In my last post on improving your posture, I described three simple stretches to help open the shoulders and re-align them. You should continue to do these stretches while you add on three exercises to lengthen the spine and strengthen the muscles of the neck and mid-back. You can do these sitting or standing. They're great to do at your desk or even while watching TV.
- "Growing" exercise: Take a deep breath into the belly and gradually lengthen the spine by lifting the top of the head toward the ceiling. As you draw the air up into the chest cavity, stretch the space between the ribs and the hips, decompressing the spine.
Exhale, hold the height and stay tall. Repeat 3 times.
- Neck Press: To strengthen the muscles in the upper back and neck, place two fingers on your chin. Inhale first, then exhale and gently press your chin backward, flattening the curve in the back of the neck. Be careful to keep your chin level. Pause, release to neutral and repeat 10 times.
- "W's": this is one of my favorite exercises. I give it to all of my clients because it's both a gentle strengthening movement, as well as a reminder to use the muscles between the shoulder blades to stand up straight. Hold your arms out to the sides at shoulder level with the elbows bent, palms facing forward. To form a "W", inhale, then squeeze the shoulder blades down and together as you let your breath out slowly. Repeat 10 times.
Do you have any particular fitness questions? Please ask them in the comments section below or e-mail them to Beth Kling. I will try to answer as many as I can in future columns.
Joan is author of the best-selling book Strength Training for Women and owner of Joan Pagano Fitness in New York City.