- Seated Thoracic Extensions
- Thoracic Twists
- Planks (The Right Way)
- Superman Extensions
- Lateral Rows
- Shoulder Press
- Front Squat
- Cervical Retraction or Neck Extension
- Overhead Chair Squats
1. Seated Thoracic Extensions
Seated thoracic extensions are considered a keystone exercise for correcting posture. Lower back, neck, and shoulders are common focuses of exercises, but the thoracic spine is often left out. This simple exercise can help correct poor neck and shoulder posture.
This exercise is done in a seated position. It can be done in a standing position as well, but excessive hip movement can occur, which is not beneficial.
- Sit on a bench or chair.
- Extend your feet as far out in front of you as you can. (this eliminates excessive hip motion during the exercise).
- Grab a dumbbell or kettlebell and hold it at the top of your chest near your collarbone and under your chin. The weight should be enough that you feel fatigue and difficulty after the 3rdset of ten repetitions.
- Lean forward slightly at the hips so your body forms less than a 90º angle at the hips.
- Starting in a slightly slouched position, elongate the abdomen, pushing it forward and lifting the chest to sit up tall. Imagine that there is a string in the center of your torso and that it is pulling your belly forward.
- Common Faults: Knees tucked in; Hips swaying; rounding the back too much; rocking the hips back and forth; not lifting the chest upward toward the ceiling; leaning back.
2. Thoracic Twists
This exercise is often done incorrectly because of poor posture.
- Start in the quadruped tabletop position with the wrists under the shoulders and knees below the hips forming a 90º angle at the hips and the knees.
- Adjust your posture so you elongate the belly and lift the chest creating a nice straight line from shoulder to hips. There should be no rounding of the upper and mid-back.
- Next, extend the right arm out to the side, parallel to the floor. The hand can be extended outward or placed behind the head. If you place it behind the head, don’t push down on your head.
- Without rounding the back, twist and rotate your upper and mid-back upward toward the ceiling. Make sure to move your entire torso and not just your arm. This is a very small movement. Some will only be able to move 10º, while others may reach 25º.
- Common Faults: sitting back on the heels; rounding the back; only moving the arm.
3. Planks (the right way)
Planks are important for transverse abdominis contraction. These muscles help to stabilize the spine during movement and help to create intra-abdominal pressure to support the spine. The correct position is not often attained due to lack of correct exercise mechanics or fatigue.
- Start on the floor in the prone position. Prop up onto your elbows so they are below the shoulders.
- Create a straight line from shoulder to hips by lifting the chest and elongating the belly. When people see this, they think the hips are sagging. They are not.
- Keep your neck in line with your body. It should not be tucked.
- Hold this position for up to 2 minutes for 1-3 repetitions.
- Common Faults: elbows are tucked underneath or extended too far; rounding of the thoracic spine; sagging of the hips; lifting the hips too high; going longer than capable and allowing all of these mistakes to occur.
4. Superman Extensions
This is a great exercise because it can be done anywhere. This exercise usually involves the arms and legs, but we are only using the upper half of the body.
- Start laying on the floor stomach down in the prone position.
- Your arm placement depends on your strength and ability. Start in the beginner position with our hands by our side. More advanced people can have the hands under the chin, behind the head, or extended incrementally over the head.
- Elongate the belly and extend the chest off the floor as high as you can. The working pressure should be felt at the middle back below the shoulders and not in the lower back. If you feel it in the lower back bring the hands toward the shoulder, under the face or overhead to increase the resistance.
- Repeat slowly 10 times for 1-3 sets or hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes depending on strength, endurance and skill level
- Common Faults: Lifting the feet off the floor; doing the movement too fast; elevating the hips off the floor creating a boat or bowl shape in the back; Extending too high focusing the pressure in the lower back because of low resistance.
4. Superman Extensions
This is a great exercise because it can be done anywhere. This exercise usually involves both the arms and legs, but we are only using the upper half of the body.
- Start by lying on the floor, stomach down in the prone position.
- Your arm placement depends on your strength and ability. Start in the beginner position with hands by your side. More advanced people can put their hands under the chin, behind the head, or extended incrementally over the head.
- Elongate the belly and extend the chest off the floor as high as you can. The working pressure should be felt in the mid-back below the shoulders and not in the lower back. If you feel it in the lower back, bring the hands toward the shoulders, under the face, or overhead to increase the resistance.
- Repeat slowly 10 times for 1-3 sets or hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes depending on strength, endurance, and skill level.
- Common Faults: Lifting the feet off the floor; doing the movement too fast; elevating the hips off the floor creating a bowl shape in the back; extending too high and focusing the pressure on the lower back.
For this exercise, you will need resistance bands or a reverse fly machine at the gym.
- First, grab a resistance band and tie it to a supporting structure at shoulder height.
- Stand with good posture by elongating the belly and pushing the chest upward.
- Grab your resistance band in front of your shoulders with palms facing upward.
- Step backward to add resistance, or grab the band further down for added resistance.
- Keeping the hands and arms parallel to the floor and extend them backward, stopping past the shoulders.
- Do 3 sets of 10.
- Common Faults: Stopping at or before shoulder level; too much weight; rounded thoracic spine; palms facing forward or down; going too fast.
6. Lateral Rows
Do you remember the song called “I’m a little teapot?” Well, it is also an exercise. This will also require a resistance band. Gym equipment can be modified for this as well.
This was created by Gerald Ferencz to increase the load at the shoulder. Some rehab exercises don’t fatigue the shoulder properly because the arm muscles either fatigue first or joints further down the arm take on too much stress. This creates a shorter working lever for the shoulder so more resistance can be applied.
- Anchor your resistance band at shoulder level.
- Take a step away from the anchor so that there is tension on the resistance band.
- Facing the anchor, rotate the body 90º away from the wall so shoulder and arm are in line with the band.
- Your arm should be in a stretched out position at shoulder level with the elbow pointed downward.
- The first part of the movement should involve the shoulder only. Squeeze the shoulder blade so that you bring is toward the spine, keeping the arm straight.
- Next, with the elbow still facing downward, bring the elbow into your body, finishing with a 90º bend at the elbow. Try not to flex the bicep too much.
- Repeat 3 sets of 10.
- Common Faults: Band placement is too high or too low; low starting tension; hips and shoulders not rotated 90º; bending at the elbow too much.
7. Shoulder press
When the shoulder press exercise is done correctly it can activate the muscles in the mid-back. Because the weight is in front of the chest, the mid-back muscles are recruited to support the upper body.
- Sit on a bench.
- Place your feet out in front of your knees.
- Hold weights in both hands in front of your shoulders.
- Do not use a backrest. Sit forward slightly so you can activate the muscles you need for posture support.
- Sit with your chest pushed upward, elongating the belly.
- Push the weights straight up over your head and then lower the weight to the starting position.
- Repeat 3 sets of 10.
- Common faults: rounding the back; relying on the backrest; excessively arching the lower back; only doing a partial movement by bringing the arms only halfway down.
8. Front squat
This exercise requires hip mobility, shoulder mobility, and mid-back strength to maintain an upright position.
- Stand with your hips shoulder-width apart.
- If you are using a barbell, place it in front of you across the shoulders toward the base of the neck and across the collar bone.
- Bring the arms up so they are parallel to the floor creating a shelf. Place the hands on the opposite shoulder crossing them in front of you. Your elbows should be pointing forward. (Note: this position needs to be maintained throughout the entire movement).
- If you are using dumbbells, bring the weights up to the shoulders with the arms parallel to the floor and elbows pointing forward.
- Hinge the hips to start the movement.
- The chest needs to stay upright throughout the process.
- Slowly lower your hips to the floor. Your hip and hamstring flexibility will determine how far down you can go. If you are not flexible, stop so your legs stay parallel to the floor. If you are extremely flexible continue with the hips down until your knees are fully bent.
- Push the weights back up to the starting position WITHOUT dipping the chest forward.
- Common Faults: Not having the arms parallel to the floor; not hinging the hips; going too far when the hips are not that flexible; allowing the chest to dip.
9. Cervical Retraction or Neck Extensions
The common exercise recommended for forwarding the head or neck is the chin tuck. The chin tuck is a greatly flawed exercise. Its flaws come from the fact that resistance isn’t being applied to the neck. The movement is parallel to the floor so there needs to be an applied resistance. Also, depending on neck position, you can affect different levels of the neck. A common misconception is to call them deep neck flexor exercises when in truth, you are trying to work the extensors.
- Sit on a chair or bench.
- Place your feet under the knees.
- Grab your TheraBand or resistance band and place it behind the head at the occiput.
- With the TheraBand in your hands, place it out in front of you with your upper arms parallel to the floor and the elbows bent at 90º.
- Sit up tall, elongate the belly, and lift the chest while keeping the core tight.
- Focus your gaze on an object in front of you and don’t lose sight of it.
- Retract your neck backward keeping focus on the object in front of you.
- Common Faults: Arms move with the head; pivoting at the base of your head; slouching; low resistance.
10. Overhead chair squats
This is a great exercise because of how dynamic it is. The movement itself borrows some of the key points of the other exercises I have listed.
- Sitting on a bench or chair (if the weight is light), place your feet under the knees so your knees make a straight line toward the midfoot.
- Grab a dumbbell.
- Sit with good upright posture by elongating the belly, lifting the chest, and contracting the back muscles. This will create a nice boat-shaped curve in your back.
- Bend slightly forward from the hips maintaining the curve in the spine.
- Raise the weight in your hands overhead so that it is directly over the shoulders and the shoulders over the knees. At this point, the weight may be behind your head.
- Next push upward from the heels and midfoot, being careful to not let the knees swing inward.
- Come to a standing position. Contract the glutes and keep the back muscles contracted. Be careful not to push the hips forward in front of the knees when you squeeze the glutes.
- Maintaining good posture and the weight directly over the heels, hinge the hips backward and come back to a sitting position.
- Common Faults: Weight comes ahead of the knees and heels; dipping of the chest; no hip hinge on the way down; knees collapse inward.
While all these exercises are great to do for posture, there is one important thing to note. These exercises mean nothing if you are not being proactive about your posture. That means, even if you start doing these posture exercises, if you maintain the habit of slouching and walking like a zombie with your neck flexed forward, the work you put in will be useless. Be proactive and cognizant of your posture every day.