The most effective way to improve your posture is to focus on exercises that strengthen your core. Your core muscles are those muscles in your abdomen and lower back that are connected to your pelvis and lower spine, supporting the torso by providing the potential for movement and flexion, as well as strength and stabilization. The exercises that will best improve posture strengthen key muscles groupings and improve your overall flexibility.
Traditional methods of strengthening core muscles, such as sit ups and old style crunches, only exercise a small number of your core muscles and can cause injury because they are both awkward and jerky. Today’s core fitness programs are targeted to strengthen the core through the use of slow and controlled exercises that are found in yoga and pilates programs. Using slow and controlled movements with proper breath control will certainly help you optimize your workout.
Yoga Poses That Improve Posture
- The Cobra Pose: This pose really targets the muscles in the lower back which allow you to hold your back erect. When you integrate this pose into your workout you will notice an immediate improvement in the flexibility of your lower back and core muscles.
- Plank Pose: This pose is a staple of most fitness programs because of its ability to target muscle groups that are commonly left out — the obliques and the transverse abdominal muscles. It is essential to maintain proper form when planking, pulling in your abdominal muscles and gazing downward at the floor to ensure you get the maximum benefit.
- Yoga Sit-ups: Yoga sit-ups exercise all of the muscles in your core, helping you trim inches off your waistline as well as improve your posture. In yoga sit-ups, you lie down in a sit-up position, but instead of pulling yourself up to a seated position in a jerky way, you roll up to a seated position in a slow, controlled way. Yoga sit-ups, or roll-ups, target the deepest core muscles, the abdominal muscles that help support your spine.
Pilates Exercises That Improve Posture
- Rowing Exercises: These are usually done with some kind of resistance band. Sit on the floor with your feet fully extended. Wrap the resistance band around your feet and hold on with each end in one hand. Perform the rowing motion slowly and evenly against the resistance of the band. This exercise will stretch and strengthen the muscles in your shoulders, chest and upper back, where you are most likely to slump.
- Balance Exercises: One important aspect of good posture is the ability to keep your balance. Therefore, doing balance exercises can help you improve your posture. In pilates, one of the most effective postural exercises is the ‘star’ exercise. Stand with your back against a wall. Lean your weight onto one foot and lean to one side, lifting your limbs until your body resembles a star. This exercise improves balance, strengthen your core and improves your posture, and it can be dome anywhere.
- Side Bends: Side bend exercises stretch and strengthen the lateral and oblique muscles, firming your waist and hips and improving the ability of your core muscles to support and stabilize the spine. Side bends can be performed in a variety of ways, including standing and sitting down, with weights or with resistance bands.
- Leg Extensions: Leg extensions are exercises that help train your core muscles to work in unison, stabilizing your torso and pelvis. Lie on your back with your abdominal muscles pulled in. Slowly pull one knee up into your chest while the other leg comes up to off the floor. At the same time, with your hands behind your head, curl your neck up toward the knee that you have brought up into your chest.
Remember: Take Proper Precautions!
If these exercises are new to you, remember, seek proper instruction to ensure that you are performing them correctly. Start with a small number of repetitions and gradually build up the number over time. Also, if you have suffered a back injury, or are generally out of shape, talk to your doctor before adding these exercises to your daily routine.