William Smith, MS, author of Exercises for Perfect Posture, has provided his top tips for better overall general posture.
1. Morning Wake-up
Breathe deeply into your belly five times, expanding your chest, ribs, belly and lower back. Stretch your arms and legs in all directions, elongating all the tissues at the neck, shoulders and hips. Squeeze your shoulder blades five times for 3 seconds each.
2. Consummate Commuter
Use a lumbar support. If your car doesn’t have one, a rolled-up towel can suffice, positioned in the lower back curvature. Roll your shoulders forward and backward when safely stopped.
3. Workstation Set-up
Adjust the height of your work station’s chair so that your hips are positioned above your knees. Make sure your elbows are at or above the height of your wrists. Remember, shoulder discomfort, neck pain, and even chronic conditions such as carpel tunnel syndrome can develop from poor posture, if left uncorrected.
4. Mid-Morning Check-in
You can correct deficiencies in posture with brief activities that will fit any schedule, during the little moments of free time throughout the day.
Try this quick posture break: While facing a wall, extend both arms above your head, positioning yourself with both hands flat on the wall. Descend into a squat as far as possible, sliding your hands down the wall. You should feel this movement in your middle back and shoulders.
5. “Tech Neck” Touch-up
While seated, stretch your neck around to alleviate discomfort. Do this by tilting your chin down, ear to each side, and extending your head back, pushing your chin to the ceiling. Return to neutral between each position change, breathing out as you move into the stretch, and breathing in as you return to neutral.
6. Extend More
Try to focus on doing more extensions, planking (positional holds), and lateral and rotational exercises. Do fewer exercises that flex the spine (i.e. crunches). Every 30 minutes, set a timer on your computer to extend backwards at your middle back. Breathe out as you extend.
7. Daily Habits
It’s the daily habits that reinforce positive long term change. For example, when picking up anything from below your knees, drop your hips back while keeping your chest up. Keep whatever you’re picking up close to your body as you stand up. Exercises such as Deadlifts, Front Squats, Overhead Squats, and Dumbbell Rows are “multi-joint” exercises that strengthen important posture muscles making these daily activities a little easier.
8. End of Day Wrap-up
Good posture starts from the ground up: at the feet. Strengthening, stretching and massaging the tissues around the feet and ankles can ease standing and walking strain, particularly after a long day. Try these two tips: Strengthen your arches by pulling a towel with your toes, and lengthen and soften your arches by rubbing a tennis ball (or frozen tennis ball container) from your big toe to your heel.
9. Release the Hands
Your hands are in a “curled position” at your workstation. Stretch these muscles by pulling your hand into a flexed and extended position at least once an hour throughout the day.
10. “Hip to Be Healthy”
Developing a full range of motion in your hips is a key factor in decreasing discomfort in the lower back. Cross your ankle over your opposite knee to stretch your hip for 1 minute/side.
WILLIAM SMITH, MS, NSCA, CSCS, MEPD, completed his B.S. in exercise science at Western Michigan University followed by a master’s degree in education and a post-graduate program at Rutgers University. In 1993, Will began coaching triathletes and working with athletes and post-rehab clientele. Will has advanced specialty certifications in cancer, post-rehab exercise and athletic development.