Have you ever examined what your actual posture has become like these days? Are your shoulders lopsided from carrying heavy bags? They are most likely to be rounded from all the hours you’ve spent behind your computer. Your head may have protruded forward than the natural angle it’s supposed to be. You may have chronic neck pain, shoulder issues, and lower back soreness from tight hamstrings. This is because your current natural posture is what you have grown into over the years. Take a look at the picture of ape evolving into man and then reverting backwards.
The good news is, it’s not too late to fix your posture. Of course the sooner you start, the better. The longer you wait, the more time it will take to reverse the damages. Once your spine has acclimated to a certain angle, there is only so much you can do. All you need to do is to take a look at the older population who have not taken care of their alignment.
Sitting up straight just doesn’t cut it. I’ve been working with clients for years helping them to re-align their bodies while keeping them healthy with a combination of corrective and mobility exercises. Most people neglect to strengthen their back. It’s easier to focus on the vanity muscles you can see, such as your chest and abs as opposed to what’s behind. There are plenty of corrective exercises you can incorporate into your health and fitness routine to improve your posture. Here are three exercises you can do 3-5 x a week in the comfort of your own home or the gym:
1/ Banded “T” Pull Aparts
Take a light band in both arms and hold your arms up overhead with light tension. Start with feet hip width apart, knees soft and pelvis in neutral position. There should be no arch in your lower back. Pull the band apart as you lower your arms down into a “T” shape. Squeeze your shoulder blades as you let the band graze your back. Hold for a second before you release the tension and return to start. Make sure you pull your shoulders down and back so you do not activate your traps. Tension shouldn’t be too tight but enough to force you to retract your shoulder blades. Do 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions.
2/ Prone “Y” Extension or Superman with Lat Pullback
This exercise rotates your shoulders outward when thumbs face the ceiling. It opens up your chest and stretches your abs which are normally flexed. You will strengthen your lower back and upper back muscles at the same time. Lie face down with your legs shoulder width apart, toes dragging behind you as you lift your arms up in a “Y” raise over head. Keep head neutral and lower abdominals engaged as you externally rotate your shoulders. Hold for a second then release. Make sure there is no craning from your neck. The version I am demonstrating is more advanced. In the second version you do not rotate your shoulders. Instead with palms facing down, lift the arms a few inches off the floor. Pull the shoulder blades back and contract as you bring the elbows by your side. Return to start. In the other version, you keep your arms straight and sweep your arms back towards your side. Do 8-10 repetitions.
3/Scapular (Shoulder) Pushups
This exercise recruits the serratus anterior which is important for both shoulder health and function. This can be done on all fours or in regular pushup position. Arms go right underneath shoulders and knees below hips. Keep the arms straight while you allow the chest to sink towards the ground. Push yourself back up to the starting position while maintaining a neutral spine. The only movement should come from between the shoulder blades and will be subtle. This can be done on hands or elbows, whichever feels better for you. Do not allow your lower back to cave in. Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
Incorporating these exercises into your daily health and fitness routine will make a difference over time. We load our bodies with so much wear and tear in our lifetime that it’s important to maintain good posture and alignment. This is how we can avoid future aches, pain and injuries. Mobility also plays a big role in correcting these issues. I will post a separate blog on mobility so stay tuned. In the meantime, start with these exercises to send you in the right direction. Give your body the love it needs, it will thank you in the long run.
Cindy Lai Fitness