3 Exercises To Improve Posture
Poor posture is to do with energy.
Posture is a position in which you hold your body. You would have heard people talk about bad posture, but is there even such a thing as good or bad posture? Well it depends.
It’s about context.
Good or bad posture depends on what you are doing and whether this posture is efficient for the task or not. For example, if you sit at a desk for 8 hours of a day, it isn’t energy efficient for you to maintain an upright position or ‘good’ posture as it can be taxing. Your body wants to use that energy for the task on the screen, so it dons a hunched/slumped position to conserve energy.
Energy conservation at what cost?
The flip side to energy efficiency in a slumped position is that it means you are practicing a position that doesn’t transfer well to other activities or movements. For example, slumping when deadlifting, squatting, or even walking is not the greatest idea for tissue and joint health.
When we are slumping, we are relying on the passive structures (ligaments, tendons, other connective tissues, and even passive muscle length) to hold us together, versus muscle activation (hence why it’s energy efficient). Any tissue under tension will become overused if loaded or repeated enough, no matter how optimal for the moment.
People are spending more and more time sitting at a desk for work, on a couch watching Netflix or commuting to and from home. Don’t get me wrong, I am not telling you to stop these activities! However, with more time being spent doing these activities the chance your posture will be negatively affected increases.
In sedentary life, your environment encourages your body to adopt a slumped posture to conserve energy, as we’ve discussed above. This causes your muscles and other structures to adapt to meet the demand (or lack of demand) placed on them. This is called cellular adaptation.
If a muscle cell is not stressed enough, it will shrink and get weaker (atrophy), because there is less demand or stimulus placed upon it. The muscles that are not activated during poor posture have little demand placed on them, they become weaker. This can limit range of motion and strength for your body. Depending on the severity, it can even stop people from doing a movement or activity altogether.
If you repeat a movement or lack or movement over a sustained period of time, your body will adapt to it all the way to a cellular level and that movement or position you are practicing repeatedly will become your new baseline.
Variety in postures and movement is important.
Any position your body is fixed in, no matter how optimal it may be for the moment, can become overused.
So how do we improve these imbalances for better posture?
Changes to your posture are gradual and will take time. Being diligent and spending a little bit of time everyday improving your muscle imbalances will go a long way for you to hold a better posture.
To do this we need to target the muscles that have been weakened, re-train our movement patterns so that we can move in and out of a ‘good’ posture with ease and integrate this posture as much as we can in daily life (e.g. walking, sitting etc.). Treatment can include strengthening and stability exercises, both bodyweight and with added resistance, to target our weaker postural muscles.
Try these 3 exercises below to improve your posture.
1. Thoracic extension
To hold a ‘good’ posture being able to move into and maintain thoracic extension is a necessity. This exercise will not only help strengthen your back but it will also enable you to gain more control of over this area of the body.
To set up, kneel down with your knees under a bench or table.
Relax and place your chest on the edge of the bench.
Keep your ribs down and move your chest up into ‘thoracic extension’. Make sure to tuck your chin and squeeze your shoulders back at the top of the movement. Try to gradually increase the time you can hold the end position each time you do this exercise
As well as thoracic extension, scapular retraction, and depression are too essential movements for ‘good’ posture. This exercise will help strengthen and stabilise your scapula muscles.
Start by lying flat on your back with legs up, bent at the knees and raise them toward your chest.
Lift your arms and spread them out wide.
Now try and grip the floor with your shoulders. Make sure your back is flat, move your hips from side to side (as far as they can go) while maintaining contact with the ground.
3. Thoracic Rotation
This exercise builds on the previous two. Being in a lunge puts you in a more vertical position. The movement itself is more representative of a person’s functional needs and is a step up for those really wanting to strengthen the muscles associated with holding a ‘good’ posture.
Get into a lunge position and lock your pelvis down by squeezing your glutes.
Move into thoracic extension, rotate and reach for the ceiling.
Breathe and hold this position for 3-5 seconds.
Repeat for the other side.