There appears to be another pandemic that is plaguing our generation and its bad posture!
Well it has to be said and something definitely needs to be done about it. I was in the grocery store the other day and noticed a family with two kids standing in line and both parents and the kids each had one or more signs of bad posture. Our generation spends so much time sitting and looking down with computers, smart phones, tablets and hand held game consoles that it’s no wonder why more and more people have bad posture and pain because of it.
Some people may not even realize they have bad posture. Or that a chronic pain may be caused by bad posture.
Here are a couple of tests you can do; Stand how you normally would and look at the direction your thumbs are pointing. Are they pointing straight ahead? That’s good. If they are pointing in toward each other then you most likely have a rounded thoracic spine, or rounded shoulders. This is caused by many things from tight chest muscles to prolonged periods of sitting and even sitting with bad posture. The second test is to look at the angle of your pelvis while standing. Is it rotated forward? This is anterior pelvic tilt. If it is rotated backward, you guessed it, posterior pelvic tilt. Both of these conditions are also caused by extended periods of sitting and sitting with bad posture.
You are in luck though! All of these can be fixed.
Next I will go through exercises to fix bad posture and how some lifestyle changes can prevent them from coming back.
Anterior Pelvic Tilt Stretches
This is one of the most common issues with people that have careers requiring them to sit for long periods of time. This allows the hip flexors to shorten and the hip extensors to lengthen which will make the pelvis rotate forward.
One of the most effective exercises to fix bad posture is an illiopsoas stretch, place one knee on the ground with your other foot in front of you so your thigh is parallel to the ground. Next while squeezing the glute on the side you’re kneeling on push forward so you feel a stretch in the front of the hip area. Hold this for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
The second exercise to fix posture that I recommend is a quad stretch. This is similar but a slightly better version than the one you used to do in gym class where you grabbed your foot and pulled it up to your butt. Instead, start by laying on your stomach and reaching back with one arm to grab the foot of the same side. Now while pointing your toes pull your foot up toward your butt until you feel a stretch in your quad and hold it for 30 seconds. Again repeat for the other side.
Posterior Pelvic Tilt Stretches
First is an abdominal stretch, lay flat on your stomach with your hands in a push-up position about shoulder width apart. Now push you head and shoulders up as high as you can, locking out your arms while trying to keep your pelvis on the ground. You should feel a stretch in your lower abdomen, try to hold this for 30 seconds.
Next is a hamstring stretch, now if you are looking for exercise to fix bad posture I can assume you already have bad posture, in which case I will recommend you don’t do a standing hamstring stretch where you lean forward and try to touch your toes. Most of the time if you suffer from bad posture your lower back will round and you won’t be targeting the hamstrings. Instead, lay flat on your back and while keeping one leg straight grab the back of your other knee with both hands and pull your knee up to your chest, if you’re flexible enough you could keep this leg straight and hold lower down your leg as well. Hold this for 30 seconds and repeat for the other hamstring.
Upper Back Stretch
Fixing rounded thoracic spine; or rounded shoulders as most people would call it, takes another simple exercise that can be done at home. You will require a broom handle or a bar of some sort to do this one properly. Lay on your stomach while holding the broom stick above your head with your hands wider than shoulder width apart. Now keep both feet on the ground and pull your left hand up while keeping your right hand pressed in to the ground, almost like you are trying to roll over but your feet are stuck to the ground. If you don’t have a stick handy this can be done effectively, just imagine you are holding a stick and keep your chest as open as you can. This stretch really opens up the thoracic spine and helps with the rounded shoulders, again repeat on the other side and hold for 10 seconds, alternate back and forth a few times making sure to have consistent controlled repetitions.
This is one of those exercises for bad posture that should be completed every other day by anyone that spends a lot of time sitting or works out with weights regularly. Lat hangs open up the shoulder girdle whose primary function is to give strength and range of motion to the arm. This exercise serves to decompress the spine and strengthen the rotator cuff.
Begin by standing on a bench or chair under a pull-up bar, grab the bar with a shoulder width grip and let your legs hang, allow your arms to go straight and don’t try to do a pull-up. Now rotate your pelvis in to a posterior pelvic tilt to slightly round your lower back. This is probably the only time I will tell you to do that.
Next up for exercises to fix bad posture are a couple of very similar stretches for opening up your chest. Tight chest muscles also contribute to rounded shoulders because they attach at the shoulder and in the middle of the chest so when they are tight it will pull your shoulders forward and in.
Now to correct this there are a couple of stretches that can be done. First, stand in a doorway, bend your arm 90 degrees and raise it up like you were going to throw a ball, then press the inside of your elbow on the door jamb and lean forward until you feel the stretch in your chest. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
The second stretch you raise your arm up in the same way like you were going to throw a ball but this time you will put the door jamb on your bicep almost at your arm pit, now lean forward and push your hand up toward the top of the door allowing your arm to straighten. When you do this you should feel a stretch in the lower part of your chest. Again hold this for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
An exercise to fix bad posture that I do at the end of every workout is a face-pull, these are great to strengthen the upper back muscles and rear delts while also opening up the chest a bit. If you have a resistance band attach it to an anchor point at chin height, now while facing the anchor holding the band with your arms straight, pull your hands toward you to either side of your face with your thumbs pointing behind you. Just remember to let your hand lead your elbow so you don’t cause shoulder pain, this means squeeze your back, pull your hands to your face and don’t pull your elbows back until your hands have passed them.
Build a Strong Core
Core training is something you should be doing at least every other day if not every day. You share this on twitter (Tweet this)
I covered the benefits of a strong core in a previous article that you can find here so I won’t go in to too much detail now. A strong core will help you to keep a better posture throughout the day and prevent needing exercise to fix bad posture.
Adjust Your Work Station
Now that we have covered exercises to fix bad posture let’s discuss a couple of things you can change at work to help prevent creating posture issues. Stand at work if possible, get an elevated work station or a tall desk so you have the option to stand, see how long you can stand each day. Fix your sitting position/posture, set your chair height so your legs are at a 90 degree angle with your feet flat on the floor, keep your core tight with your shoulder blades back and your head up looking straight ahead. Finally, set your monitor height so you don’t have to look up or down, you want to be looking straight with your chin as level as possible.
Also, if you find you are sitting for long periods at a time then set a reminder to get up and move around every 20 minutes, do some stretches beside your desk or in the hall. You could even get some of your co-workers doing the same so that you motivate each other in the same way a workout partner can motivate you.
What are some things you do to fix or prevent bad posture? Let me know in the comments below.