Suffering from ‘desk bod’ or ‘text neck’? Here are 10 of the best exercises to help put things right! Sitting at a desk, sitting in the car, sitting to watch TV, using phones all day, they all add up to poor posture and a plethora of problems. Text neck, the result of bending over your phone all day, can give you the posture of Quasimodo, neck pain and muscular imbalances. Jump into a workout with tight muscles and the problem is only exacerbated. Tight pecs get worse, and you run the risk of tearing muscles in the neck and upper back when you press because everything is tight. While a change of habit is important for the long-term solution (bringing the phone to eye level or fixing your position when working) the following are simple, but effective exercises to help either strengthen, release or stretch muscles.
The plank is one of the most effective exercises when it comes to building a strong core, which is key to good posture. Done correctly, the plank lights up a multitude of muscles at once including several abdominal muscles, as well as those in the shoulders and back.
Even better, several variations on the plank exist, so it’s easy to switch things up for a greater challenge or to combat boredom.
To do the plank, lie face down on the floor with palms alongside shoulders and feet and legs together. Raise yourself so your arms are straight and you’re balancing equally on your hands and toes.
Alternatively, raise yourself just to your forearms. Be sure to keep your spine straight, as proper form is essential to getting the most out of this move. Try holding the pose for 30 seconds. As your strength grows, extend the time to between one and three minutes.
- Back extensions
When learning to improve posture, it’s essential to strengthen your back and this is a great exercise. Often, people overlook the lower back in their weight training (assuming it will be targeted with other exercises). This can lead to imbalances and poor posture. To perform the back extension, lie face down, extending arms straight above your head. Keeping your head in line with your spine, gently lift your shoulders as far off the floor as possible, then return to the starting position.
- Pilates swimming
Learning how to have good posture is essential for dance students, and they use Pilates in their training. This is a move that anyone can do to strengthen their back to help ensure proper sitting posture. It can also help you make sure that you’re standing up straight.
Begin lying face down on the floor with arms straight over your head. Lift the left arm and right leg, keeping the elbow and knee straight. Lower your limbs back to the starting position before repeating with the right arm and left leg.
- Reverse flies
If you have rounded shoulders as a result of a poor posture and a tight chest, a solution to curing this (as well as stretching the chest) is to strengthen the upper back. Reverse flies are a great solution.
Use two light weights, grasping one in each hand with your palms facing each other. Feet are shoulder width apart. Bend slightly forward at the waist and soften the knees. With your head up and eyes facing forward, raise your arms to your sides until they are parallel with the floor. Elbows are slightly bent. Slowly lower arms to start position. Try three sets of 10 reps each.
This exercise is directed toward strengthening the upper and middle back. Sit on a chair, holding a light weight in each hand. Palms should be facing each other. Bend forward slightly from the waist. Begin by squeezing your shoulder blades together.
At the same time, drive your elbows behind you. Pause before slowly lowering the weights to the start position. Three sets of 10 reps is a good start.
- Shoulder rolls
Curing bad posture isn’t all about strengthening, a key aspect is stretching. Proper sitting posture is important for everyone, particularly those who work at a desk all day. This simple stretch can work wonders for relieving tension and encouraging correct posture.
Shoulder rolls can be done while sitting or standing. Inhale and raise your shoulders toward your ears. Hold for a few seconds before exhaling and pulling your shoulder blades down and together. Repeat five to 10 times at least twice a day.
- Kneeling stretch
Tight muscles are sometimes the result of poor posture. Couple bad posture with a sedentary lifestyle, and you’ve got a recipe for back pain and worsening posture as you age. The kneeling stretch combats tightness in a number of important muscle groups. Do it regularly, and you’ll find it much easier to sit and stand with a straight spine.
To begin, lunge with one leg forward while the knee of the other leg rests on a padded mat. Place your hands on your lunging knee. Gently push the hips forward to feel a stretch in the iliopsoas muscle, an important connection between the hip and spine. The more flexible your iliopsoas muscle is, the freer you are to keep your spine straight.
- Bird dogs
This exercise is excellent for strengthening the core-stability muscles that wrap around our middle and help to support the lumbar spine – weakness in them leads to poor posture.
To perform the exercise, get down on all fours, with your hands under your shoulders and knees under hips, eyes looking at the floor. Breathe deeply. As you exhale, lift your right arm and left leg out straight, to be level (or as close as you can get) with your body. Don’t lean into your right hip to support yourself – counterbalance by engaging your core-stability muscles instead. They’re like a corset wrapped around your middle – imagine pulling it in tight. Inhale, and lower your arm and leg back to the starting position, ensuring that both touch the floor at the same time. Exhale, and raise the opposite arm and leg. Inhale, and lower. Keep moving with each breath. Aim for 10-20 raises in total.
- Chest stretches
Stretching your pectoral muscles helps you recover from a workout, eases soreness and improves your posture. A chronically tight chest contributes to rounding of the shoulders and the upper back. This poor posture compromises your breathing — as it’s hard to fully fill up your lungs when they’re compressed — makes you look demure and lacking in confidence and causes soreness, and even pain, in your neck and shoulders. You may also find it hard to reach your arms overhead when your pecs are super tight, so you suffer from a compromised range of motion.