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Instantly Improve Your Posture With These 10 Stretches

Matt Skeffington

Matt’s primary role at Dynamic Strength and Conditioning is to make sure that our coaches and clients are consistently improving, all while operatin...

Matt’s primary role at Dynamic Strength and Conditioning is to make sure that our coaches and clients are consistently improving, all while operatin...

Apr 22 11 minutes read

We all remember being told as kids to "sit-up straight". Like most times, mom was right! As we age, something happens to our posture. It changes, and unfortunately not for the better.

For a variety of reasons our posture begins to shift.

This is due to:

  • Increased sitting

  • Increased stress

  • Decreased daily movement

  • Decreased flexibility

  • Imbalanced exercise programs 

Yes, these factors all play into those stubborn shoulders rolling forward and your height appearing to shrink. 

The biggest factor though is getting stuck in certain positions for extended periods of time. We all feel the effects of this right now as many of us are now working from home. 

When we spend too much time in certain positions like sitting or on our computer, muscles like our chest and neck become dominant as they shorten and stiffen. This pulls our shoulders forward and rounds our upper back into that unfavorable posture. At the same time, certain muscles like the ones between our shoulder blades are lengthened and weaken. These muscles are responsible for pulling your shoulders back but they start to lose the battle. This places stress on the front of our shoulders and neck instead.

This same battle happens at our hips. As we sit for extended periods of time, the muscles in front of our hips shorten and stiffen. At the same time our abs, glutes, and hamstring (back of your legs) weaken and lengthen. This tips our pelvis forward and increases pressure and strain on our hips and low-back. 

Not only does that change our appearance but it can have a real impact on our performance, injury risk, and pain. This shift in posture can cause wear and tear on our joints, increases in muscular and joint stiffness and pain, and decrease our overall strength and workout performance.

The good news is we can be both proactive in not allowing our posture to shift as well as reactive in bringing your posture back into a better position through stretching and strengthening the right areas.

The first and most important step is to be aware of your posture throughout the day. Say you complete the 10 exercises below everyday of the week but continue to spend hours in a stiff, seated position... not much change to your posture is going to happen. 

The best posture is the one that is always changing. We want to avoid our muscles and posture being stuck in one position for longer than 10 minutes. If you are planning on sitting for an extended period of time, set a timer for every 10 minutes. That is your cue to get up, move a bit, or change your position to avoid muscular stiffness and unfavorable changes to your posture.

Now, it's time for your stretches. 

Aim to do each movement daily. You can do these throughout the day or as part of your workout warm-up or cool-down from home. 

As you start, you will notice you are stiff or restricted in certain exercises or positions. That is okay. Each drill should provide a stretch or feel like you're working the muscles but not produce pain. If you feel pain, simply back off a little bit and reduce the range-of-motion. 

Finally, remember to exhale through tension. Anytime you feel a stretch, breathe through it with a SLOW exhale. This will relax your muscles, joints, and body and allow for a better stretch. Holding your breath will cause you to tense up and make you more stiff. That is the opposite of what we want. 

Your stretches are all shown in the video below. You will also find your written step-by-step descriptions of how to complete each exercise below! 

Enjoy!

1| Cat / Camel

This is a fantastic drill to start with as it loosens your entire body and helps decrease stiffness at your hips, spine, shoulder, and neck. This helps warm up as well as promotes blood flow to these areas allowing you to get the most out of each exercise. It also helps to loosen areas that cause poor posture like your neck and low-back. Focus on a long, slow exhale at each cat and camel position.

Key Points:

  • Start with hands under shoulders and knees under hips

  • Round back as far as you can by pressing through your hands and reaching chest away from floor

  • Relax head down and exhale

  • Slowly reverse that position, moving vertebrae by vertebrae into arched back position

  • Bring your head up and exhale

  • Complete 10 repetitions

2| Split-Stance Stretch with Lateral Reach

This is one of our favorite stretches at DSC. It is fantastic for improving posture by stretching your commonly tight hips, shoulders, and chest. Ease into this one with deep exhales.

Key Points:

  • Start with hands under shoulders and knees under hips

  • Take right leg out to the side so leg is straight and right foot is flat and pointed straight ahead

  • Keeping chest tall slide hips back toward heel

  • Hold that position and walk hands to the right foot while keeping arms straight

  • Hold position for 3-5 exhales and complete 3-5 repetitions per side

3| Arm Thread to Sky Bow

The arm thread to sky bow is one of the best posture improving exercises going. It loosens stiff chest and shoulder muscles, allowing you to get your shoulders back.

Key Points:

  • Start with hands under shoulders and knees under hips

  • Soften both elbows to start

  • With palm up, thread right arm under left arm and drop right ear to floor

  • Pause, reach, and exhale

  • Come back up, leading with the right elbow and reach right fingers to the sky

  • Pause and exhale

  • Complete 5-10 controlled repetitions per side

4| Down Dog to Pigeon

The down dog to pigeon is a fantastic total-body posture improving stretch that targets your hamstrings, calves, hips, low-back, and shoulders. Make sure to move slow throughout and own each position. 

Key Points:

  • Start in push-up position with hands under shoulders

  • Push your hips as high as you can and heels flat as possible

  • Feel stretch in back of heel and calf and exhale

  • Come back to push-up position and swing right knee behind right wrist

  • Your right knee and right shin should be on the floor as well as back knee

  • Feel a stretch in right hip, lift chest proud, and exhale

  • Repeat sequence and move to left side

  • Complete 5-10 repetitions per side 

5| Kneeling Mountain Climber Stretch with Rotation

This is our favorite hip opening drill that works to combat the effects of sitting. The rotation at the top of each rep is key for also improving upper body posture.

Key Points:

  • Start on floor with hands under shoulders and knees behind hips

  • Take right foot up and outside right hand

  • Right foot should be flat and pointed straight ahead 

  • Press through your hands and drive chest tall

  • Think about sliding belt buckle forward and rotate shoulder and eye to the right

  • Pause and slowly exhale

  • Bring knees back together and complete same sequence on left side

  • Complete 5-10 repetitions per side

6| Side-Lying Open Book

The side-lying open book is our favorite upper body posture opener. It targets the most commonly stiff area of your shoulders -- your chest muscles. Overly tight chest muscles pull your shoulders forward and round your upper back. The open book is fantastic for loosening that area.

Key Points:

  • Start lying on right side with knees bent up at chest level

  • Start with arms out in front of you with left hand on right

  • Reach left arm forward and then slowly open left arm like a book

  • Keep knees and right arm still as you open

  • Allow your head and eyes to rotate and follow left hand

  • Go as far as you can keeping knees still, pause and exhale

  • You should feel a nice chest stretch 

  • Complete 5-10 repetitions per side

7| Wall Hip Circles

Now that those hips are loose, it's time to strengthen them. Too much stiffness and sitting causes them to weaken. Once we have stretched those hips we need to strengthen them so we hold our new posture. Think of adding strength like hitting save on your computer. It keeps your new flexibility in place.

Key Points:

  • Start tall about 1-2 feet from wall

  • Place right hand on wall for support

  • Think of getting your posture as tall as possible

  • Start by lifting left knee as high as possible and pause

  • From there open left knee like a book without losing posture

  • Let the left knee rotate down and left foot up like you're going up and over a hurdle

  • Think of creating a big circle

  • You should feel that hip working hard

  • Reverse your direction on the way back

  • Complete 3-5 slow repetitions per side

8| Row and Reach

The row and reach is another awesome upper-body posture improving exercise. It allows for both a great stretch and helps strengthen the very important muscles that pull your shoulders back.

Key Points:

  • Start tall with feet right under hips

  • Bring hands out front and pretend you're squeezing two dumbbells

  • Inhale and pull elbows straight back

  • Squeeze shoulder blades together and lift chest proud

  • Reach hands out front and interlock fingers

  • Drive your chest away from your hands and exhale slowly

  • Feel a nice stretch between your shoulder blades

  • Complete 5-10 slow repetitions

9| Standing Swimmers

The standing swimmer is one the best exercises for strengthening the muscles between your shoulder blades. These muscles are responsible for pulling your shoulders back and stop them from getting weak from too much sitting. This one is tough, especially for those with stiff shoulders, so ease into it.

Key Points:

  • Start tall with feet under hips

  • Start with hands behind your head

  • Your first step is to squeeze shoulder blades together and pull elbows back

  • From there lift hands off head and slowly reach hands high

  • Try to keep hands behind your body as you lower hands

  • Keep shoulder blades pinched together

  • Exhale slowly throughout the motion

  • Bring hands to low back and reverse motion

  • Complete 5-10 repetitions

10| Standing Lateral Neck Stretch

We all know that stiff neck feeling. This only gets worse the more we sit, work on our computers, and get stuck in one position for extended periods of time. Enter the lateral neck stretch, perfect for decreasing that stiff neck.

Key Points:

  • Start tall with feet under your hips

  • Keeping chest proud and palms forward, reach long through your finger tips

  • Keep shoulders down away from ears

  • Drop ear toward shoulder and exhale

  • Keep reaching long through your finger tips

  • Complete 5-10 repetitions per side

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