Be honest – that whole sucked-in, model stance just makes you look stiff and less confident than you really are. For good posture that's natural, strengthen your rhomboids, spinal muscles and rear deltoids using dumbbells. Exercises alone, however, won't be enough if you’re going to go back to hunching over your desk, your steering wheel and your food once you’ve put down the weights. Practice good posture consistently along with your dumbbell workout and, before long, sitting tall will be a natural, effortless habit.
Perform scapular adduction. Lie on your belly at the end of a high, firm bed or massage table so that both shoulders are off the end and your arms can move freely. Take a 1- to 3-pound dumbbell in each hand and hold them in space, directly below your shoulders. Use your back muscles to lift your shoulders 1 to 2 inches off the bed and lengthen the back of your neck. Keeping your elbows straight, use the muscles around your shoulder blades to lift the weights straight out to the side until your arms make a "T" with your body. Pause here, then use the same muscles to lower the weight back to the start.
Incorporate a balance ball into your dumbbell workout. Face the floor and place your upper belly on the ball. Anchor your feet on the wall behind you. Your knees can be on the floor or an inch or two off the ground. Hold a 1- to 2-pound weight in each hand and start with your arms down at either side of the ball. Bend your elbows, keep your upper arms wide out to the side and pull the weights straight back until your hands are almost in line with your body. Anchor your shoulder blades against your back. Keeping your upper arms in one place, rotate at the shoulders about 60 degrees so your hands move upward in space. With your shoulder blades secured against your body, straighten your elbows and push your hands out above your head in one motion. Do each movement in reverse to come back to the start position.
Fly like superman. Lie on your belly on the floor. Take a 1-pound weight in each hand. Hold them out to each side and 1 to 2 inches off the ground with your elbows straight and palms facing down. Lift your shoulders slightly to engage your back muscles and anchor your shoulder blades against your body. Keep your neck long so your spine is in a straight line. Hold for three seconds, lower your torso to the ground and repeat. For an added challenge, move the weights into a Y above your head with your thumbs facing up before resting in between each repetition.
- Practice yoga to help your posture even more. Many of the poses focus on alignment and elongation of your spine. The movements also help to massage out the neck kinks you couldn’t avoid at the office.
- Incorporate these back exercises into a comprehensive strength training routine that includes exercises for the legs, chest and abs. Working one muscle group exclusively can create muscle and posture imbalances.
- These exercises use small weights to target smaller muscles. Resist the urge to use heavier weights, as larger muscles will take on the challenge.
- Do each exercise for five to 10 repetitions, depending on how long you can maintain impeccable form and a focus on the targeted muscles.
- Consult an experienced physical therapist for a thorough analysis and correction of your posture.
- Consult your physician before starting any exercise program.
Suzanne Reilley is a fitness professional with a BS in exercise science and more than four years of experience as a full-time ACSM-certified personal trainer. She has been featured in DailyCandy and "The Washington Post," and has taught at Rancho La Puerta, rated Top Destination Spa by "Travel + Leisure."