Thanks to the New Year, you’ve probably set a health-related goal in order to look better, whether it be due to exercise, cutting calories or just praying, but I have something to remind you: if you don’t stand up straight, no amount of praying, cutting calories or exercising will give you the hottest body possible. Poor posture can take its toll on your body and after time, your spine, shoulders, hips and knees will begin to ache. The cascade of structural flaws can clearly lead to back and joint pain, reduced flexibility, compromised muscle usage and therefore limit your ability to build the strength of those muscles. You can, however, head off the problems with a few of these exercises and stretches – fix your form, soothe the aches and move those natural curves in their rightfully natural direction!
Does your head lean forward? The problem could be the stiff muscles in the back of your neck.
Solution: by moving only your head, drop your chin down and in toward your sternum while stretching the back of your neck, gently. Hold for a count of 5 and do this at least 10 times a day.
Do you have perpetually rounded shoulders? The weakness in the middle and lower parts of the large muscle spanning your back and shoulders (aka your trapezius) is causing this.
Solution: lay face down on the floor with each arm at a 90-degree angle in the “high 5” position. Without changing your elbow angle, raise both arms by pulling your shoulders back and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Hold for 5 seconds; that’s 1 rep. Do 2 or 3 sets of 12 repetitions daily.
Are you worried about your anterior pelvic tilt? This may be caused by having overly tight hip flexors.
Solution: kneel on your left knee, with your right foot on the floor in front of you, knee bent. Press forward until you see the stretch in your left hop. Tighten your butt muscles on your left side until you feel the front of your hip stretching comfortably. Reach upward with your left arm and stretch to the right side. Hold this for a count of 30 seconds. That’s one repetition; do 3 on each side.
Is one of your shoulders more elevated than the other? This problem may be because the muscle under your chest is weak.
Solution: sit upright in a chair with your hands next to your hip, palms down on the seat, arms straight. Without moving your arms, push down on the chair until your hips lift up off the seat and your torso rises. Hold this for 5 seconds. That’s 1 repetition – do 2 or 3 sets of 12 reps daily.
Do you walk with pigeon toes? Your glutes may be weak.
Solution: lie on one side with your knees bent 90 degrees and your heels together. Keeping your hips still, raise your top knee upward, separating your knees like a clamshell. Pause for 5 seconds then lower your knee to the starting position. That’s 1 repetition – perform 2 or 3 sets of 12 reps on each side daily.
Have you ever been teased about walking with duck feet? This is a sign that you hip flexors and oblique (stomach) muscles are weak.
Solution: get into a pushup position with your feet resting on a stability ball. Without rounding your lower back, tuck your knees under your torso, using your feet to roll the ball toward your body, then back to the starting position. That’s 1 repetition. Do 2 or 3 sets of six to 12 reps daily.