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Five exercises that can help improve your posture

After more than a year of lounging, these simple moves will get you back in action.
July 12, 2021 11:05 a.m. EST

Bad posture is a problem for many of us, especially after a year of more lounging and hunching over than usual, thanks to our work-from-home set ups. According to fitness trainer and lifestyle expert Jim Karas, three key areas of the body are directly affected by poor posture and include the low back, shoulders, and neck. Your body is very smart, and when you repeatedly train it to be out of balance with poor posture, it will keep following that muscle imbalance. Jim is showing us six posture-improving exercises to help relieve tension and feel taller.  

Pistol Squats

These are single-leg squats that require ankle, knee and hip mobility as well as core stability. The goal is to focus on each leg to prevent you from favouring your dominant side. To perform a pistol squat, start standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. Squat down on both legs until you’re as low as you can hold, then lift one foot off the ground. Maintain this position on one leg for a few seconds, then switch. Then, return to starting position. Progression tip: add a pillow into the mix.

Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift

Any single-sided exercise will help improve posture because it will improve your balance and strengthen both sides of the body. Single-leg Romanian deadlifts place more demand on the ankle, knee and hip joints, making the joints more stable and less prone to injury. To perform this exercise, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent and raise one leg off the floor behind you. Without changing the bend in your standing leg, keep your back naturally arched, hinge at your hips, and lower your torso until it's almost parallel to the floor. Briefly pause at the bottom, squeeze your glutes, thrust your hips forward, and raise your torso back to the starting position. 

Power Pose

Studies show that performing the power pose, like Wonder Woman or a warrior going into battle, can diminish the stress hormone known as cortisol, which is a big driver for things like obesity and anxiety. Cortisol is known as the gas pedal and can come in handy in certain situations, like when we need to run away from something, but then when you're safe, it should go back down. Right now, we are all feeling the stress a little bit more than usual, so our bodies are not able to go into that parasympathetic mode, aka the relaxation mode. So, by performing this kind of exercise, we can reduce our cortisol and help relax the body. To perform this pose, you can stand up tall, with your hands on the hips, or out straight for a few minutes. Jim suggests also trying to clear your mind while doing this pose - take some deep breaths, close your eyes, and relax your shoulders. 

Wall Squat with Shoulder Raise

This exercise strengthens the glutes and the upper body. Squat against a wall as you lower down, lift your arms overhead as you maintain contact with the wall. Stay in the squat and slowly raise your arms up and down, keeping your shoulders glued to the wall a few times and return to standing. 

Single-Leg Bridges

This is a great exercise to strengthen the glutes and the low back. It focuses on strengthening both legs, not just your dominant side taking over. To perform, lay on your back with your knees bent and heels close to the glutes. Raise your hips to create a straight line from your knees to shoulders. Slowly raise and extend one leg while keeping your pelvis raised and level. Hold for a few seconds. Return to starting position with knees bent. Perform the lift with the other leg. 

CARS

CARS stands for controlled articulated rotation, and this variation is for your upper back, specifically the trapezius muscles. Along with bringing blood to these muscles, you're bringing relief to them as well. To perform, start on your hands and knees, and pull your shoulders up, leaning them up towards the ears as high as you can go, and then back down to tabletop, then down as far away from your ears as you can go. There are also CARS for the lower body and the mid-section, and they really help bring back balance to the body.