Virtually everything we do requires us to hunch forward – typing, cooking, driving, etc. When we slouch, our chest muscles shorten, our back muscles weaken, and our abdominal muscles grow slack. This muscle shortening impacts a wide range of uncomfortable symptoms. Fortunately, however, being mindful of our posture can prevent back pain, help us feel better, and even assist in projecting more confidence. We hear a lot about “core” strength, but what exactly is the core? Put simply, it is the series of abdominal and lower back muscles that connect to your spine and pelvis. These muscles are involved in virtually every movement we perform, but like any other muscle group they can become unbalanced from lack of consistent use. Imbalances in strength and use can cause them to grow fatigued, get overstressed, and wither over time. In order to improve posture, we must strengthen our core muscles through consistent, periodic training, without overdoing it. This will assist in reversing the feeling of “tight” muscles, strengthen little-used muscles that have atrophied through lack of use, and keep consistently-used muscles from growing fatigued. Try the following simple exercises on alternating days with one day off in-between. You may feel a bit sore on the first few days, but being consistent with this quick and easy routine will improve your posture and fortify your core and back muscles.
Here are my personal favourite five activities to help your posture and core strength:
WALL ANGELS (click here for the video link)
To perform a wall angel, stand with your heels comfortably about 6–8 inches away from the wall.
- Lean your back against the wall with your knees softly bent; have your head against the wall
- Raise your hands up above your head, palms facing forward and your entire arms touching the wall behind you; bend your elbows and pull your arms down; your wrists are not allowed to come off the wall.
- Slowly raise your arms back up to the starting position; REPEAT until fatigue.
LYING LEG RAISES (video link)
- Lie down on your back with your legs straight.
- Put your hands by your sides or under your glutes (bum) with palms facing down (to support the lower back).
- Press your lower back to the floor as you lift your legs off the ground until they make a 90-degree angle from the floor. (pictured)
- Slowly lower your legs back down towards the ground; REPEAT until fatigue
SQUATS (video link)
- Stand with your head facing forward and your chest up and out.
- Place your feet shoulder-width apart. Extend your hands straight out in front of you to help keep your balance.
- Sit back and down like you’re sitting into an imaginary chair. Keep facing forward as your upper body bends forward a bit. Let your lower back arch slightly as you descend.
- Lower down so your thighs are as parallel to the floor as possible, with your knees over your ankles. Press your weight back into your heels.
- Keep your body tight, and push through your heels to bring yourself back to the starting position. REPEAT until fatigue.
SUPERMAN (video link)
- Lie down on your stomach with arms and legs as pictured.
- Lift your arms and legs off the ground simultaneously as you contract your back and glute muscles.
- Keep the motion slow and controlled. Your neck, head, and spine should be aligned.
- Slowly lower your arms and legs back down on the ground. REPEAT until fatigue.
PLANK (video link)
- Start with your elbows on the ground with palms facing down and fingers facing forward, and make sure that your shoulders are right above your elbows, as pictured.
- Your toes should be tucked under towards your shins. Keep your core tight and legs rigid.
- Try squeezing your thigh and glute muscles. Hold in this position for as long as you’re comfortable. You should not be feeling your lower back. BREATHE