If you’ve ever rolled your eyes when your mom told you to “sit up straighter,” listen up! Turns out she was on to something. Good posture is important for more reasons than physical presentation. And for fitness fanatics, it’s actually critical. “Good posture impacts how you walk, jump, and lift,” says Aaptiv trainer Ackeem Emmons. “Proper alignment also eases strain or pain on your spinal cord.”
For runners and gym-goers, the impacts are even more specific. “When you’re running, having good posture allows you to breathe better,” Emmons says. “The more air in your diaphragm, the further you can go. The better your posture, the more fluid your form.” All of this translates to more efficient and successful running. In the gym, proper form and alignment help you isolate certain muscle groups and execute heavy compound movements, he adds.
Beyond the obvious physical gains, your posture can also impact you mentally as well. “Standing tall with proper posture gives the immediate impression of confidence and courage,” says Aaptiv trainer Ceasar F. Barajas. “You’re mentally setting the tone for success when you straighten up a bit.”
If you’re suddenly feeling hyper-aware of your spinal column, don’t worry. According to Aaptiv trainers Jaime McFaden and Benjamin Green, you can work every day to gradually correct limp posture. “Sit up straight and gently pull your shoulders back and down, stretching the neck. Press both feet firmly into the ground and lift your chest,” McFaden says.
“I’m on a bike anywhere from three to six days per week, hunched over with a rounded back,” explains Green. “Throughout the day, if I catch myself not standing up straight, I open up my shoulders.” If it helps, imagine a string attached to the top of your head, pulling you up, he adds.
For those looking for a more intense posture intervention, our Aaptiv trainers shared five exercises and poses that will help open up your chest, align your spine, and gradually correct poor posture. Keep reading for more moves and be sure to check out all of Aaptiv’s yoga and stretching classes in-app to support (pun intended) your good posture journey.
1. Planks — Aaptiv Trainer Kelly Chase: Lie on your stomach with your legs straight behind you. Bring your arms forward and rest your weight on your forearms. Your elbows should be directly below your shoulders. Your arms can rest straight and flat with your palms facing the ground or you can bring your hands together to form a triangular shape. Engage your core and keep your body as straight as possible, careful not to create any dip or arch in your lower back. Hold for 30 seconds. As you become stronger, you can increase your hold time.
2. Band Scapular Retraction Rows — Aaptiv Trainer Candice Cunningham: You’ll need a resistance band for this exercise. Sit upright on the floor with both feet extended in front of you. Keeping your legs straight together, wrap the band around the bottoms of your feet, holding the ends in your hands. Focus on holding your back completely straight as you gradually pull the ends of the band into your chest in a row-style movement. Your elbows should bend out to the sides at chest height. Straighten your arms and repeat.
Complete 10 reps.
3. Supermans — Aaptiv Trainer Benjamin Green: Lie straight and face down on your mat. Extend your arms in front of you with your biceps next to your ears. Exhale and simultaneously, raise your legs, arms, and chest off the mat, creating a U-shape in your body. Squeeze your lower back and hold for two deep breaths. Inhale and lower your limbs back to the mat.
Complete 10 reps.
4. Bird Dogs — Aaptiv trainer Ackeem Emmons: Start on your hands and knees with your palms directly below your shoulders and your knees below your hips. Put your weight on your left knee and left hand as you slowly lift your right leg and straighten it behind you, keeping it in line with your flat back. Lift your right arm and extend it forward in line with your back. Reach with your fingers, careful to maintain a straight line through your body from fingertips to toes. Flex your right foot so your toes are pointed toward the ground and hold for five deep breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Complete 10 reps on each side.
5. Tadasana (Mountain Pose) — Aaptiv trainer Ceasar Barajas: You can perform this pose standing or sitting (at your desk perhaps?). Take a deep breath in and roll your shoulders up towards your ears. Exhale and roll them back down. Continue consciously breathing deeply and engage your core. Imagine someone poured cold water down your back to further engage your core and move deeper in the stretch.
Perform this move as often as you need.
(Photos via Getty)