6 Exercises That Can Help You Improve Your Posture

eirik-standing-rowOur modern lifestyle, characterized by prolonged sitting and inadequate physical activity, is not kind to our bodies. Lumbar hyperlordosis (“swayback”), thoracic kyphosis (“hunchback”), and other similar musculoskeletal conditions are very common in our society today. Very few contemporary humans have truly great posture.

As I pointed out in my recent article entitled The Muscle Imbalance Epidemic: An Overlooked Problem That Needs to Be Addressed, muscle imbalances are a major culprit of these types of problems. Perhaps needless to say, not all cases of poor posture are caused by muscular imbalances and poor mobility. However, in my experience, many are. In today’s article, I thought I’d share 6 exercises that you can use to improve your posture: 3 exercises for the lower back and body and 3 for the upper body.

Key points

Before we jump in with the exercises, I would like to point out the following:

  • Good exercise technique is critical for correcting poor posture
    If you train with bad form, you may worsen rather than improve your musculoskeletal health. In order to be able to perform the exercises included in this article with good technique, you need to master the hip hinge pattern and know how to activate your glutes, tilt your pelvis, and correctly retract your scapula. My guides for correcting Lower Crossed Syndrome (LCS) and Upper Crossed Syndrome (UCS) can help you achieve these objectives.
  • If you suffer from a muscle imbalance syndrome, you should strongly consider seeking out the help of an experienced coach or therapist
    My experience is that most people find it difficult to treat conditions such as LCS and UCS on their own. For that reason, I would recommend anyone who suffers from these types of disorders to seek out the help of an experienced therapist or coach. If you’re interested in hiring me as your coach, you can contact me via this page. If I think we’re a good fit and feel you are committed to getting better, I may offer to take you on as a client.
  • Pretty much everyone can benefit from doing the 6 exercises included in this article
    In my work with clients I use a broad range of exercises and strategies for correcting bad posture. The types of exercises and strategies I use depend on the client’s needs and goals. The exercise plan included in this article is obviously not tailored specifically for you and your goals. With that said, my experience is that pretty much everyone can benefit from doing the 6 exercises below, which is why I chose them for this article.
  • You should train heavy (but not so heavy that your form is compromised) and focus on progressive overload
    In the videos, I only show how the exercises should be performed, I don’t train heavy. You should obviously work out with a higher intensity than I do in the videos. You should go heavy, but not so heavy that your form is compromised. If you don’t train heavy or focus on progressive overload, your muscles won’t have any reason to change.
  • Many of the exercises can be performed at home or at work
    You don’t need much equipment to perform these exercises. Many of them can easily be performed outside of the gym. If you sit at a desk all day long, you should strongly consider getting up, grabbing a rope or band, and doing some sets on the band rotation exercise every now and then.
  • The goal with doing these exercises is to reverse the process that causes poor posture and muscular imbalances
    Poor posture and conditions such as UCS and LCS typically develop as a result of evolutionary mismatches. The goal with doing the 6 exercises included in this article is to repair the damage that these mismatches have caused by improving mobility, strengthening muscles that have been weakened by inadequate exercise, imbalanced training, excessive sitting, and/or other factors, and using the process of reciprocal inhibition to our advantage, as opposed to letting it occur in a way that is detrimental to health. Basically, the goal is to reverse the process that caused the musculoskeletal problems to develop in the first place.

Improve the posture of your upper body

Band rotation exercise

Key points:

  • Contract your glutes so as to avoid arching your lower back
  • Keep your chin tucked
  • Gradually shorten the distance between your hands as you get stronger in order to make the exercise more difficult

The seated cable row

Key points:

  • Pinch your shoulder blades together as you finish the concentric part of the exercise
  • When the purpose is to improve posture, it’s generally best to place the tension on the muscles of the upper back. Avoid flexing the spine and using the lower back to create momentum.
  • Hold the contraction for 1-2 seconds as you pinch the shoulder blades together

The standing high row

Key points:

  • Contract your glutes so as to avoid arching your lower back
  • Pinch your shoulder blades together as you finish the concentric part of the exercise
  • Hold the contraction for 1-2 seconds as you pinch the shoulder blades together

Improve the posture of your lower back and body

The cable pull through

Key points:

  • Initiate the movement by breaking in your hips and sitting back (not down)
  • Keep your chest high and avoid rounding or excessively arching your back
  • Use the glutes to drive the concentric part of the exercise before contracting them as you finish the movement

The kettlebell swing

Key points:

  • Initiate the movement by breaking in your hips and sitting back (not down)
  • Keep your chest high and avoid rounding or excessively arching your back
  • Use the glutes to powerfully drive the concentric part of the exercise before contracting them as you finish the movement

Straight arm plank with glute squeeze

Key points:

  • Forcefully contract the glutes and keep them contracted for the duration of the exercise
  • Stop when you can no longer keep the glutes tightly squeezed
  • If you’re new to strength training and/or are quite unfit, you may find that this exercise is too hard for you. If this is the case, you should wait to do this exercise until you’ve built up some strength and muscular awareness via other exercises.

Comments

  1. Great exercises Eirik. I also like band pull aparts for high reps to improve posture.

  2. Cool. I’ll have to try them. I like a Jefferson Curl as well. Coach Sommers (USA gymnastics coach) is a big advocate of this move.

  3. These exercises are indeed great exercises but most more aimed to the gym goers, what about the non gym goers?

    A lot of people with bad posture don’t want to or are not able to go down to the gym.

    I like to show people exercises that anyone can do without limits, I think that;s the best starting point when trying to improve posture.

    Anyway, I love the post all the same, I actually find the Standing High Rows to be great on the shoulders.

    Thanks for the great post.

    Sean

    • Hi Sean,

      You don’t need a lot of equipment to do these exercises.

      As long as you have an elastic band, you can do the band rotation exercise and the standing high row. You can also do the pull-through and seated row with a band. It’s generally better to use a cable, but a resistance band works as well.

      The straight arm plank can obviously also be done at home. Also, if you’ve got a kettlebell, you can do the kettlebell swing.

      With that said, it’s much easier to correct bad posture if you have access to real strength training equipment, as you have to apply some tension to the musculuskeletal system to make it change. You won’t accomplish much by simply doing some light stretches on the living room floor.

      In my articles on LCS and UCS I’ve listed several exercises that can be done without any equipment. Perhaps some of those may be suitable for your clients.

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