Of all the things we could be training for—strength, power, speed, muscle, weight loss, the Olympics—why should we waste our valuable time training for better posture? Simple. Because it’s foundational to all those things. Without a state of balance in the body, which is the definition of posture, you won’t be able to reach your full potential in any activity, plus there’s a good chance you’ll injure yourself trying.
Better posture is the secret performance weapon most athletes ignore. Or at least that’s what Sue Falsone, PT, CSCS, the director of performance physical therapy for Athletes’ Performance, contends. In fact, she’s thrown down a challenge: Make one small change in your training this month by doing the following workout and see if it improves not just your posture but a whole lot more.
The following exercises, which take just minutes a day to do, are designed to strengthen the postural muscles in your shoulders, neck, chest, abdominals, and back while helping you break bad habits such as slouching and shallow breathing. Ready to give it a try? Here’s your Better Posture Workout:
Monday, Wednesday, Friday
Stability Ball Series
Do 1 set of 10 reps for each of the following stability ball exercises, gradually building to 3 sets of 10 by month’s end.
▪ Stability Ball Y’s – Watch an instructional video here.
▪ Stability Ball T’s – Watch an instructional video here.
▪ Stability Ball W’s – Watch an instructional video here.
Shoulder Mobility Progression
Lying – Knees Bent – Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the ground. Place both arms out at shoulder height on the floor, with elbows bent at 90 degrees. (Imagine the feds just broke in and said, “Put your hands up!”) Tuck your chin, engage your torso and slowly slide both arms up along the floor without letting your lower back, rib cage, shoulders, or chin lift. If they do, stop and slide your arms back to the start position. Do 2 sets of 5-10 reps. When that gets easy, do…
Lying – Legs Straight – Same as the previous exercise, only your legs are fully extended on the floor. Do 2 sets of 5-10 reps. When that gets easy, do…
Seated – Back Against Wall, Knees Bent – Sit with your back flat against a wall. Rest your feet on the floor so your knees are comfortably bent. Place both arms out at shoulder height against the wall with elbows bent at 90 degrees. (It’s the feds again!) Tuck your chin, engage your torso and slowly slide both arms up along the wall without letting your lower back, rib cage, shoulders, or chin lift. If they do, stop and slide your arms back to the start position. Do 2 sets of 5-10 reps. When that gets easy, do…
Seated – Back Against Wall, Legs Straight – Same as the previous exercise only your legs are fully extended on the floor. Do 2 sets of 5-10 reps.
Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday
Down Dog Push-ups – Assume a plank position with arms extended directly below your shoulders and feet about 10-12 inches apart. Head, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles should be aligned. Keeping your elbows and knees straight, draw in your belly button, push through your hands, raise your hips, and sink your heels toward the floor. You should be in an inverted V position. Relax your neck and roll your upper arms outward. Hold for 2 seconds, return to plank position, and repeat for 2 sets of 10 reps.
Heel Sit Rotations – Get on your hands and knees, so you resemble a sturdy table. While keeping your hands on the floor, let your hips fall back onto your heels (or as close as they can get). Put your left hand on the back of your head and exhale as you rotate your chest and arm open to the left. Only go as far as you can without coming off your heels. Try to have the movement come from your mid-back rather than your shoulder joint. Hold for 2 seconds, and then return to the starting position. Do 2 sets of 10 reps on each side.
Mini Band Wall Walks – Stand facing a wall with a mini band or strap around both wrists. Place your forearms and pinkies against the wall, with wrists directly over elbows. Engage your torso and add tension to the mini band by moving your hands a bit farther apart. Slowly slide your hands up the wall, maintaining band tension throughout. After reaching the top, slowly slide your hands back down. Do 1 set of 5 reps to start (don’t scoff, this is really tough), building to 3 sets of 5 reps by month’s end.
Falsone points out that postural muscles are endurance muscles, so you’ll need more than these short workouts to counteract 8+ hours of sitting poorly at your desk or in your car. So she recommends doing these little drills periodically throughout the day:
Rearview Mirror Lifts – The next time you slide into the driver’s seat, imagine someone put an ice cube down your back. Now adjust your rearview mirror to that straight-spine position. Whenever you check to see who’s on your tail, you’ll be reminded to sit up straighter.
Computer Eye Gazes – Take a small mirror and duct-tape it to the top of your computer screen. Then sit up straight in your chair and adjust the mirror so you can see your eyes. Whenever you look in the mirror and don’t see yourself staring back, you’ll know you’re slouching.
Lumbar Rolls – Roll up a towel and put it at the base of your spine when you’re sitting at dinner or in front of the TV. It’ll support the low back and help promote good posture.
Breathe Rights – Poor posture pinches the diaphragm and restricts breathing, which directly impacts performance. Train yourself to breathe more fully by occasionally placing the palms of your hands below your rib cage. Practice inhaling as if you were inflating an inner tube encircling that area. Instead of feeling the breath go up and down, feel it go around.
“If all these little exercises feel tiring, it’s because you have poor posture,” says Falsone. “The only way to win is to constantly work at it.”