October 07, 2017 | 23 minute read
Published in Keep Going
How To Improve Your Standing Posture
Whilst the phrase ‘tummy in, chest out!’ might have been said from a point of vanity when you were younger, this phrase that has its roots in the military is actually a really great piece of advice when it came to self-adjusting your posture.
We all have heard the soapbox brigade harp on about the dangers of sitting and if you still don’t get why sitting is sucking the lifeforce out of most of us, then we really need to talk. Standing is better, of course, way better, but in order to reap the benefits that standing offers, we need to make sure we’re standing right.
Here’s what happens to you biomechanically when you lift yourself up from a recline/seated position into a stand:
A flexion momentum in your core that ends just as your glutes leave the chair
Hamstrings and glutes work together to shift your lower body into straighter position- hamstrings flex the knees and extends the thighs and the glutes straighten out the hips
The calf muscles tighten to stabilize the lower body and keep your legs steady
The 24 movable bones in your back work together to stack on top of each other to create the column that supports your posture.
Standing is not just a simple get up and go motion though our amazing physiology makes it seem so. Good posture is not given as much airtime as clean eating or exercising but a good spine is an essential investment in your lifelong health, correct posture aligns everything in our bodies, bones, ligaments and tendons are able to function optimally.
With more and more people making a conscious choice to invest in standing desks and anti-fatigue mats, it’s good to be in the know on how to improve your posture so you reap the full benefits of choosing not to sit all day.
People who stand a lot need to pay special attention to the issues that come with standing too much. Read our article here on how to manage the foot pain that comes with standing too long.
Finding out how to improve your posture is an important process, without regularly maintaining good posture through the aid of posture correcting exercises and stretches; you will start to feel the negative effects of poor posture at a really early age.
We’ve devised a simple at-home exercise plan and for maintenance, an on-the-job exercise plan to help you find your best posture yet.
Central to any posture-correcting exercise is a strong core. The core muscles are the seat of all the muscles that can hold you upright, it also connects to your legs and glutes and are important for balance. When done correctly, planks strengthen several abdominal muscles and your shoulders and back.
There are several variations of the plank so switch it up and switch on your abs.
Perfect form: Start by laying down with toes tucked underneath your foot facing the ground. Place your hands directly under your shoulders and raise yourself in one smooth controlled movement until your elbows straighten and you’re balancing on the balls of your feet almost towards your toes. Ensure that your spine is straight and your bottom does not drop to the floor nor points up too high to the roof- use a workout partner or a mirror to check your form. Hold the pose for 30 seconds to start with, as you get stronger, you’ll be able to hold it for longer.
Change it up:
Raise up until you’re on your forearms instead of fully extending your elbows
Lift your left foot off the ground and straighten your right hand forward so you’re balancing on right leg and left hand- alternate and hold the pose for as long as you can- as you get stronger, you will be able to hold it for 3 minutes at a time.
Much like with planks, the aim of this exercise is to create strong abdominal muscles which are the cornerstone of good posture.
Perfect form: Lay down on your back and bend your knees and place your feet as close to your buttocks as possible, if there is too great a gap between the small of your back and the floor, take your heels further away from your buttocks until the small of your back is flat on the floor. Place your hands behind your head with the fingers lightly touching, inhale and as you exhale lift your right shoulder from the floor using your core and not your neck and rotate it toward the left. Release back to the floor and repeat on the other side
Change it up:
Do slow butterfly crunches with control by lifting alternate knee to elbows and trying to touch the knee to the elbow on each rotation
This exercise is perfect for strengthening the often under-exercised lower back muscles. Yoga teachers recommend this exercise for people who have achy lower backs
Perfect form: Lie face down with your hands tucked folded under your chin, keeping the tops of your feet on the floor, exhale as you lift the top half of your body using the muscles in your lower back and keeping your feet grounded into the floor. Don’t raise yourself up too high at first as you can injure yourself, start off slowly with small smooth movements and work up to raising yourself higher as you get stronger.
Change it up:
Keep your hands under the shoulders and raise yourself up using the hands as support- don’t depend on the hands to lift you, they are merely acting as pillars to help you get up
Place your hands at 6 and 9 o’clock on either side of your body and lightly keep feet on the ground, as you exhale, lift your entire back off the ground and your feet from the knees off the ground, work your arms toward your knees so they are no longer at 6 and 9 o’clock but more like 8 and 5 o’clock
As the name of this exercise indicates, it is a Pilates move that is designed to give dancers a healthy spine as good posture is key to a good performance.
Perfect form: Laying face-down on a workout mat, raise your right arm and left leg smoothly without jerky movements, release to the ground and repeat with the left arm and right leg
This exercise is perfect for building strength whilst stretching at the same time, use a Pilates ball to help you build extra control into your workout.
Perfect form: If you’re sitting on the Pilates ball, keep your feet flat on the ground, using a small dumbbell held with both hands or a medicine ball, push your arms straight out in front of you parallel to the ground. Now twist (keeping your arms parallel) to the right all the way from your bottom spine and repeat the twist on the left side.
Change it up:
You can do this twist by sitting on the ground or sitting in a chair, just keep your legs at a 90-degree bend to the floor.
You might feel self-conscious about doing exercises in your work environment but the worst thing you can do is to stand/sit still whilst your back slowly degenerates.
These exercises are simple and require nothing but a little bit time
Stand/Sits: Simply standing up and sitting until just before your bottom hits the base of the chair without using your hands helps to keep your hips and spine supple.
Shrugs: Roll your shoulders up to meet your ears and then roll them backward until they’re in a neutral position again. Repeat this exercise often during the day
Shoulder Openers: Find a doorway and place both forearms on either side of the doorway, now lean into your forearms to open your chest muscles a bit.
Seated Twist: Much like the version for home exercising, the positioning of your body should be the same on a chair, using your right arm, reach toward the left backrest of the chair and hold it there for a few seconds, repeat on the left side.
Hugs: Give yourself a great big hug to try and touch your fingers behind your back and bend forward towards your knees whilst hugging yourself.
If you have any existing health concerns, always consult your doctor before undertaking any exercise plan