If you work from a desk all day or sit in a car for a long commute to and from work, chances are that you’ve experienced the painful effects of poor posture.
From neck, shoulder, and back pain, to weak abs, and tight hip flexors, sitting too much takes a severe toll on your body.
Incorrect posture is often characterized by the following signs:
- Rounded shoulders
- An excessive arch in the lower back (Lumbar Lordosis)
- Tight chest muscles and a stiff thoracic spine (Kypholordotic)
- Forward head
- Weak glutes
- Weak abdominals
- Tight hamstrings
- Lower back pain
- Mid and upper back pain
How Your Core Affects Your Posture
Our core muscles play a vital role in how we move our body. They have a direct affect on posture, movement, and mobility. Your core is always working – when you stand up, walk, lift an object, or even breathe. The strength of your core determines your ability to balance, stabilize, and control weight every time you exercise.
The spine and pelvic girdle act as the control center of your core with the surrounding muscles – like your abdominals, erector spinae, and gluteus – contracting and providing stability.
Since incorrect posture leads to both tight and weak muscles, it’s important to implement a good stretch and mobility regime (2) with exercise. Our six core exercises to improve posture will strengthen all of the muscles surrounding the spine and pelvic girdle to help correct the pain, weakness, and tightness that comes with improper posture.
6 Core Exercises To Improve Posture
A note on proper breathing: Just as proper form is important to receive all of the benefits of an exercise, proper breathing is too. As you complete the following core exercises, it is important that you breathe properly in order to engage the core and strengthen it.
- Inhale through nose
- Exhale through mouth as you pull your navel up and in towards your spine to contract your abs.
Plank | 45 sec
This exercise strengthens the rectus abdominis – the six-pack muscle – along with the internal and external obliques. It also works our back muscles like the erector spinae and the glutes.
- To begin, lie down on the floor. Prop yourself up onto your forearms and spread your fingers wide so that your hands are flat on the ground. Your forearms should be parallel to one another.
- Tuck your toes under and lift your knees up off the floor. Straighten out your legs and keep your hips in line with your shoulders.
- Pull your navel up and in towards your spine, firm up your quadriceps and squeeze your glutes. Press firmly against the ground with your forearms. Focus on breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth as you hold for 45 seconds.
Prone Back Extensions | 15 reps
This exercise strengthens the erector spinae and glutes, and helps to improve the mobility of the spine.
- Start by lying down on the floor on your belly.
- Straighten your legs out behind you with your toes untucked and place your forehead on the mat. Bend your elbows and place your palms on the mat next to your ribs with your elbows pointing up towards the ceiling.
- Keep the tops of your feet pressing down into the mat the entire time. Inhale to peel your forehead, chest, and palms off the mat. Hold for a moment at the top to feel your lower back and glutes working. Then, exhale to slowly release back down. Repeat for 15 repetitions.
Bird Dog | 20 reps, alt sides
This exercise strengthens the rectus abdominus, the obliques, the erector spinae, and the glutes.
- Begin kneeling on the floor in a tabletop position. Stack your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees. Spread your fingers wide and press down through your palms and engage your abs.
- Press down firmly with your left palm and your right knee. Take an inhale and lift your right hand off the ground while at the same time lifting your left leg off the ground. Straighten your right arm forward and your left leg back, reaching through your fingertips and toes.
- Pause for a moment to balance, then slowly place the right hand and the left knee back down as you exhale. Switch sides, then continue alternating for a total of 20 repetitions.
Russian Twists | 20 reps
This exercise strengthens the internal and external obliques, the rectus abdominis, and the erector spinae.
- Start by sitting on the floor with your knees bent and your feet on the ground.
- Reach your arms straight out in front of you and bring your palms to touch. Lean your upper body back an inch or two and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Engage your abs and pick your feet up to make your shins parallel to the ground.
- Take an inhale and then as you exhale, twist your torso to the right, bringing your hands to tap the floor next to your right hip. Inhale, to come back to center and then, exhale to twist to the left. Inhale to come back to center and then continue going side to side for a total of 20 repetitions.
Modification: If you feel your lower back hurting or if your shoulders begin to round forward, modify by keeping your feet on the ground.
Side Planks with Hip Dips | 15 reps per side
This exercise works the transverse and rectus abdominis, the obliques, erector spinae, and the glutes.
- Begin by lying down on your right side. Prop yourself up onto your right forearm and take your left hand onto your left hip. Flex your feet and stack your left foot on top of your right foot.
- Press into your right forearm to lift your right hip off the ground. Then, reach your left arm straight up towards the ceiling.
- Inhale, lift your left hip an inch higher, then exhale to dip your right hip down a couple of inches towards the floor. Inhale to lift left hip back up then continue for 15 repetitions. Then, switch sides.
Bridge with Bent Elbows | 45 sec
This exercise strengthens the erector spinae and the glutes.
- Start by lying on the floor with your knees bent and your feet hips-width distance apart. Bend your elbows to 90 degree angles and press the triceps into the floor with your fingertips pointing towards the ceiling.
- Keep your knees in line with your toes and inhale to lift your hips up towards the ceiling.
- Press down through your heels and squeeze your glutes and abs. Hold for 45 seconds and then slowly release.
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