3 Exercises for Better Posture, According to a Barre Instructor
Your postural muscles consist mainly of your abdomen, glutes and back. Think of them as the scaffolding that holds your joints together. Having strong postural muscles not only maintains good posture, but also lowers your risk of joint issues in your neck, back, hips, knees and ankles.
Before we get into the exercises, the first step is to consciously work on your posture while you're standing and working out. Your perception of how you stand and the reality of how you stand can be very different. At The Bar Method, where I work as a barre instructor, we tell clients to utilize the mirrors in the room to look at the lines of their bodies. Is your head over your shoulders, or do you just assume that it is? Is your rib cage upright or does it sag forward? Think of pressing your shoulders down and back, elongating your neck and creating a line from your head to your shoulders to your hips.
Here are three exercises to help you get started:
1. Standing Lat Pulls
Lat pulls are not only excellent for building back strength, but they are also therapeutic in that they stretch your chest and shoulders. This can help counteract the time we spend hunched over our computers and phones, which can lead to a tight chest and hunched shoulders.
To perform a lat pull, pick up a weight in each hand and stand with your feet hip-width apart. Soften your knees, grip your glutes and bend 1 inch forward at your waist to align your shoulders over your hips. Bend your arms into 90-degree angles and open your forearms out to the side until your arms look like two L-shapes. Pull your elbows behind your waist and squeeze your elbows in closer toward each other. You can hold this position for 20 seconds three times or squeeze your elbows in toward each other at a pulse tempo pulling inward. Keep your neck long, your chest open and your shoulders down.
In addition to strengthening your core, planking daily also strengthens your lower back and upper body, which lowers your risk of injury and significantly improves your posture. I love that planks can be done anywhere—no gym membership, personal trainer or special equipment required!
To perform a plank, come down to the floor on your knees or the balls of your feet and place your forearms on the floor with your palms facing in toward each other. Open your legs to hip-width apart and lift your hips to the height of your ribs. Squeeze your glutes and tuck your hips under as you lift your head to be in line with your spine. Actively pull your abdominal muscles up and in toward your spine and exhale sharply. Lastly, pull your shoulders down and flatten your back.
3. Glute Bridges
Your abs and glutes work as a team to hold your pelvis in good alignment. This exercise improves the alignment of your hips and pelvis by strengthening and activating your glutes. The result is less back pain and better posture.
Lie down on your back and bend your knees. Place your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart and parallel. Press your rib cage down and tilt the rest of your torso up off the floor, using your glutes. Relax your back so that your hips can move freely. As you lift and lower your glutes, keep your mid ribs pressed into the floor. Do three sets of 20 reps.
The Bottom Line
While having a good posture is visually appealing, it can also really pay off when it comes to avoiding injuries, strains and soreness. Doing these three simple exercises consistently over time can significantly reduce your risk of injury and pain. So carve out a few minutes each day and commit to making it a daily practice!