In this day and age, we are constantly slumped over our phones, our computers, or our steering wheels. As a massage therapist, I am constantly battling the muscles that are shortened, or fatigued, from this posture to relieve a host of problems including pain, lack of range of motion, headaches, and strains. Having better posture has been linked to better sports performance, more energy, easier breath, and even a better mood. Ready to fix yours yet?
When looking at posture correction, there are two things to focus on – muscles that are shortened and tight, and muscles that are overstretched and fatigued. Let’s start with the former –
The muscle groups that are generally shortened and tight due to slumped posture include:
- Pectoralis Major (front of the chest)
- Subscapularis (rotator cuff, front of the shoulder blade)
- Teres Major (rotator cuff, inferior to the shoulder blade)
- Latissimus Dorsi (inferior to the shoulder blade)
- Anterior Deltoid (front of the shoulder)
- Anterior Scalenes (front of the neck)
- Sternocleidomastoid (AKA: SCM, front of the neck)
To correct shortened muscles, we stretch! Here are key stretches to target these muscle groups:
- DOORWAY STRETCH – Open your shoulder at 90 degrees and turn away from the doorway. Extending your arm fully will include more of the biceps, while keeping your elbow at 90 degrees with get deeper into the pectoralis.
- DEEP PEC STRETCH – From laying on your stomach, extend one arm and carefully roll over. Use your opposite arm to control the movement, and plant the opposite foot down for support. Keep the extended arm with the palm facing down.
- THORACIC EXTENSION – Sitting your knees wide apart, sit your hips back, but allow them to hover off the ground so your head can drop between your arms. Drop your head down if it is comfortable, to open the front line of your upper body.
- EAGLE ARMS – Bring one arm up in front of you to 90 degrees. Tuck the other elbow and wrap, trying to bring palms as close together as possible. Then push wrapped arms away from you and upward to stretch the Rotator Cuff.
Where there are shortened and tightened muscles, there are over stretched and fatigued muscles, and these are JUST as important to focus on if you want to correct your posture for the long run. These muscles include:
- Rhomboids (medial to the shoulder blade)
- Trapezius (middle of the back, up to the shoulders, and back of the head)
- Levator Scapula (back of the neck)
- Posterior Scalenes (back of the neck)
- Teres Minor (rotator cuff, inferior to the shoulder blade)
- Posterior Deltoid (back of the shoulder)
- Infraspinatus (rotator cuff, on the shoulder blade)
To correct muscles that are overstretched and fatigued, we strengthen! By exercising these muscles, you are not only making them stronger, you are increasing circulation to the area, which increases oxygen supply. You also flush lactic acid out of your system and reduce the risk of that muscle atrophying later in life.
Add these exercises to your regular exercise routine and you will be sitting up straighter in no time:
SCAPULAR RETRACTIONS – From a seated or standing position, open your shoulders so your palms face forward. Using only the muscles in your back, bring your shoulder blades together. Relax to return back to start.
HEAD RETRACTIONS – From a neutral head position (or forward head) use the posterior neck muscles to bring your head back over your shoulders. Relax to return back to neutral and repeat.
- PLANK – Keeping your core engaged, hold yourself for as long as possible without compromising form.
- ROWS – From a table top position, keep your elbow close into your body and draw your arm up. Engage the muscles in your back. To add more resistance, hold something weighted, or a resistance band.
SUPERMANS – From laying on your stomach, engage your entire posterior chain to lift the arms, chest, lower legs, and feet. Hold for a few seconds, then relax and return back to neutral.
These stretches and exercises are easy to throw into your workout routine, yoga practice, or even on their own. Having better posture is absolutely essential to a healthy body, and worth taking care of.
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