You've heard it before, and it's true — all the time we spend sitting at our desks can affect our posture and can make us look heavier and shorter. Here are some exercises to incorporate into your routine to combat the hunch by balancing out your body.
Add this move to your arsenal and you'll be working your entire body while focusing on your posterior muscles — from your hamstrings and butt to your upper back. And the move doesn't require any special equipment, just a set of dumbbells, so it's easy to incorporate.
- Start by grabbing a set of five- to eight-pound dumbbells and standing with your feet hip-width apart, holding the dumbbells by your side. Lift one leg back and tip your torso forward so you are balancing on the opposite leg.
- Once your body is parallel to the floor, your arms should be straight, facing the floor. Move your arms in a rowing motion by bending your elbows and pulling them back, pushing your shoulder blades together.
- Complete the row by extending your arms back down to the floor. Come back to standing position.
- Do two to three sets of 10 on each leg.
Photo: Jenny Sugar
This yoga pose, also called the Half Wheel, opens up your chest and shoulders while giving your muscles and spine a much-needed stretch. Check out more yoga poses for posture here!
- Begin lying flat on your back with your arms along the sides of your body, palms facing down. Bend your knees, placing your heels as close as you can to your butt.
- With your palms and feet pressing firmly into the ground, lift your hips up. Keep your palms on the mat or clasp your hands together below your pelvis, extending through your arms. Or you can also bend your elbows and rest your hands on your lower back. If your feet are close enough, you can also hold your ankles.
- Stay here for five deep breaths, lifting your hips up as high as you can.
Keep reading for more ways to strengthen your back.
This uber-effective back-strengthening exercise should be part of your normal routine. Don't let its simplicity fool you — the Superman is one of the best ways to tone your back muscles while balancing out your body.
- Lie face down on your stomach with arms and legs extended. Keep your neck in a neutral position.
- Keeping your arms and legs straight (but not locked) and torso stationary, simultaneously lift your arms and legs up toward the ceiling to form an elongated "U" shape with your body — back arched and arms and legs several inches off the floor.
- Hold for two to five seconds and lower back down to complete one.
- Do three sets of 12.
Photo: Susi May
The reverse fly should be part of your routine if you always find yourself complaining about your posture. The move helps unround your shoulders and strengthen your upper back muscles to pull your body up.
- Holding a resistance band or Thera-Band, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, keeping a slight bend in the knees. With straight arms, hold the exercise band in front of you with your hands slightly lower than your shoulders. Keep your elbows slightly soft to avoid hyperextending the joint.
- As you exhale, pull your abs to spine to stabilize your torso as you open your arms out to the sides, focusing on the shoulder blades sliding together. Inhale as you slowly return your arms back to starting position. Make sure you don't arch your spine or push your ribcage forward; it helps to imagine yourself growing taller as you perform this exercise.
Rowing can be an ideal exercise to strengthen back muscles while also flitting in cardio, but before you hop on the machine, make sure you know how to use it. Improper form can do more damage than good, so read our tips for using the rowing machine and ask a gym instructor if you are having trouble using the machine correctly.
Don't have a rowing machine? This seated row with resistance band is a variation you can do at home:
- Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Secure the band around the bottoms of your feet and hold on to either end of the band.
- Sit up nice and tall with your shoulders over your hips. Not only will this protect your back from injury, but it will also strengthen your core and improve your posture.
- Keep your arms in a neutral position, with your elbows slightly bent. Inhale to prepare and as you exhale, pull the band back and bend your elbows behind you. Try not to move your torso, since you're trying to target your upper back and arms in this exercise. Focus on making your movements slow and with control. This is one repetition.
- Repeat for a set of 12 to 15 repetitions.