Credit: Katie Dunlop
Even if you'd love to have perfect posture, certain aspects of daily life can easily set you back. Sitting at a desk for long periods of time or slumping to look at your phone are two infamous culprits of poor posture, and chances are you're doing one or the other at this very moment.
If swearing off screens feels like too drastic of a solution, you can still take steps to improve your posture. Take it from Katie Dunlop, certified trainer and creator of Love Sweat Fitness , who shared her go-to posture-promoting exercises on her Instagram. (Related: I Improved My Posture In Just 30 Days — Here's How You Can Too )
Dunlop incorporates posture-promoting exercises to help combat the effects of longstanding habits, she tells Shape. "My posture is something I've struggled with since I was a teenager," she says. "I got huge boobs, what felt like, overnight when I was about 12 and was so insecure [that] I did everything I could to hide them. I would sit and stand with my arms crossed and shoulders rolled in for years." Although she now realizes the importance of posture, she still spends a lot of time sitting at her desk, says Dunlop. And, TBH, who doesn't? Sitting at your desk can put your head out of alignment with the rest of your body. After spending a lot of time with your shoulders rounded and your back muscles stretched, your chest muscles can become tight . (Related: 7 Myths About Bad Posture — and How to Fix It )
"Basically what happens after years of bad posture is the muscles you want to be strong are weak, and the muscles that need to be relaxed are tight," explains Dunlop. And so her strategy is to perform exercises that help reverse that by "strengthening weakened muscles like the deep cervical flexors and stretching out tight muscles like my pecs," she says. (Your deep cervical flexors are a group of muscles in your neck, which function to support and stabilize your neck and cervical spine; they also allow you to move your head.)
The potential benefits of improving your posture go beyond just your appearance. "Good posture is about a lot more than just confidence," says Dunlop. "It can improve blood flow, reduce neck and back pain, improve digestion, breath, and a whole lot more." ( Improved posture can even help you score better shut-eye !)
To reap the benefits, Dunlop performs various posture-promoting exercises during her workouts and nightly stretching routine. If you want to steal the three go-to moves that she recently shared on Instagram, here's how to do each one. (Related: The Strength Training Workout for Perfect Posture )
"I do this exercise to strengthen my core and practice alignment," says Dunlop. "After sitting for most of the day with less-than-perfect posture, this really helps reduce low back pain and just helps me re-set a neutral spine."
A. Get into an all-fours position with palms flat on the floor and shoulder-width apart.
B. Brace abs and raise one arm and opposite leg until they're parallel to the floor. Pause, then lower arm and leg to return to start.
C. Switch sides; repeat.
Continue alternating for 10 reps on each side.
Chin Tuck Shoulder Rolls
Dunlop likes to perform this exercise throughout the day while sitting at her desk to promote correct alignment of her body, she says.
A. Start seated in a kneeling position on the ground. Retract shoulder blades so that they're squeezing together behind the body. Hold for 5 seconds.
B. Allow shoulders to roll back and down to reset.
Do 10 reps.
The tucked-in chin positioning of this exercise helps strengthen the cervical flexors and adding a twist helps to relax tight chest muscles, says Dunlop.
A. Lie on back with chin tucked into chest and bring both knees in toward chest. Bring arms out to the side in a T formation and draw knees to the left side, allowing head to rotate to the right side.
B. Hold for 1 minute, taking deep breaths the entire time. Use core muscles to bring legs back to the center to return to start.
C. Switch sides; repeat.