If you’re one of the many who spend their days sitting in front of a computer or behind a steering wheel more often than you’d like, there’s a chance your posture may be suffering. Being seated for hours a day can start to pull you out of natural alignment and begin to add stress to your spine, hips, shoulders, and surrounding tissue.
So what can we do to get the body back into proper balance? For this article, the focus will be on 5 exercises that will help release shortened muscles while activating weak muscles and in turn, set the body back into normal muscle tone.
Pectoral Release. Lie on a dense ball to apply pressure directly to the pec muscle near the front of the shoulder. With firm pressure held on the tight area, slowly move your arm around and focus on getting a full range of motion through the shoulder joint. Continue for several minutes until you feel improved range of motion and then switch to the other pec.
Thoracic Release. Lie on a foam roller with it placed slightly below your shoulder blades. Keep your neck neutral and hips on the floor. Gently drop your shoulders and puff your chest forward as your back naturally arches. Hold for several seconds and then move the roller up or down an inch at a time and repeat until you feel a release of tension throughout that area of the spine.
Hamstring Release/Stretch. Take a seat on a firm medicine ball and place it just below your glutes at the top end of your hamstrings. Allow your weight to sink into the ball and slowly move down the length of your hamstrings until you reach the backside of your knee. You can also tilt your body side to side to hit the inner and outer parts of the hamstrings. Once you ‘smash’ out each hamstring, now you can focus on stretching it. Assume a lunged position over the top of a mat and drop down until your back knee is resting on the mat. With a flat back posture, slowly straighten the front leg while leaning forward until you feel the hamstring lengthen. Slowly shift your hips side to get a nice release through the back of your leg.
Now that we’ve released some of the tight areas, it’s time to activate some of the weaker areas.
Glute Bridge. Lie on a bench with your feet on the floor and your upper back supporting the rest of your weight as your body will be turned perpendicular to the bench. With your feet placed directly under your knees, squeeze your glutes while keeping tension through your abdominal wall. Hold for 5 seconds and then slowly drop your hips about 12 inches. Raise back up and hold again for 5 seconds. Repeat for 1-2 minutes.
Scapular Retraction. Lie face down with your legs together and your arms resting on the floor so you form a Y-shape. Engage your glutes and your abdominal wall and then slowly raise your arms off the floor while rotating your thumbs upward and squeezing your shoulder blades. The goal is to feel engagement in the glutes, abs, and shoulder blade area without feeling tension or pinching in the lower back or neck. Hold for 5 seconds and then slowly return to your starting position. Repeat for 1-2 minutes.
Use this routine a few times per week to help your body re-learn its natural posture.