floor in the plank) to help strengthen the neck extensors. (A) Start in a plank position, shoulders over wrists, core engaged and back flat. Look toward the top of the mat or slightly in front of hands to keep neck neutral. (B) Then, tracing a line down the middle of the mat with your eyes and toward your feet, lift hips, bringing chest through shoulders. Keep knees slightly bent in Downward Dog. Return to plank, and repeat.
Towel reverse lunge
Why: Targets the core, builds knee strength, and increases mobility and stability through the hips and legs. (A) Start standing, right foot on a folded towel. (B) Slide right foot back, bending left knee about 90 degrees and right knee bending slightly. Keep pelvis tucked slightly forward to feel a stretch in back right leg. Drive through front left foot to stand up. Complete the set on the right side, then switch to left.
This article originally appeared in the May 2021 issue of Health Magazine. Click here to subscribe today!
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