Many of us spend a great deal of our day in a poor postural state; whether that be whilst driving to/from work, sitting/standing at a desk at work, looking down whilst using our mobile phones, laptops or books, sat/slouching/relaxing in the evenings, etc. All this sitting, along with poor posture and forward head tilt, has a seriously negative effect on our health.
Repeatedly going through the day in a poor postural state, results in your body gradually adapting to the improper stresses being placed upon it, and the relevant muscles, ligaments, and tendons, not to mention the skeletal system, all gradually weaken, strengthen and tighten depending on the type of stresses being placed upon them.
So, what can you do about it?
Well, quite a bit actually; and most of the best, and most effective, exercises and stretches require nothing but your body weight and a little time. As the old saying goes “You only get out what you put in”.
Just try to think of it as an investment in a better you – isn’t it about time you did something to relieve the years of pain in your neck, shoulders, and back???
These exercises and stretches can easily be combined as a workout/routine on their own.
If you exercise regularly, then use your 2+ ‘Rest Days’ per week to take 20 – 30 minutes to make the improvements in your posture, and finally tackle the cause of your neck, shoulder, and back pain.
Take a look through the videos below, invest in just a short amount of time to put together your own combination of exercises and stretches, and I guarantee that not only will your posture improve, but some of your short/long-term aches and pains might even ease, or even better – disappear completely!!
Although this is often used by physiotherapists, fitness trainers and strength & conditioning coaches to test for postural imbalances; it is also an excellent exercise that can be performed, on a daily basis, to strengthen plenty of the important postural muscles.
This is a link to a short YouTube video that demonstrates the basics of how to perform the exercise. It is often called the Wall Posture Test.
From your feet upwards it should be as follows:
- Stand with your back against a wall
- Feet no more than 6 inches away from the wall
- Feet shoulder-width apart
- Legs Straight
- Glutes/Bum touching the wall
- Abdominals contracted/tight
- Slight/natural arch in the lower back (should only be 2 – 3 fingers gap between the wall and your back)
- Shoulders tucked back and relaxed
- Shoulder blades flat against the wall
- Retract your chin and place the back of the head against the wall
- With your chin retracted, making a double chin, keep your jawline parallel with the floor
Hold this position for 10 – 30 seconds, breathing naturally.
Relax for 30 seconds – 1 minute and repeat. Perform the exercise 3 – 8 times.
Dr. Jo’s Whole Body Approach
I’ve been following Dr. Jo, on several social media platforms, for years and find her videos and advice priceless.
In this video ‘Improve Posture with a Whole Body Approach’ she covers lots of excellent, but simple, exercises, which most people should be able to perform.
Prone I, T, W, Y’s
There is a great combination of exercises, used by many Strength & Conditioning coaches, called Blackburns which improve shoulder stability. However, there are so many different variations of Blackburns out there that I much prefer Prone T, Y, I W’s.
This is the link to Dr. Jo’s YouTube video demonstrating I, T, W, Y’s :
- If you find it uncomfortable resting your forehead on the floor/mat; simply roll up a small towel and rest your forehead on it as you perform this combination of exercises.
- Perform each movement for 5 – 8 repetitions.
- Take your time whilst performing each movement; ideally a 3232 Tempo – count 3 seconds to slowly raise your arms to the top of the range of motion; hold this position for another 2 seconds; take another 3 seconds to slowly lower your arms back to the floor; relax with your arms on the floor for a final 2 seconds.
Wall Glides are an excellent exercise when it comes to posture improvement; it begins pretty much like the Wall Test (above), then adds the arms to crank up the intensity and muscular engagement. See the video here.
Brugger’s Relief Position
Brugger’s Relief Position is a super easy stretching exercise, which everyone can perform multiple times throughout the day without even leaving their chair/desk (in fact I’ve performed it several times whilst typing this article!)
Here is a link to a short YouTube video by Dr. Russell Janssen
Lower Back Health
This is a link to one of my favourite Dr. Jo YouTube videos.
This video demonstrates several of the best exercises for lower back health.
ELDOA L5 – S1 Stretch
Basically, ELDOA is a series of active stretches, concentrated around the axial skeleton, aimed at helping to correct soft tissue imbalances throughout the body to alleviate joint pain.
Created by French osteopath Dr. Guy Voyer, ELDOA stands for Etirements Longitudinaux Avec Decoaptation Osteo-Articulaire; translation: Longitudinal Osteo-Articular Decoaptation Stretching.
In relation to this article, for me personally, the ELDOA L5 – S1 stretch has been by far the most valuable in relation to my own back rehabilitation. Like all the other stretches in the videos, once you get the hang of it, the L5 – S1 stretch is a relatively simple stretch; this time for the lumbar spine, in particular the L5 – S1 junction and the surrounding musculature.
Once you are in position, try to breathe as naturally as possible, and concentrate on keeping all the parts of your body in the correct positions throughout. Stay in the stretch for 20 – 60 seconds, and repeat 2 – 4 times.
Here is a video demonstrating how to perform the ELDOA L5 – S1 stretch correctly.
If you found this particular ELDOA stretch beneficial, then there is plenty more to work through.
The McKenzie Method
Finally, I’d like to mention The McKenzie Method. Devised by an elite physical therapist, Robin McKenzie, in New Zealand back in 1960; this method is used by practically every physical therapist worldwide in the treatment of neck and back pain. He published several books, however, in my opinion, his best two are Treat Your Own Back and Treat Your Own Neck. Each book includes several simple stretches and exercises to help improve posture, and to relieve aches and pains in the neck and back, as well as plenty of physiological and anatomical information to help you understand many of the causes behind the relevant pain. I have both books and have found them invaluable.
Here is a link to a YouTube video demonstrating the McKenzie Method for the lower back.