I don’t know about you, but the stereotype of my mom constantly telling me to stand up straight is so true for me. You know the one where she spends an extra half second looking at you, and you immediately straighten? She doesn’t even have to say anything out loud!
Until I started practicing and teaching Pilates regularly, I didn’t really know what standing up straight was supposed to feel like. It always felt like work or like I was being boastful or over-proud. As a shy introvert, this was not my natural state, but I’d try for my mom!
After I discovered Pilates and improved my back strength and overall flexibility, I didn’t have to work so hard anymore to have good posture. I stood taller more easily and I didn’t have to think as hard about it!
Over the years, I’ve collected a few favorite exercises that get rave reviews from my clients (and from my mom!) for helping with forward head posture, upper back stiffness, and achy shoulders.
Today, I’m excited to share them with you!
You can use them as a warm-up for a workout, run, or walk or practice them after a little too much time in the car or at the computer. Enjoy. <3
PS All of these demos are sped up 4x!
This isn’t really hard work, but rather a powerful way to start this series of four exercises. Most of us spend all day in front of a computer doing very little twisting, side bending, or even arching of the back, so before we start right into strength building we should think about loosening up some upper back and shoulder stiffness.
If your chest muscles are tight, your back muscles have to fight them to keep you upright. Do this movement on both sides three times each, nice and slow, to open up your chest and stretch your back.
Cues to focus on: Reach your moving arm as straight and long as you can, even spreading the fingers wide throughout the entire arc.
Weighted Torso Rotation
Building on the idea that we don’t just move in one plane, let’s add some weighted rotation. I don’t mean weighted as in grab a heavy weight, but rather using your own body as resistance. There are several ways to vary this exercise to fit your ability. In the gifs below, I show you two of them.
Cues to focus on: Press into the wall or floor with your anchoring arm to create more length. Keep your shoulders down, like you want your big J-Lo hoop earrings to dangle freely from your ears.
Arch and Curls
Get a double whammy with ab work and some spinal extension in this spin on classic ab curl. When you arch over a ball, towel, or foam roller, and then curl up into a curl, we’re strengthening the abdominals in a bigger range of motion than we would be if we just lay flat on the floor. Bonus!
Cues to focus on: Keep your head heavy in your hands. Don’t let your tailbone rock back and forth as you arch and curl.
BPS (aka “It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s Superman!”)
I haven’t ever heard anyone call it this, but I thought it fit. I combined some of my favorite exercises from a few methods (shoutout to Primal Pilates!) to make a killer series of 3 back strengthening exercises.
Cues to focus on: Keep your pubic bone heavy toward the floor. Think about most of this work coming from your mid and upper back, not your lower back.