Each week personal trainer Barb Gormley answers your most pressing fitness questions.
I used to have great posture, but now I notice that my shoulders are rounded and my back aches all the time. Are there exercises that can help me stand taller and relieve the pain?
It seems that almost every new client I work with has some kind of posture issue. It’s not surprising when many people spend hours every day hunching over their cell phones texting, slumping over their desks, leaning over car steering wheels and sitting instead of moving.
The good news is that adding just a few posture-specific exercises can straighten you out and relieve the pain. And here’s more good news: According to Janice Novak, author of Posture, Get it Straight!, standing with basic good posture makes you look taller, thinner and more confident.
Here are four exercises that will strengthen your back and core muscles, stretch your chest and get rid of the slouch:
1. Shoulder Blade Squeeze
Stand with your back against a wall, and reach your arms in front of you at chest height. Keeping your elbows straight, squeeze the muscles between your shoulder blades and pull your shoulders back until they touch the wall. Start with two sets of 10 repetitions, and gradually increase the number to two and then three sets.
2. Spine Stretch
Stand with your back a few inches from a wall with your knees slightly bent. Then lean back and try to touch your butt, upper back and back of your head to the wall. For more challenge, lift your hands up and make the letter W with your arms; try to touch your elbows and back of your hands on the wall. Use the wall for feedback and to track your progress over time. Hold for five to 10 seconds and repeat 10 times.
3. Chest Opener
Sit on an exercise ball and walk your feet forward until the ball is between your tailbone and your shoulders. Rest your head on the ball and arch back over the ball. Reach your arms out to your sides with your palms up to feel your chest muscles stretch. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat four times.
4. The Bird Dog
Kneel on the floor with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Keep your back flat and brace your core by pulling in your navel. Simultaneously lift one hand and the opposite knee a few inches off the ground. Hold for five seconds, then lower and repeat on the other side. Keep your eyes down, focusing just in front of your hands on the floor. For more challenge, reach your arm out in front of you and extend your leg behind you until they are parallel to the floor. Start with two sets of 10 repetitions, and gradually increase the number to two then three sets.
Barb Gormley is a certified personal trainer and a freelance health and fitness writer. You can contact her at www.barbgormley.com.