Good Posture Exercises & Some That Do More Damage Than Good

Woman doing good posture exercises.

The importance of having good posture goes beyond simply looking good and being able to stand up straight—good posture contributes to your body’s strength, flexibility, and balance and helps you avoid muscle and joint pain, allowing your body to function as it should without the stress that poor posture and spinal misalignments put on the body. Eliminating stress on the muscles and ligaments can also help reduce your risk of injuries.

One way that people focus on posture is by doing daily exercises to improve their posture and strengthen the muscles that work to hold it; however, not all spines need the same exercises.  There are 42.4 million different combinations of posture! Some people hunch, some believe they are hunched, but instead have shoulder rounding or forward head posture. While these may look similar, they require different exercises. While it can be beneficial to perform postural exercises, if you exercise the wrong posture, your spinal curvatures can be damaged and your posture can be worsened.

In this article, we’ll discuss some good posture exercises that are typically helpful for most people as well as a few that can cause damage depending on your spinal health.  

Good Posture Exercises to Consider Adding to Your Daily Routine

A study investigating the effects of a posture correction exercise program on musculoskeletal pain found that regularly doing postural exercises can improve balance, relax the body, and relieve musculoskeletal pain. According to the study, developing and introducing suitable exercise programs will contribute to the physical and mental health of society. Below are a few good posture exercises that can help strengthen and improve your overall postural health:  

Child’s Pose 

Good posture exercises include child's pose.

This resting pose stretches and lengthens your spine, glutes, and hamstrings. It also helps to release tension in your lower back and neck. 

To do this exercise: 

  1. Sit on your shinbones with your knees together, your big toes touching, and your heels spread apart. 
  2. Fold forward at your hips and stretch out your hands in front of you. 
  3. Sink your hips toward your feet. 
  4. Gently place your forehead on the floor or turn your head to one side. 
  5. Breathe deeply into the back of your rib cage and waist. 
  6. Relax in this pose while continuing to breathe deeply.  

Forward Fold

This standing stretch releases tension in your spine, hamstrings, and glutes. It also stretches your hips and legs.  

To do this exercise: 

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, and arms by your sides. 
  2. Exhale as you fold forward from the hips and bring your head towards the floor. Tuck your chin, relax your shoulders, and think about extending the crown of your head toward the floor to elongate your spine. 
  3. Keep your knees mostly straight with a gentle bend, if you can. This will help protect your back. 
  4. Touch the floor with your fingertips. You can also wrap your arms around your legs if that feels comfortable to you. 
  5. Hold for 30 seconds while continuing to breathe.  
  6. Further bend your knees and roll up slowly, starting with the low back and stacking one vertebra at a time, to return to a standing position.

High Plank 

Good posture exercises include a high plank position.

The high plank pose helps to relieve pain and stiffness throughout your body while strengthening your core, shoulders, glutes, and hamstrings. It also helps you develop balance. 

To do this exercise: 

  1. Get onto all fours, with your knees and toes flexed, hips over your knees, and hands beneath your shoulders.  
  2. Straighten your legs to lift your knees off of the ground and get into a push-up position. Keep your legs hip-width apart or slightly wider. Keep your ribs down and your pelvis slightly tucked. 
  3. Straighten your back and engage your core, arm, and legs while looking down at the floor. 
  4. Make sure to keep your chest open and your shoulders back. 
  5. Hold this position while continuing to breathe.  

Spine Rotation

This exercise relieves tightness and pain in your back while increasing stability and mobility. 

To do this exercise: 

  1. Get onto all fours, sinking your hips to your heels and resting on your shins. 
  2. Place your left hand behind your head with your elbow extended to the side. 
  3. Keep your right hand under your shoulder or bring it to center and rest on your forearm. 
  4. Exhale as you rotate your left elbow up toward the ceiling and stretch the front of your torso. 
  5. Take one long inhale and exhale in this position. 
  6. Release back down to the original position. 
  7. Repeat this movement five to 10 times. 
  8. Repeat on the opposite side.  

Single-Leg Extension 

This move trains your core muscles to work together to stabilize your pelvis. 

To do this exercise:  

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and hands behind your head.  
  2. Press your lower back into the floor and curl your head up off the floor. 
  3. Exhale deeply and pull your navel in and up toward your spine.  
  4. Slowly pull one knee into your chest, keeping your lower back pressed to the floor while extending your other leg straight at about a 45-degree angle off the floor.  
  5. Keep your abdominals pulled in and your lower back on the floor. If your lower back arches off the floor, extend your leg higher toward the ceiling.  
  6. Switch legs and repeat.  

Bird Dog 

This exercise eases back pain by stabilizing the muscles in the core and lower back during movements of the arms and legs. 

To do this exercise:  

  1. Start on your hands and knees in a tabletop position.  
  2. While tightening your abdominal muscles, lift and extend your right leg behind you and your left arm in front of you.  
  3. Hold this position for five seconds. 
  4. Repeat with your left leg and right arm. 

Leg Lifts 

Leg lifts help provide better stabilization and balance, which can lead to better overall control of your body. Leg lifts strengthen the lower abs and inner thighs.

  To do this exercise:  

  1. Lie on your back with your legs straight and your toes pointed down.  
  2. Lift your legs 12-18 inches off the floor while keeping your core tight.  
  3. Slowly lower your legs back down until they’re just above the floor. Hold for a moment. 
  4. Raise your legs back up.  
  5. Repeat. 

When performing these postural exercises, it’s important to note that some strengthen your posture while some stretch your body to increase your mobility. Increased mobility allows your body to function at its best and helps prevent excessive injuries. It also allows your body to perform better throughout the day and helps reduce pain associated with muscle strain and poor range of motion. When focusing on mobility and postural health, it’s better to hold longer counts and perform lower repetitions to also create endurance so that you can hold posture throughout the day. 

Use Caution with These Exercises

Doing postural exercises on your own doesn’t always support better spinal health. Certain exercises, such as those listed below, can improve your posture but can also unknowingly create pain and worsen your spinal alignment.

Chin Tucks 

Chin tucks are advertised as an exercise that “fixes” forward head posture. However, when a person has a reversed curve in the neck (also known as cervical kyphosis, or loss of the natural neck curve), doing chin tucks can do more damage to the cervical spine by hyperextending it. This can cause neck and shoulder pain as well as headaches.  

Crunches

When crunches are performed regularly as a part of your exercise routine to strengthen your core, they can cause excessive tightening and shrinking of the abdominal muscles and can also deepen the natural c-shaped curve in the thoracic spine, located in the upper/mid-back. This can cause exaggerated rounding of the upper back and hunching. 

Shoulder Retractions 

This exercise is very popular for “opening” the chest; however, it can overstretch your shoulders and cause damage to the shoulder rotator cuff if you have a hunch that stems from a rounded middle back.  It’s important to understand that the shoulders have independent motion from the back, so understanding where your posture is coming from first is key to using the correct corrective exercise.

It’s always a great idea to see a chiropractor to assess your spine and help you determine which exercises would be best for aiding your postural health. This is why the doctors at PostureWorks perform an extremely thorough analysis of your spine and posture and work to understand your overall health goals, allowing us to create a postural exercise routine for you that helps improve both spine health and your body’s aesthetics.

Chiropractic BioPhysics®, or CBP, is a deeply researched and results-oriented corrective care technique. CBP-trained chiropractors aim to realign the spine back to health and optimal function while eliminating the source of pain and circulatory and nervous dysfunction. As with all chiropractic care, CBP is conservative, painless, and non-invasive. Contact us today to schedule your appointment or learn about good posture exercises for a healthy spine.

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