Flexing Your Confidence Muscle with Good Posture
Simple exercises for improving your posture and presenting your best self.
How many hours do you spend on your computer or looking at your phone in a given day? How much do miss your ergonometric office chair and duel-monitor setup in the office? While working from the couch, your bed or the kitchen table are all great options right now; they don’t lend themselves to creating the neutral spin and aligned muscle groups best for supporting our bodies. I find myself developing a bit of a “chicken-neck,” where my chin juts out in front of my shoulders. Not a great look or feeling! So I have decided to do something about it.
Here’s the good news—in just a few minutes a day, you can perform simple exercises and stretches to strengthen muscle groups and mobilize joints to support better posture. In this post, I’ll outline the practice that is working for me to improve my carriage.
The benefits of good posture
The physical benefits of good posture are significant. Lessened back pain, injury reduction and reduced neck and shoulder tension are a few. According to Jenna Jonaitis of healthline, additional longer-term physical benefits can include reduced headaches, decreased wear on joints and improved circulation.
And what about the psychological benefits? Standing with your chest proud, shoulders open and head held high you present a strong and powerful energy tangible to those around you. Sitting upright can dispel negative moods and increase-self esteem according to a study published in Health Psychology. Increased energy and confidence are additional mental benefits says Barbara Brody in Health Magazine.
So here are some simple tools and tips I’ve found work to improve my posture as well as my mood. If you’re short on time, rollout your shoulders a few times to warm up and skip straight to the strength exercises to get the most benefit.
Start off with a few simple stretches to wake up your major muscle groups that support posture. Loosen your upper and lower trapezius, deltoids and lateral muscles with a few shoulder rolls to the front and back followed by some gentle neck rolls left and right to unlock your small neck muscles.
Wall Shoulder Stretch
Place your hands on the wall in front of you at shoulder width apart. Stand with your feet hip width apart. Leaving your hands where they are, gradually bend your knees and lower your seat so that your arms are aligned with you ears. You should feel a stretch in your chest, shoulder blades and rotator cuffs. Hold for 15-30 seconds.
Door Frame Stretch
Find a doorframe in your home. Open your hands upward in a “Y” position on either side of the doorframe. Lean forward to open up your pectoral muscles and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Focus on keeping your pelvis tucked forward directly in-line with your spine, removing the arch from your back. Keep your chin pulled slightly back to align your neck—opposite from a chicken-neck position.
Now that you’ve loosened your neck, opened your chest and awakened your shoulders, you’re ready to start building strength. By creating muscle memory through repetition, your body will naturally start to hold better posture on its own. Do these once a day or when you can get to them. I tend to do them when I feel like it and not stress if I miss a day or two because that’s just counter-productive to my good mood.
Chin Tuck – (the “chicken-neck” combatant)
Take two fingers and place them on your chin. Gently push backwards. You’ll feel your front neck muscles fire up and become tight, as well as a little tension in your rear neck. Do about 10-15 slow repetitions. This is an easy one to do when you are sitting watching TV, in the car at a stoplight, or wherever.
Lie with your belly on the floor or mat with toes tucked. Gently raise your head and neck off the ground while staring directly down in front of you. Lift your arms up and in front of you, palms facing the floor. Bring arms out wide and down around your sides, flipping your palms to face up over the small of your back. Reverse it and bring the hands back out in front facing down toward the floor. Take this slowly so that you feel a large range of motion and a squeezing of your shoulder blades together. Repeat for 10 full reps of forward and back.
“W” Floor Exercise
This can be done with body weight, or small lightweights in either hand. Start with body weight and gradually increase to weights over time. Lie with your belly on the floor, your head slightly elevated and looking down in front of you with toes tucked. Extend your arms at a 45 degree angle (about 10 and 2 on a clock face) and bend your elbows so that your arms form a “W” position. Gently squeeze your shoulder blades together and raise your arms up and off the mat, maintaining the “W” position. Gently lower arms back to the mat. Repeat 10 reps.
This simple brace is a tried and true tool of many equestrian athletes. Good posture is essential in riding to maintain balance and strength on the horse. I can’t tell you the number of times growing up my riding coaches would yell at me “sit up straight!” or “get those shoulders back!” EquiFit’s ShouldersBack™ Lite is a nifty elastic support that helps correct that position by pinching your pectoral muscles when your shoulders slump forward, reminding you to hold your shoulders back. It also fits easily under clothing and is relatively unnoticeable. A great tool for riders and non-riders alike.
This small app connected device boasts improved posture in 14 days. Using adhesive or a neck cord, you stick the small device in-between your shoulder blades. The device connects to an app on your phone where you can either set to “training” or “tracking” mode. In training mode, little vibrations will pulse to the device when you are slouching reminding you to pull those shoulders back. To be honest, I haven’t tried this product, so I can’t for sure say if it’s helpful or not. It seems like an interesting concept and if you have any experience with it, comment below!
Open, strong and empowered
These are the simple tools I’ve discovered to help with my posture. I find that when I carry myself correctly, I feel more positive, engaged and happy and that energy attracts like-minded people. More people say hello to me in the streets, my confidence improves and frankly I see more of the world just from looking up and forward. I hope you find this information helpful as you start to open your heart to the world through good posture.
***Please not, while I am a fitness professional, I am not a physical therapist or medical professional – these are just exercises that work for me. Always consult a medical professional before starting an exercise program and listen to your body. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it!