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Best Exercises to Improve Posture
Spending all day sat down and hunched over a computer keyboard or steering wheel can play havoc with your posture. Resulting in a rounded upper back and hunched shoulders, this constantly flexed position can make you look like you are sat down even when you are standing up. Poor posture not only looks aesthetically unappealing, it can also cause back, neck, shoulder and even head pain. Fix your posture by stretching the tight muscles and strengthening the weak muscles responsible for your hunch.
Stretch Those Pecs
Tight chest and front shoulder muscles will pull your shoulders and arms forward into poor posture. Stretching your pecs between periods of sitting can help you adopt a more upright position. With your arms bent to 90 degrees, place your forearms against the vertical sides of an open doorway. Using a staggered stance for balance, gently push your chest forward and between your arms. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds and then rest. Do not stretch beyond the point of mild discomfort. You can also perform this exercise using one arm at a time if you only have access to wide doorways.
Make Like an Angel
The muscles between your shoulder blades, the middle trapezius and rhomboids, are responsible for holding your shoulders back and your chest up. They can become stretched and weak if you spend a lot of time hunched over. Strengthen these muscles so they are better able to battle gravity by performing wall angels. Lean your butt and upper back against a smooth wall. Bend your arms to 90 degrees and push them against the wall so the backs of your hands are flat on the wall. Keeping your shoulders down and back, slide your arms up and down the wall. Perform two to four sets of 12 to 20 repetitions a couple of times per day.
Stretch your Neck with Chin Tucks
A pronounced forward head position, where your ears are well ahead of your shoulders, is a common postural abnormality. Caused by tight front neck muscles, this places a lot of stress on the structures of the back of your neck and may result in neck and headaches. To stretch these muscles, lie on your back with your legs bent and feet flat on the floor. Lengthen your neck and tuck your chin in as if you were trying to touch it to your chest. Hold for a few seconds and then relax. Repeat slowly five to 10 times. You can also perform this exercise standing.
Unwind Your Spine with Skydivers
Poor posture does not only affect your upper back and neck -- your lower back will also often become overly and habitually rounded. There should be a slight arch in your lower back virtually all of the time. To rediscover your lower back arch, perform the skydiver. Lie on your front with your legs straight and feet on the floor. Place your hands on your temples or on the floor next to your hips. Keeping your legs and hips stationary, lift your head, chest and shoulders a few inches off the floor. Hold this position for as long as feels comfortable and then relax. Do not hold your breath as this can cause an unwanted rise in blood pressure.
Stand Up Straight with Mountain Pose
Mountain pose is a yoga exercise, properly called an asana, that helps develop your awareness of your posture while you stand. Deceptively simple, this pose will help you develop good standing posture. In bare feet, stand with your big toes touching and your heels slightly apart. With your weight balanced evenly from left to right, pull your knee-caps up by lightly contracting your thigh muscles. Tilt your pelvis slightly and pull the front of your pelvis up toward your belly button. Pull your shoulders back, lift your chest and lengthen your neck -- imagine you have a balloon attached to your head to help you find the right position. Let your arms hang down by your sides with your palms turned forwards. Maintain this position while breathing through your nose. Stay in position for 30 to 60 seconds.
Build a Bridge to Better Posture
The bridge pose from yoga stretches the muscles on the front of your hips and abdomen while strengthening your lower back and glutes. This is a two-pronged attack on poor posture. Lie on your back with your legs bent and feet flat on the floor, heels as close to your butt as possible. Push your heels and arms into the floor and lift your hips up to the ceiling. If you can, clasp your hands together to further stretch your chest and shoulders. If this is uncomfortable, keep your arms flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart. Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds while breathing slowly through your nose. Place a folded towel or exercise mat behind your neck and shoulders for added comfort.
Patrick Dale is an experienced writer who has written for a plethora of international publications. A lecturer and trainer of trainers, he is a contributor to "Ultra-FIT" magazine and has been involved in fitness for more than 22 years. He authored the books "Military Fitness", "Live Long, Live Strong" and "No Gym? No Problem!" and served in the Royal Marines for five years.