3 Exercises for Better Posture
Our current lifestyles are not very conducive to promoting good posture. A continued, improper practice can lead to serious adverse effects including chronic pain, increased stress, and poor oxygen intake. (1, 2) Luckily, there are many things you can do throughout your day with minimal effort to address these issues before they get out of control.
Abdominal Draw in Maneuver (ADIM)
Abdominal Draw in Maneuver (ADIM) is an excellent exercise that can be done anytime of day in many positions. Our abdominal region is composed of 3 layers of muscle: the external oblique, internal oblique, and transversus abdominis. (3) These layers are responsible for holding your skeleton tight and reduce strain on your external muscles and appendages. The transversus abdominis is the deepest layer, from where you draw a lot of your core strength and power. When this muscle is not properly engaged, your trunk destabilizes, and your other muscles need to compensate to take some of the burden. This compensation leads to these muscles fatiguing and causing pain. ADIM works to retrain this muscle to engage properly and bring you back into proper alignment.
1. Lay flat on the ground with your knees pointing to the sky (hook-lying position)
2. Relax your body and lightly draw in your belly button to the floor. (like sucking in your stomach, but just your lower belly)
3. Hold for 10 seconds
4. Release and relax for a count of five. Repeat for a total of 10 repetitions.
Note: Alternatively, this can be done seated or standing, but it is easiest to start flat on your back. In time, you can starting working this action into all your workouts to further reinforce good habits.
Cranio-Cervical Flexion (Chin Tucks)
One of the many common issues around posture is poor neck engagement. This is typically a result of looking at our phones and computer screens. This issue typically results in forward head posture, a protrusion of the head and curving for the neck due to weak, deep neck flexors (full explanation of forward head posture). This exercise motions your muscles in the front to start firing again, which ultimately helps bring your head back into alignment.
1. Lay flat on the ground with a small towel behind your head.
2. Lightly tuck your chin as much as you can without lifting your head off the ground at all
3. Hold for 3 seconds.
4. Repeat for 10 repetitions and do 3 sets with a 30 second break in between sets.
Note: if you feel sore after and your muscles feel tired, you most likely are tucking too strongly. It is a very subtle motion. Also, this can be done seated with your back flat against a chair. (4)
Cat cow is an excellent exercise that is going to give you a lot of relief for any area of your back that is bothering you. It works to increase mobility in your upper (thoracic) spine, which is important in relieving upper back and neck pain. Also, the exercise helps to mobilize and stretch your lower back.
1. Start on the ground on all fours with your hands directly below your shoulders, knees below your hips, and toes curled under.
2. Cow: Take a breathe in, draw your shoulders back, tuck your belly, and allow your pelvis to tip back. Your belly should drop and bring this motion all the way through until your back is lightly arched.
3. Cat: Un-tuck your toes. Slowly exhale, keep that tummy drawn in and tight! Drop your pelvis, allow it to tuck under, and carry this motion through your spine up to where your neck starts. Then, press away from the ground with your arms straight (you should feel the stretch in your back between the vertebrae). Allow your head and neck to stay relaxed and lightly tucked throughout this motion, so that your nose points near your knees at the end.
4. Repeat for a count of 5-10 full cycles (go for 10!)
Note: You should not engage your neck too much beyond lightly tucking it for the cat portion. and the the motion from cat and cow should be through your spine (i.e., not your arms or legs).