Posture exercises for a proud stance

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November 17, 2013

Your posture, or how you carry yourself, is very noticeable to others. Good posture can help you present yourself as confident and strong, or tired and weak. While posture is often good in childhood, it tends to worsen over time, unless you focus on exercises to maintain or improve it. Every day, we are leaning forward over computers, desks, books, whatever, which is likely to impact our posture – and not in a good way. These ‘pulling’ exercises will both improve posture and tone your back, shoulder and arm muscles. They are the opposite of the quick workout that Marsha shared which were mainly ‘pushing’ exercises for the abdominals, arms and upper chest; the two sets complement each other well.

The weighted exercises (#1, 3 and 5) are best done with a weight that you can do 12-15 repetitions (reps); it may be zero weight for some. For the core exercises, aim for 15-20 reps. Always concentrate on great form and posture and aim for no pain 🙂

This circuit can be done straight through #s 1-6 and repeat. If you prefer to not get up and down from the mat each time, do all the standing ones first (#1, 3 and 5), then all the seated ones.

View the video above or see bootcamper Dr. Ann Tonnu, a GI specialist, in the still photos below.

  1. Dumbbell Row: Lean forward at the waist with one foot forward and one arm supporting you on a bench, chair or front thigh. As you bring the weight toward your waist/hip, draw the lower abdominals in tight. Focus on the shoulder blade drawing back and down so the neck is relaxed and the back and arm have optimal tension. Lower the weight; repeat 12-15 times. Then repeat with the other arm. Tempo should be 3 counts up, squeeze at the top, then 3 counts down.
  2. Superman: Lie face down with legs straight out and arms out in front of you. Bend the elbows to modify for shoulder issues. Keep your neck straight (neutral) with your eyes looking at the ground. Draw your lower abs in tight and raise both arms and legs (like a rocking chair bottom). Focus on the squeeze in the shoulder blades and buttocks to protect the low back. Keep your eyes toward the floor to protect the neck. Tempo should be 2 counts up, squeeze, 2 down. Be sure to engage the lower abs in each rep.
    DO NOT do this if you have lumbar spinal stenosis or sacroiliac issues, unless cleared by your orthopedist or physical therapist.
  3. Dumbbell Flys: The key here is to maintain a long spine – perfect posture. The target area is your mid-spine, between your shoulder blades. Lean forward with one foot back for balance. Hinge at the waist and get your torso as close to parallel to the ground as possible to get the most benefit. Use very light or no weights for this one. Starting with your arms straight down in front of you, raise them toward the ceiling with thumbs pointed toward the ceiling. Keep your head pulled back, squeezing your shoulder blades together. The tempo should be 3 counts up, hold for 1, then 3 counts down.
  4. Two leg bridges: 1 leg is harder, no legs very tricky 😉 ! Lie on your back with feet on the mat, close to your buttocks, shoulder width apart, and arms at your sides with palms facing UP. Tighten your lower abs and lift your hips, squeezing your buttocks – press down through your heels!! When you’re up, your knees, hips and shoulders should be in one straight line. The bra strap line of your back needs to be off the ground, without creating a bowing in the low back. Cramping in the back of the thighs is typically due to poor glut contraction (in your buttocks) or lack of adequate strength. Try to contract the gluts more for support. The tempo should be 2 counts up, hold for 2-5, then 2 counts down.
  5. Dumbbell Arm Curls: Stand with your legs in a split stance or balance on one leg. With a strong middle core, standing tall with shoulder blades back and no sway through your low back, pull the weights toward your shoulders, but not all the way up. Maintain tension in the muscle the entire curl (which is key for all weight training). Squeeze at the top as if you were posing , then slowly return to starting position. Do these curls with both arms, or alternating one arm at a time. Avoid swinging the weights. Varying the grip or rotating the palms on the way up are great ways to sculpt your arms! Do 12-15 reps.
  6. Side Plank: Lie on your right side on a mat with your body in a straight line. Bring your elbow under your shoulder so your upper body is off the ground. Tighten your underarm muscle (Lats) so tension is not in your neck. Lifting your hips off the ground, create a bridge or plank from your shoulders to your ankles. Spinal alignment is key here to optimize the positive work in your abs and back! If it’s too difficult, bend your knees and rest the right one on the ground, with your ankles behind you. There is now a shorter plank, from your shoulders to your knees, lifting less of your body weight. Hold at the top for 20-30 seconds. Repeat 3-10 times on each side, depending on how many you can do with no pain and great form. Repeat on your left side.

Repeat the whole circuit one or two more times, if possible. Stand tall and proud when you’re done!