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The 5 Best Tips for Improving Your Posture, According to a Trainer

Stand taller (and look and feel better!) by incorporating these exercises into your routine.

Our posture is negatively affected by what we do on a daily basis. Unfortunately, these days, most of us sit at a desk working on a computer without getting up for way too long. Not only that, we now live in a mobile world where we are constantly hunched forward looking at our phones to scroll through social media, check the news, or catch up on emails. Such long periods of sitting with poor posture can lead to neck, shoulder, and lower back pain because your shoulders start to unnaturally round forward and your pecs and hips get tight. (How many times have you had nagging pains in those areas? Poor posture is to blame…)

Of course, when we think of good posture, we imagine standing erect with our chests tall and shoulders back like a soldier. However, that's just not realistic to do at all times. Yes, you should stand up straight, but your body is meant to bend, twist, and move, so some slouching from time to time is normal. The key to good posture is to be consciously aware of how you sit and stand and to maintain and improve your flexibility and mobility in your thoracic spine (AKA upper back).

You also need to strengthen your posture muscles in your upper back and rear delts, which get stiff and weak due to being in a head-forward, slouched position. This means pulling, rather than pushing, exercises can help restore balance in your posture muscles—which everyone can benefit from adding to their workout routine.

To improve your posture, here are a few great horizontal pulling exercises that I recommend adding to your exercise regimen. And for more, check out these Secret Effects of Doing Yoga, According to Science.

Foam Roller Extensions

Foam Roller Extensions
Tim Liu, C.S.C.S.

Before performing pulling movements, you want to open up your upper back. Performing T-spine extensions with a foam roller is a great way to open up and regain mobility in your thoracic spine.

Start by placing the foam roller on the ground behind your upper back with your arms supporting your neck. Keeping your hips down on the ground, stretch to bend your upper back down toward the ground, going as low as you can without compensating with your lower back. Come back up with a tiny crunch, then repeat.

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Band Pullaparts

3 band pullaparts

Grab a light or medium resistance band and hold it with both hands just about shoulder-width apart. Keeping your hands completely straight, begin pulling the band apart until your arms are fully outstretched. As you're pulling the band, squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold the end of the movement for 1-2 seconds before returning to the starting position. Do 3 rounds of 15-20 reps.

Related: 4 Exercise Tricks to Fight Aging, Science Says

Face Pulls

2 face pulls

Attach a rope handle onto a cable pulley station and set it at your neck level. Grip the rope so that your thumbs are facing you. Pull out the cable and take two steps back. Get into a split stance (with one foot forward and one foot back) for balance, then pull the rope towards your face, flaring the elbows back at the end of the motion. Squeeze the back of your shoulders and your shoulder blades together before returning to the starting position. Do 3 rounds of 15 reps.

Related: Exercise Mistakes That Can Shorten Your Lifespan, Science Says

Seated Row

Seated Row
Tim Liu, C.S.C.S.

Grab the attachment on a seated row machine and place your feet firmly on the footpad. Pull the handle out, then straighten your legs fully. Keeping your chest tall, drive your elbows back towards your hips, squeezing your back and lats hard to finish. Straighten your arms fully and get a stretch in your shoulder blades before performing another rep. Do 3 rounds of 10-12 reps.

Related: The Worst Exercise Habits Causing You to Feel Older, Science Says

Dumbbell Bent Over Lateral Raises

dumbbell bent over lateral raise

Grab a pair of dumbbells and get into position by pushing your hips back, bending your torso forward at least 45 degrees, and keeping your chest tall, back straight, and knees soft. With the dumbbells hanging down toward the ground and a slight bend in your elbow, raise your arms to either side of you so that the dumbbells are parallel with your torso, squeezing the back of your shoulders as you do so. Resist on the way back to starting position before performing another rep. Do 3 rounds of 15 reps.

For more, check out these 5 Quick Cardio Workouts That Burn Fat Fast.

Tim Liu, C.S.C.S.
Tim Liu, CSCS, is an online fitness and nutrition coach based in Los Angeles Read more about Tim