A reminder of all of the benefits of better posture: less strain on our system, better balance in the muscles that support the spine and the joints, better efficiency, less fatigue, less strain of muscles, better circulation, better physical appearance and best of all, MORE CONFIDENCE! With all of these benefits, what’s not to like about sitting, standing and moving with better posture?


In this second post, let’s look at what’s needed to maintain that upright posture and neutral spine that you’ve been working on this past month. We’ll focus on movements, stretches and exercises to help build and stretch the muscles we use for posture, and then on to some upper-body strengtheners to build the strength and integrity in the muscles that help support good posture.

When you’re slumping in a chair staring at your computer screen (see my last post), there are two obvious things that need improvement: upper/mid back strength, and some opening across the chest and front of the shoulders. The muscles in the mid/upper back get slack and lack muscular integrity and strength because they’re being pulled forward by the weight of the head and chest. The muscles in the front of the body, the chest and the shoulders get tight from lack of movement and stretching. So we’ll start with a seated position and begin with some easy movements to “wake up” the body.

RANGE OF MOTION AND RELEASE

1. From a seated position, place your hands on your thighs, and try to straighten your arms to lift and extend your spine. Then roll forward, bending your elbows, allowing your head to following the line of the flexion of your spine. Do 5–6 reps to help move and lubricate your spine and trunk.

2. Let your arms hang by your sides, and roll your shoulders forward, up and around a few times, and then roll them in the other direction.

3. Sitting up tall with your arms by your sides or on your lap, let your chin fall toward your chest, and then look up; do 5–6 reps at a pace that won’t make you dizzy. Then look left and right a few times.

Here’s a short video of some these small and easy movements that you can do at your chair (or standing if you want).

STATIC POSTURE WORK

1. Stand against a wall with your heels about 6 inches from the wall, and your hips, trunk and head against the wall. You can keep your legs straight or bent in a squat to work your legs if you’re up for it. Roll your shoulders back, and keep your chest open while drawing in your abdominals. Push your head, upper back/shoulders and back of your hips against the wall. Maintain this position for 30-60 seconds at least once a day.

This will begin training the body to learn the correct posture, and the following exercises will help to build the strength and range of motion to maintain this posture without the wall.

SUPINE RELEASE WORK ON THE ROLLER

1. Lie on top of a roller lengthwise. Reach your arms toward the ceiling, and let your scapula roll forward over your ribs and then retract, draping over the roller. Do 5–10 reps once a day.

2. Let your elbows bend, and allow your arms to come to the floor; stay in this position for 30–60 seconds to allow your chest to open and stretch. This time on the roller is a nice way to relax and stimulate the muscles surrounding the spine.

3. Come off of the roller, and lie on the floor with your upper back on the roller as shown in the photo. Bend your knees, placing your feet on the floor, lift your hips and roll out your upper back. This is usually pleasant, but if you feel discomfort, stop and try another time. Myofascial release is another way to stimulate the circulatory system and muscles and release tension.

SCAPULAR MOBILITY/STABILITY WITH UPPER-BODY WORK

This video shows a SmartBell under the hands, but hands on the floor also works; the SmartBell adds additional core work and instability.

1. Come to the floor with your hands under your shoulders, and knees under your hips. Without bending your elbows, allow your chest to fall between your shoulders toward the floor (your scapula will come closer together behind the back), and then push the floor away and bring your scapula apart. Bend your elbows, bringing them toward your thighs for 2 reps, then return to neutral again.

2. To progress this move, when bending the elbows, you can shift your weight forward, bringing more intensity to your upper body. If this causes pain or discomfort, go back to shifting the hips back toward your heels as the elbows bend.

Perform these exercises daily, to help you gain some range of motion in your upper body and make sitting, standing and moving easier to do with better posture.


 

 

 

About Portia: Portia Page has been in the fitness industry for more than 25 years as a teacher, a program and fitness director, an international presenter and an author. She is the education project manager for Balanced Body and the author of Pilates Illustrated (Human Kinetics). Portia has a bachelor’s in cognitive science from UCSD. and is PMA-, ACE- and AFAA-certified.

June 19, 2017 at 10:17 am
Category: Articles, Pilates Blog, Videos
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