Improve Your Posture With These Simple Exercises

Many of the jobs we do require us to be sitting down staring at a computer for very long periods of time. What happens if you do this day in and day out and you are not stretching and doing exercises that combat this position then muscle imbalances will occur and lead to poor posture as well as neck pain, headaches, and lower back pain.

Today I am going to address what happens when we constantly have our head in a tilted down position. It is called Upper Cross Syndrome and what that mainly means is your shoulders are rolled over forward and your head is also forward away from your shoulders. Having this imbalance can cause many different injuries and make it very uncomfortable. For example, if your shoulders are rounded forward this will most likely cause a shoulder impingement. What his basically means is your tendon is rubbing against the bone and this will cause a lot of pain whenever you try to lift your arm. Another consequence of Upper Cross Syndrome is the head being forward and not over the shoulders. This results in neck pain and headaches.As you can see having these muscle imbalances can cause many different problems. Fortunately there are ways to prevent these problems from occurring or fix the damage that has been done by doing simple exercises.
The first thing you want to do is to inhibit the overactive muscles. You can do this by using a foam roller or by finding a sore spot in the area of the overactive muscles and pressing on that spot for about 30 seconds.
The next step is to lengthen the muscles that you just inhibited. You can do this by various static stretches and holding them for 30 seconds.
Third, you are going to want to do some exercises to strengthen the weaker underactive muscles, and then finally you will do exercises that require you to use your entire body in a functional manner.
In this post I am going to only address the rolling over of the shoulders. I would address the neck as well, but I think it might get a little confusing and it is a lot of information to take in all at once. So lets start with the shoulders rolling over, what you can do to prevent this and also improve upon this problem.
Step one – You need to address what the overactive muscles are and what the underactive muscles are. Once you know what muscles are overactive you need to inhibit them by using what is called Self-Myofacial Release. This is a flexibility technique used to inhibit overactive muscle fibers. To do this you use a foam roller and slowly roll over the overactive muscle until you find the most tender area, now you hold the foam roller on that area for 30 seconds. You continue doing this to the other overactive muscles. If you have forward shoulder posture then most likely your overactive muscles are the Lattissimus Dorsi, and the Thoracic Spine.
Step two– Now that the overactive muscles have been inhibited you can now lengthen those muscles. Remember the muscles you want to lengthen are the ones that were overactive and the ones you just inhibited using Self- Myofacial Release. When you lengthen these muscles you are going to be using a static stretch. Static stretching mainly means you are just holding a stretch for a certain amount of time and there is no movement. You need to hold the static stretch for 30 seconds and stretch each muscle that was overactive. The muscles you need to lengthen are the Latissimus Dorsi and the Pectoralis Major.
Step three – Now that the muscles that were overactive are lengthened we now want to turn our attention to activating the underactive muscles. You do that by using isolated strengthening. This means you will do exercises that will strengthen only your weak underactive muscles. Some of these exercises will be the Floor Cobra, External Rotation of the Shoulder, Internal Rotation of the Shoulder, and “T’s” and ‘Y’s”. The muscles you need to strengthen are your Rotator Cuffs, Middle and Lower Trapezius and the Rhomboids.Step four – Now that you have strengthened the weak muscles it is time to train them in a functional manner. Since our bodies do not just require one muscle to work it is important for them to all work together to move the body efficiently. Integration requires the lower and upper body to be involved. An exercise to use for this is the Squat to Row.Take a look at the muscle charts below to locate what muscles are overactive and tight and which ones are underactive.
Foam Roll Exercises
Muscles to inhibit are the Latissimus Dorsi and the Thoracic Spine
                            Lat Stretch                                                            Thoracic Spine Stretch
Lengthening Exercises
Muscles you want to lengthen are the Latissimus Dorsi and the Pectorals. Use static stretching to lengthen these muscles. Make sure you hold each stretch for 30 seconds. If you are over 65 years old you should hold them for 60 seconds.
                              Chest Stretch                 Standing Latissimus Dorsi Stretch            Kneeling Lat Stretch
Activation and Strengthening Exercises
Muscles needed to strengthen are Mid/Lower Trapezius, Rhomboids and Rotator Cuff
Floor “Y” (Also can be done on a Stability Ball)                 Ball “T” (Can be done on the floor)
           Shoulder Internal Rotation                                                Shoulder External Rotation
                            Prone Cobra
Integration
You will do the Squat to Row exercise to improve functional movement. In this exercise you are going to be doing a squat and a row. It is one complete exercise and it should be done in a slow controlled manner.

1st part of Squat to Row                                               2nd part of Squat to Row

Here is an exercise routine to follow to correct rounded shoulders and also to prevent injuries.

Foam Roller (Inhibit)

Latissimus Dorsi    1 set    hold for 30 seconds
Thoracic Spine       1 set    hold for 30 seconds

Lengthen (Static Stretches)

Lat Stretch            1 set    hold for 30 seconds
Standing Chest     1 set    hold for 30 seconds

Activation (Isolation Strengthening)

Prone Cobra              1 set    10 reps
Floor or ball “Y’s”    1 set    10 reps
Floor or ball “T’s”     1 set    10 reps
Internal Rotation    1 set    10 reps each arm
External Rotation    1 set    10 reps each arm

Integration

Squat to Row           1-2 sets 10-15 reps slow

Do this routine daily or every other day to improve posture and help prevent injuries to the shoulder.

 

Paul Farmer CES, PES, CPT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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