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8 Exercises To Improve Posture (And Why)

Published October 15, 2019 (Revised: October 18, 2019)
Ben Kissam

Written By: Ben Kissam, BS

Ben has a B.S. in Movement and Sports Science and over 7 years Certified Personal Training Experience.

posture-exercises
<script type="application/ld+json"> { "@context":"http://schema.org", "@type":"BlogPosting", "author": { "@type": "Person", "name": "Ben Kissam, BS" }, "publisher": { "@type": "Organization", "name": "Warrior Made", "logo": { "@type": "ImageObject", "url": "https://www.warriormade.com", "image": "https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/2019/09/man-typing-computer-wood-picnic-table-outside-thumbnail-0260.jpg" } }, "headline":"8 Exercises To Improve Posture (And Why)", "datePublished":"2019-10-15", "dateModified": "2019-10-18", "description":"Do you have bad posture? To fix it, retrain your negative habits by strengthening your postural muscles. Here are the 8 best exercises to improve posture.", "image": "https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/2019/09/man-typing-computer-wood-picnic-table-outside-thumbnail-0260.jpg" } </script> <script type="application/ld+json"> { "@context": "https://schema.org", "@type": "FAQPage", "mainEntity": [{ "@type": "Question", "name": "What is posture?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "According to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA), posture is the position we hold our bodies in while standing, sitting, and even lying down at night to sleep." } }, { "@type": "Question", "name": "Can you fix bad posture?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "Good and bad posture comes down to the habits you form when holding certain positions. Even though it’ll be uncomfortable at first, you can fix bad posture by committing to sitting and standing in healthier positions. Over time this will become your new “normal”.<br />Exercises that strengthen your core, glutes, and hips can also help correct a slouching posture. If something is particularly tight and making sitting, standing, or holding other positions uncomfortable, stretching may also help." } }, { "@type": "Question", "name": "How can I correct my posture?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "The first step is to become aware of how you’re holding a position now. Assuming you’re trying to correct how you sit, stand, or even sleep, this will help you determine what needs to be fixed.<br />Depending on your position, use these tips:<br />If you sit at a desk all day for work, you might try elevating your computer screen so your shoulders don’t round. A screen that’s lower than eye-level may cause you crane your neck to the floor).<br />When you stand, pull your shoulders back and engage your core (abs and lower back).<br />When you sleep, place a small pillow under your knees and lie on your back. Research shows this helps keep a neutral spine and supports the natural curve of your body." } }] } </script> <article> <div> <ul> <li><a href="#section1">What is Posture?</a></li> <li><a href="#section2">Can You Fix Bad Posture?</a></li> <li><a href="#section3">How Can I Correct My Posture?</a></li> <li><a href="#section4">What are the Best Exercises for Bad Posture? (8 Exercises)</a></li> <li><a href="#section5">Posture Exercises—Wrap-Up</a></li> </ul> </div> <section> <p>Posture is about maintaining proper alignment in everyday life. In fact, our physical posture even affects our mental and emotional posture. Holding the right positions when sitting or standing help us develop strength, flexibility, and whole-body balance <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.healthline.com/health/posture-exercises" rel="nofollow noreferrer">1</a></sup>.</p> <p>Unfortunately, poor posture can also cause a lot of problems, putting unnecessary stress on your spine, muscles, and ligaments. </p> <p>So whether you sit all day at work or not, prioritizing good posture is important. And the good news is that if you have been bogged down with back pain, correcting your poor posture can bring fast, quick healing. And your efforts toward better posture will also directly affect (or prevent!) pain in other parts of the body before it becomes more serious.</p> <p>Posture comes down to two things: <i>forming correct habits and strengthening muscles.</i> Both can do wonders for improving alignment and decreasing pain when you sit or stand.</p> <p>Here’s a look at how to correct poor posture, the 8 best exercises to improve it, and why this all matters for your long-term physical wellness.</p> </section> <section id="section1"> <h2>What is posture?</h2> <p>According to the <i>American Chiropractic Association (ACA)</i>, posture is the position we hold our bodies in while standing, sitting, and even lying down at night to sleep<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://acatoday.org/content/posture-power-how-to-correct-your-body-alignment" rel="nofollow noreferrer">2</a></sup>. </p> <h3>Good posture</h3> <p>The ACA defines ‘good posture’ as positions when body parts are correctly aligned and supported by the right amount of muscle tension <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://acatoday.org/content/posture-power-how-to-correct-your-body-alignment" rel="nofollow noreferrer">3</a></sup>.</p> <p>The muscles in your back, neck, shoulders, core, and hips all play a role in good posture. In every position, some tension in these muscles helps keep your spine in alignment and protect it.</p> <p>For example: good posture when sitting upright in a chair is marked by the tension in your abdominals and an arch in the lower back. In correct position, your shoulders aren’t rounded, and your neck is positioned over your hips <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321863.php" rel="nofollow noreferrer">4</a></sup>.</p> <h3>Poor posture</h3> <p>On the other hand, poor posture is any position that puts unnecessary strain on your muscles. </p> <p>An example of poor posture is sitting in a slouched position, slumped in your chair with rounded shoulders, your neck forward, and lower back muscles relaxed.</p> <p>Chronically poor posture can cause the muscles to relax when they’re not supposed to, which results in something called ‘long-tightness’ <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.painscience.com/articles/stiffness-and-rom.php" rel="nofollow noreferrer">5</a></sup>.</p> <p><i>(Long-tightness is a tense feeling in the muscles when they’re forced to overcompensate for other muscles that are either weak or tight. Technically they’re being stretched, which is why they’re called ‘long’, but the sensation is tight or painful.)</i></p> <p>Factors that contribute to bad posture include stress, obesity, weak core muscles, and tight muscles. Prolonged sitting habits, for work or leisure, can also cause problems <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://acatoday.org/content/posture-power-how-to-correct-your-body-alignment" rel="nofollow noreferrer">6</a></sup>.</p> <p>We’ll look at how to correct bad posture when sitting, standing, or lying in a moment.</p> </section> <section id="section2"> <h2>Can you fix bad posture?</h2> <p>Good and bad posture comes down to the habits you form when holding certain positions. Even though it’ll be uncomfortable at first, you can fix bad posture by committing to sitting and standing in healthier positions. Over time this will become your new “normal” <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/common-posture-mistakes-and-fixes/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">7</a></sup>.</p> <p>Exercises that strengthen your core, glutes, and hips can also help correct a slouching posture<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/common-posture-mistakes-and-fixes/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">8</a></sup>. If something is particularly tight and making sitting, standing, or holding other positions uncomfortable, stretching may also help.</p> </section> <section id="section3"> <h2>How can I correct my posture?</h2> <p>The first step is to become <i>aware</i> of how you’re holding a position now. Assuming you’re trying to correct how you sit, stand, or even sleep, this will help you determine what needs to be fixed.</p> <p>Depending on your position, use these tips:</p> <ul> <li><b>If you sit at a desk all day for work</b>, you might try elevating your computer screen so your shoulders don’t round. A screen that’s lower than eye-level may cause you crane your neck to the floor). </li> <li><b>When you stand</b>, pull your shoulders back and engage your core (abs and lower back).</li> <li><b>When you sleep</b>, place a small pillow under your knees and lie on your back. Research shows this helps keep a neutral spine and supports the natural curve of your body <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=1&ContentID=4460" rel="nofollow noreferrer">9</a></sup>.</li> </ul> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section4"> <h2>What are the best exercises for bad posture? (8 Exercises)</h2> <h3>1. Doorway stretch</h3> <p>Believe it or not, a tight upper body can contribute to bad posture. Slouching while sitting can lead to a tight chest and a weak back <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/common-posture-mistakes-and-fixes/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">10</a></sup>.</p> <p>To open up these muscles, find a doorway. Place the inside of your elbow at a 90 degree angle to your body against the doorway (which is now behind you). Gently press. You should feel a stretch through your chest and arms.</p> <p>Hold for 30 seconds on one side, then switch. </p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/woman-stretch-childs-pose-0260.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/woman-stretch-childs-pose-0260.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/woman-stretch-childs-pose-0260.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/woman-stretch-childs-pose-LR-0260.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="woman-stretch-childs-pose"> </picture> <h3>2. Child’s pose with thoracic rotation</h3> <p>Child’s pose is a beginner yoga exercise. It’s great for stretching and <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/latissimus-dorsi" rel="noreferrer">strengthening the lats</a>, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/best-at-home-exercises-for-lower-back-pain" rel="noreferrer">lower back</a>, neck, and <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/3-serratus-anterior-exercises" rel="noreferrer">shoulders</a>. It’s also a good exercise for relieving stress. </p> <p>To do child’s pose:</p> <ul> <li>Either on a yoga mat or padded surface, sit on your shin bones with toes pointed away from your body so the tops of your feet are also on the ground. Place your knees together or as close together as you can get them comfortably.</li> <li>Bend forward at the hips, crawling your hands in front of your body. </li> <li>Place your hands flat on the floor.</li> <li>Take a breath and relax your muscles.</li> <li>Gently inch your hands forward. Once you can go no further, push your hands into the floor. You should feel a stretch down your arms, through your shoulders and back.</li> </ul> <p>To add a thoracic rotation, bring one hand off the ground and bring it to your ear. Rotate your spine slowly, opening up the rib cage towards the wall. Exhale, then return to child’s pose. Repeat on the other side.</p> <p>Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes, then relax.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/plank-posture-0260.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/plank-posture-0260.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/plank-posture-0260.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/plank-posture-LR-0260.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="plank-posture"> </picture> <h3>3. Planks</h3> <p>Here’s your first strengthening exercise for the postural muscles. The first two exercises offer more of a stretch, while planks force your <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/4-best-core-exercises-for-beginners" rel="noreferrer">core muscles</a> to work together as one unit.</p> <p>Follow all the proper cues of a <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/plank-exercises-to-activate-your-core/" rel="noreferrer">perfect plank</a>:</p> <ul> <li>Four points of contact on the floor: two forearms and two feet.</li> <li>Tighten the glutes and belly muscles. This is known as a <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/how-to-do-a-hollow-hold" rel="noreferrer">hollow hold</a>.</li> <li>As you fatigue, fight to keep your body in one straight line. Don’t let the hips sag or your butt go up to the ceiling, like a ‘downward’ dog yoga pose (though as you’ll see next, those help with posture too!).</li> </ul> <p>Hold the plank as long as you can with good form. You can also do side planks, which train your <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/best-oblique-exercises-for-core-strength" rel="noreferrer">obliques</a>.</p> <p>If this is too hard, try <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/27-beginner-bodyweight-exercises-that-get-results" rel="noreferrer">kneeling planks</a>.</p> <p>Repeat 5 times, then relax.</p> <h3>4. Up/down dog</h3> <p>Below demonstrates the “Up Down Dog” exercise, a dynamic beginner exercise combining both upward and downward dog. Both variations are great for improving posture. You can do this either as a static exercise or combine the two into something larger, like a <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/what-is-circuit-training-and-is-it-right-for-you" rel="noreferrer">circuit workout</a>.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/young-woman-downward-facing-dog-stretch-0260.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/young-woman-downward-facing-dog-stretch-0260.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/young-woman-downward-facing-dog-stretch-0260.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/young-woman-downward-facing-dog-stretch-LR-0260.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="young-woman-downward-facing-dog-stretch"> </picture> <h4><b>Downward dog:</b></h4> <ul> <li>Start in a plank position. Squeeze the belly, glutes, and make your body one straight line.</li> <li>Push through your hands into the floor and bring your hips and butt high towards the ceiling. Your body should look like an upside down ‘V’.</li> <li>Work to straighten your legs and arms and keep your hips up. Your heels should stay slightly off the ground.</li> <li>The harder you push through the ground, the easier it is to maintain the position.</li> </ul> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/young-woman-upward-dog-stretch-0260.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/young-woman-upward-dog-stretch-0260.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/young-woman-upward-dog-stretch-0260.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/young-woman-upward-dog-stretch-LR-0260.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="young-woman-upward-dog-stretch"> </picture> <h4><b>Upward dog: </b></h4> <ul> <li>Start lying on your belly in the bottom of a push-up. Place your hands so they’re close to your ribs and tuck your elbows by your side.</li> <li>Press your torso only off the floor. Your legs can come off the floor slightly, but shouldn’t move in one straight line like a push-up. Think of this as a <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/how-to-do-perfect-squats-and-pushups" rel="noreferrer">pushup</a> for your upper body, where everything from your belly button up to your head leaves the ground.</li> <li>In upward dog, don’t let your shoulders move slouch your ears. Think about “keep the turtle out of its shell”. </li> <li>Look up to the sky and take a deep breath. Control your breathing throughout.</li> </ul> <p>Hold either position for 20 to 30 seconds then rest.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/young-woman-shoulder-bridge-lift-0260.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/young-woman-shoulder-bridge-lift-0260.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/young-woman-shoulder-bridge-lift-0260.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/young-woman-shoulder-bridge-lift-LR-0260.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="young-woman-shoulder-bridge-lift"> </picture> <h3>5. Shoulder bridge lifts/table tops</h3> <p>Shoulder bridge lifts can help “wake up” the shoulder muscles and prevent long-tight muscles. This will keep your posture on point.</p> <p>To do shoulder bridges: </p> <ul> <li>Lie on your back on the ground and place your feet flat on the ground. </li> <li>Open your palms so they face the sky.</li> <li>Squeezing the glutes, bring your pelvis to the ceiling.</li> <li>At the top of the rep, squeeze your butt as hard as you can and pause for one second.</li> </ul> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/reverse-table-top-pose-young-woman-beach-0260.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/reverse-table-top-pose-young-woman-beach-0260.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/reverse-table-top-pose-young-woman-beach-0260.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/reverse-table-top-pose-young-woman-beach-LR-0260.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="reverse-table-top-pose-young-woman"> </picture> <p>Tabletops (seen above) are another option. These have the added benefit of opening up your chest and stretching your bicep muscles as you activate your glutes.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/pigeon-stretch-yoga-woman-0260.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/pigeon-stretch-yoga-woman-0260.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/pigeon-stretch-yoga-woman-0260.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/pigeon-stretch-yoga-woman-LR-0260.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="pigeon-stretch-yoga-woman"> </picture> <h3>6. Pigeon with shoulder squeeze</h3> <p>The first four exercises focused on opening up or strengthening the upper back and shoulders. When it comes to posture, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/glutes-101-best-exercises-for-your-gluteus-maximus/" rel="noreferrer">tight glutes</a> can also be a problem. Your glutes work with your <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/5-exercises-for-hip-pain" rel="noreferrer">hips</a> and core muscles when <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/5-simple-chair-exercises-for-everyday-fitness/" rel="noreferrer">sitting</a> or standing. Keeping them strong and limber is ideal.</p> <p>To do pigeon:</p> <ul> <li>Place the outside of your thigh and knee on the ground in a split position. Your other leg should be extended in front of you, and bent at the knee so your heel lands at the groin of your opposite leg. </li> <li>Gently lean forward. Go slow. If you’re tight, you won’t be able to go far without feeling a stretch in your glutes.</li> </ul> <p>Hold for 30 to 60 seconds on each side. Repeat twice.</p> <p><b>More advanced:</b> Try interlocking your hands behind your back, palms facing away from you. This will open up the chest. You can use a towel or rope held in both hands to span the gap behind you if you can’t reach.</p> <p>To make this a fitness exercise, start in a regular plank and alternate pigeon stretches on each side. This is a good way to work out your core.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/couch-stretch-outside-woman-0260.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/couch-stretch-outside-woman-0260.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/couch-stretch-outside-woman-0260.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/couch-stretch-outside-woman-LR-0260.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="couch-stretch-outside-woman"> </picture> <h3>7. Couch stretch</h3> <p>You’ll need a couch and perhaps a soft cushion for this stretch. To make it more of an exercise that you can use in a workout, pick your <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/6-bodyweight-leg-workout-progressions-you-can" rel="noreferrer">favorite lunge exercise</a>.</p> <p>To do couch hip flexor stretch:</p> <ul> <li>Position yourself facing away from the couch. Put a cushion on the floor to protect your knee.</li> <li>Place your back knee—the one you’d drop down with when doing a lunge—on the pillow. Put the back part of your foot up on the couch.</li> <li>Place your front knee at a 90-degree angle in front of you.</li> <li>You will be standing from the waist up, sitting on your floor knee and balanced by your other leg. Gently lean forward maintaining a tall torso. You should feel a stretch in your hip flexor.</li> </ul> <p>Hold for 30 to 60 seconds then repeat on the other side.</p> <h3>8. Posture Practice "Check-In"</h3> <p>All these exercises are good for improving posture. But your efforts will be in vain if you default to bad posture throughout the day. Here are some habits you can include in your daily routine:</p> <ul> <li>Set an alarm on your phone for every 20, 30 or 60 minutes during the work day. When it goes off, audit your posture. Check for: <ul> <li>Shoulder blades pulled back (make a “proud” chest).</li> <li>Chin away from your chest/not angled downward (this keeps your neck neutral)</li> <li>Lower back muscles engaged</li> </ul> </li> <li>Realign your spine—try to touch your heels, hips, shoulders and head against a wall all at once. Take a few deep breaths in this position.</li> </ul> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section5"> <h2>Posture exercises—wrap-up</h2> <p>These posture exercises will strengthen the muscles involved in maintaining physical shapes we use every day. Become aware of your bad habits, work to consciously improve them, and mix these exercises and habits into your routine to keep yourself “in line”! </p> <p>Be consistent, and over time you’ll likely see an improvement in posture and a decrease in pain or discomfort.</p> </section> </article>

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