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How To Get Perfect Posture-->exercises and tips from a Certified Personal Trainer
Health & Fitness
Many people think that good posture is a conscious effort but it's not. Bad posture stems from muscle imbalances (tight and weak muscles) and needs to be corrected with exercises and stretching. Here's a list of the best basics for correcting bad posture that I use when personal training clients.
Forward neck, neck pain, and headaches.
If you have neck pain and get headaches from tension in the back of your neck you need to stretch that area. Look down to one side and gently pull to stretch and repeat on the other side. STOP HOLDING YOUR HEAD DURING CRUNCHES: it hurts because the front of your neck is weak and the back is tight and taking over...instead crunch your neck with your abs or lie on your bed face up with your head off the bed and crunch it. It will get stronger and feel better after a few weeks.
Strengthening your back to prevent slouching.
Bent over rows are great to increase back strength and posture, however you need to perform them correctly.
1. Always have a slight bend in the knees.
2. Keep your head in alignment with your spine (don't look up or down).
3. Don't slouch--keep you chest out and don't round your shoulders.
4. MOST IMPORTANT--increase the weights!!! You're not going to get bulky by using more weight (women don't have enough testosterone!!). Increase by 5ish lbs a week because sticking with 5/10 lb dumbbells won't do anything, and lifting a little heavier will tone your back and get rid of bra-bulge...trust me!
Strengthen weak lower abs--the right way!
Leg raises are great for lower abs IF DONE PROPERLY. I usually have clients start with legs up and have then flatten the small of their back on the floor. Slowly start lowering your legs (you also may want them slightly bent to make it easier) until you feel the small of your back raising/arching. Stop, lift legs back to start position and repeat. The trouble with keeping bringing them down after this point is the hip flexors take over and the abs give out. Keeping going will make posture worse. Also try holding a light ball between the knees...it will activate internal corset-like ab muscles.
Lower back pain is usually due to tightness!!!
The lady in the first picture had excess curve in her lower back because it is very tight. This is another problem that adds to bad posture and that also can cause lower back pain. Stretch it by sitting in a chair with legs spread apart in a 'v' and bring your upper body down between your legs and hang--you should feel a stretch in your lower back, hips, hamstrings, etc. I if you have a desk job or are a student do this often because sitting all day is the major culprit of a tight lower back.
Strengthen that butt!!!--more specifically the hip stabilizers--> the medial glutes.
One of the three pairs of butt muscles (medial glutes) are most important for hip stability (esp in running), and if weak can lead to crappy posture. Lunges are a great way to target them.
1. When you lunge, your weight should mostly be on the heel of the front foot (not the toe), this will be better for your knees and will activate the glutes better.
2. If you're flailing all over try holding into something for balance and do them in place, going up and down instead of stepping into them.
4.Make sure you knee isn't bucking in/knock-knee, you should also feel it on the outside of hips.
Hip flexor stretch--tight hip flexors work with a tight lower back to mess up posture and cause lower back pain.
To stretch your hip flexors you can stand and put your knee on a low surface or do them on the floor using a pillow. You should feel the stretch on the top of the back thigh, and it should be uncomfortable but not painful (don't over do it). Lean forward slightly until you feel the stretch but lean from the hips and don't lean the upper body over or you won't stretch the hip flexors.
1. Do these exercises/stretches a few times a week and take a day or so break in between to allow the muscles to heal.
2. Give it time. The strength changes in the beginning are mostly neurological and the muscle tone takes about 4-6 weeks to show up so be patient. One day you will just notice you're standing straighter and be like 'holy crap'. My clients have had that experience.
3. Make the exercises harder if you're experienced or easier if you're not. If you're not experienced or don't follow what I've explained, you should hire a professional with good credentials.
I'm a certified personal trainer through the American College of Sports Medicine, have taken a National Strength and Conditioning course, have a bachelors degree in Exercise Science, and have worked for one of the best gyms on the east coast. I'm also a second year medical student and am also pursuing a master's degree in public health.