Exercises for Better Posture
Want the lean look and elegant posture of a yoga or Pilates teacher? Good posture comes from strong core muscles that stabilize your torso, whether you're sitting at your desk or running errands all day.
Good Posture Starts With a Strong Core
Want to know the best way to improve your posture? Focus on a strong core -- the abdominal and low back muscles that connect to your spine and pelvis. Some of the muscles move your torso, for instance, by flexing, extending, or rotating your spine. Others stabilize your pelvis and spine in a natural, neutral position. The old-style sit-ups used only a few core muscles, often with jerky momentum. Today's yoga, Pilates, and core fitness programs target all of your core muscles with slow, controlled movements to get the most out of your core workout.
The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association urge all healthy adults to add muscle-strengthening exercises to their fitness program at least twice a week for optimal health.
Poor Posture and Back Pain
Weak core muscles are common for people with low back pain. And poor posture can make back pain worse. Core-strengthening helps ease and prevent low back pain, a common problem for 31 million Americans.
The North American Spine Society recommends core strengthening exercise for people with mild low back pain to improve posture, ease symptoms, and prevent future back pain. For severe back pain or injury, clear any exercise program with your doctor before you start. Depending on your health condition, some exercises may not be recommended.
The Anatomy of Posture Exercises
Picture these core muscles you'll strengthen for good posture:
- Rectus abdominis: The wide "six-pack" muscle runs vertically down your stomach. It's used when you bend your spine forward.
- Obliques: The obliques run diagonally around your waist to rotate your torso. The internal obliques lie under the external obliques.
- Transverse abdominis: The deepest core muscles wrap around your waist like a corset and pull your abdomen inward and upward toward your spine. Exhale strongly and pull your stomach in, and you'll feel these muscles working.
- Erector spinae: These back muscles extend your spine and prevent slouching.
Make these posture-boosting exercises a regular part of your workout. Remember to exhale strongly and pull in your core muscles as you work -- a key principle in both Pilates and yoga.
1. Core Stabilizer: Single Leg Extension. This exercise trains your core muscles to work together to stabilize your pelvis.
- Starting position: Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and hands behind your head. Press your low back into the floor, and curl your head up off the floor.
- Action: Exhale strongly and pull your navel in and up toward your spine. Slowly pull one knee into your chest, keeping your low back pressed to the floor, while extending your other leg straight at about a 45-degree angle off the floor. Keep your abdominals pulled in and your low back on the floor. If your low back arches off the floor, extend your leg higher toward the ceiling. Switch legs. Start with five to 10 extensions on each side.