Today I am sharing 5 easy posture exercises to help prevent back pain – no equipment needed and anyone can do them to improve posture today!
POP QUIZ – Are you slouching right now? Be honest! I have always struggled with maintaining proper posture throughout the day, and I know so many of you do too! Whether we are working at our computers for hours, looking at our phones, watching TV, or even carrying kids, it’s just too easy to relax and let our bodies slouch. (By the way, kids are the WORST on parent’s backs!!)
But over time our muscles become weak and unbalanced… and what do we get in return? Back pain. Neck pain.
After personally dealing with these issues myself (and spending quite a bit of time in physical therapy to correct those imbalances), I’m sharing 5 easy posture exercises that you can do at home to prevent those same pains!
Do You Have Poor Posture?
I’ll tell you a secret: this question is not an easy one to answer. Truthfully, we don’t always know that we have poor posture.
Sure, if I ask you to show me what poor posture looks like, you could mimic a sulky teenager with your back and shoulders rounded and head looking down at a TikTok video. But did you know that you could have poor posture and not even realize it?
If you have a desk job or spend most of your day sitting, driving, holding a kid or two, looking at your phone or computer, or really spend a majority of your time using your arms/hands doing work in front of you (HINT: that’s pretty much all of us), there’s a chance that your posture isn’t what it should be.
Here are some signs that your posture needs to be corrected:
- your shoulders are rounded (curving toward the front)
- you have rounding on the top of your back/neck area
- your head is in a forward position (as if you’re pushing your chin forward)
- your hips are either pushed forward or tilted toward the front (I call that duck butt)
Even if you only check off one of these signs, doing some posture exercises to prevent future neck and back pain is a good idea! Here are the 5 that were recommended to me by physical therapists, and that I recommend to you.
5 Easy Posture Exercises
Posture is easily improved by strengthening the core through specific exercises and stretches that help you to hold your body in the proper positioning. By improving your posture, you help to alleviate back pain and slow down the effects of aging on your body!
Start with a few repetitions of each movement (10 reps each, or 30 seconds each) and increase reps/time (20 reps or 60 seconds each) as you build strength and see your posture improving.
Ideally, you’ll want to do these exercises in the morning and again at night, until you improve your strength, stability, and posture. Then I recommend you progress to exercises that are a little more challenging, such as those using resistance bands or light weights, to continue to strengthen and stabilize your core.
1. Child’s Pose to Cobra
This first exercise is more of an active stretch for your entire core. Sinking back into child’s pose stretches and lengthens your entire back while opening up your hips.
From tabletop position (on your hands and knees), press your hips back until your butt touches your heels. Keep your hands on the floor in front of you, reaching to gently stretch through your upper body. Rest your forehead on the floor and breathe a few slow breaths.
Then come up and forward into cobra, reversing the movement until your pelvis and lower tummy are on the mat. Gently arch your back and open up your chest, pressing your shoulders down and back.
Remember to take slow, deep breaths and visualize your body lengthening and opening up with each movement. Keep your neck in neutral spine, making sure you don’t let your head hang forward or arch too far backward.
Repeat the sequence a few times.
2. Bird Dog
Begin on all fours with hands under shoulders and knees under hips (tabletop position). Tighten your core and maintain balance as you reach one arm forward and the opposite leg back until both are straightened.
Imagine your fingertips and toes reaching as far as possible in each direction, lengthening your body.
Keeping your core tight and with as little wobbling as possible, return to table top (on all fours) and repeat with the opposite arm and leg.
Make sure you don’t arch your back or neck, keeping your head, neck, and spine in alignment. You can help keep your neck neutral by resting your eye gaze on the floor between your hands or a few inches in front of them.
Yay, the plank! Everyone’s favorite total body exercise! Or maybe not such a favorite haha.
Love it or hate it, the plank (when done correctly) is a great core strengthener to help you sit and stand a little straighter! It engages the muscles in your shoulders, back, core, glutes, and hamstrings. Seriously – it’s a total body exercise.
Begin in a pushup position with hands directly under shoulders and legs straight back. Keep the abs drawn in and braced, as if preparing for someone to punch you in the stomach. Head, neck, spine, and legs should be in a straight line, as if a single string were being pulled through the top of your head and the bottom of your heels.
B R E A T H E. It’s easy to hold your breath while planking, so remind yourself to take slow breaths!
Only plank as long as you can hold the proper positioning. If your hips start to sag or your booty moves up into the air, drop to your knees and plank there instead.
Or you can alternate high plank with knee plank to give your body short rest times to build up strength and endurance.
Want more core exercises?
Check out my blog post on 27 plank variations!
Going back into tabletop position (on all fours with hands under shoulders and knees under hips), draw in your core and arch your back up toward the ceiling. Feel your pubic bone pulling forward as your lower abs contract. Hold for a few seconds, then slowly release and lower your back into an arch.
Gently increase the arch, almost as if your tailbone could move closer to your upper back. Tighten your shoulder blades, increasing the tension in your back and opening your chest.
You really want to focus on this part of the exercise, since our backs are usually very rounded when sitting most of the day. By arching your back in this way, you’re keeping your thoracic spine from becoming too stiff and losing its natural curve.
Return to neutral tabletop and repeat.
5. Chest Opener/Scapular Retraction
This can be done anywhere, sitting or standing. It was one of the physical therapy exercises I was given to help with the forward rounding of my shoulders (caused by holding babies and toddlers all day long for years!).
With arms raised and elbows at a 90 degree angle, gently pull your elbows slightly behind you. It should feel like you could squeeze a pencil between your shoulder blades. Hold for a few seconds, release, and repeat.
This can easily be done in line at the grocery store, while sitting at a red light, or right now as you read this. Just leave your arms down (rather than holding them up at 90 degrees) at your sides and nobody will even notice that you’re pulling your shoulder blades together in the back.
(Go ahead. Do it. I’m waiting.)
While you continue a few reps, because I know you’re doing it right now, imagine a string pulling your head a little higher. Just an inch. Tuck your chin in a bit (we all have that double chin, don’t worry), keeping your head over your spine to counteract the forward lean your head has when you’re looking at your phone.
Don’t you feel a little taller already?
Regularly including these exercises into your routine will soon result in obvious improvement of your posture and should alleviate some back pain caused by slouching. Not only that, imagining yourself sitting taller and standing straighter will make you look (and feel) more confident and strong!
Check out this video for a demo of these easy posture exercises
Need a demonstration of the posture exercises I mentioned above? Here is a video to show how to do each one!
For a 30 day guide to better posture, check out this calendar of activities from Healthline.
Stretches to Add to Posture Exercises
In addition to the exercises listed above, there are a few stretches that I recommend incorporating as well. If your poor posture is due to extended periods of sitting, there are a few parts of your body that are likely tight. Those tight muscles actually pull your body out of alignment, causing those aches and pains!
Areas that need to be stretched are:
- hip flexors
- back of the neck
These stretches can be easily done at home while watching TV – and one can even be done in the car! Hold each stretch for 30-45 seconds, and do them twice if you can.
Stretch your hip flexor (the front of your hip where your leg meets your pelvis) by getting on one knee and pushing your hips forward. You can intensify this stretch by reaching your arm up to stretch the hip flexor even more. Switch sides and repeat.
Chest stretches are easiest done by bringing your arm to a 90 degree angle with your elbow and forearm on a door frame. Lean slightly through the doorway until you feel a gentle pull in your chest area. Repeat on the other side.
Chin tucks are both an exercise AND a stretch. They strengthen the deep neck muscles (you’ll feel them next to your windpipe in this move) while reversing the tightness in the back of your neck. Keeping your head straight and looking straight ahead, slide your head back to create the biggest double chin you possibly can. Hold for 5 seconds and release. Breathe and repeat. Aim to do 20-30 of these.
Sitting at a red light or in traffic? Press the back of your head against the headrest in your car. You’ll get a little extra resistance with your chin tucks and strengthen those deep neck muscles even more!
Tools to Correct Posture
While these exercises and stretches are the best possible ways to correct your posture and reduce future neck and back pain, there are some tools you can use to help you along the way.
I’ve been using this UPRIGHT GO 2 to help improve my posture. It is a small device that attaches to your back to help remind you to sit or stand a little straighter. If you slouch for more than a few seconds, it gives a little vibration to remind you to correct your positioning.
It’s actually really helpful for me, and I can tell I’m improving already!
My husband, Arien, prefers a low-tech method of reminding him to not slouch while he works. He wears this posture correcting strap to help keep his shoulders back.
He also has added an adjustable height desk to his home office, which allows him to stand and get in some movement during all of his conference calls.
Find more home workouts and fitness tips here!
I’d love to hear your feedback if you give these easy posture exercises a try! Drop a comment and let me know what you think!