Back on the blog this week with another postural therapy post. This time I want to write about how the upper body posture can have a big impact on your lower body (hips and low back) – the body is an interconnected system. I will then show you few upper back exercises that will help you tremendously restore proper alignment.
UPDATE: This blog post has been updated with a walkthrough video as so many readers have requested it 🙂 so there you go. Keep scrolling to find the video below!
When you first get diagnosed with a condition (sciatica, herniated disc, piriformis syndrome, SI joint pain, etc.), you probably do most of the work in that one area of the body and completely ignore the rest. I did this too. I would foam rolling my hips every day and stretching every half an hour. I completely ignored everything else. In fact, I even forgot that some areas of my body existed I was just too focused on my low back.
The issue is, if your upper body posture is not aligned, your hips are also not gonna be aligned. You can’t possibly have a straight posture if your shoulders are rounded forward, your chest is tight and your head is always looking down.
One of the areas that get mostly stiff and tight is the chest and shoulders area (pectoral and deltoids). If you are spending most of your day sitting, driving or looking at your phone in that forward-head-shoulder position, your pectoral minor (a muscle that runs from your shoulder-blade to your sternum (breastbone)) is very likely to get really tight.
The problem with this is, your arms will internally rotate to stabilize the shoulder and this will lead to chronic tightness and shoulder pain. Just know this, you will be surprised at how much time you spend looking at your phone and sitting down. It was a huge awakening moment for me.
In this post, I want to show you a few on-the-go exercises that you can do in a few minutes to release your chest tightness and restore proper posture. You can do this in your office, at home or anywhere.
You will need:
In each exercise you will complete X amount of reps: I’m not a fan of having an ‘exact’ number of repetition when it comes to resistance training. You should always complete each rep with proper form until failure. That could mean 3 or 15, depending on your strength level.
STEP 1: POSTURAL THERAPY: RELEASE YOUR CHEST TIGHTNESS
Pectoral wall release and wall stretch: Place the Foam Massage Ball (or a tennis ball) between your chest and a wall. Try to keep your hand (my left as illustrated) behind your back. Press against the wall to apply pressure. Use your body to spin the ball away from the chest/shoulder. You will feel the tightness in that area so make sure you do this slowly to increase the pressure and explore that whole area. I even lift my hand and rotate it up and down.
After you do this, move to the wall stretch. You can do this exercise against the edge of a wall or door frame. Make sure your shoulder is down and both your hand and elbows are touching the wall. Rotate slightly (to the right as illustrated) as you move forward. Hold for few seconds, release and repeat
Now, get your resistance band and let’s work on strengthening the back muscles (postural muscles).
STEP 2: UPPER BACK EXERCISES [VIDEO]
Scroll below to see the exercises if you can’t watch the video now. But it’s important to watch it at some point so you know exactly how to do them.
UPPER BACK EXERCISES [Images]
Hold the Resistance Band and pull out to create some resistance. Shoulders down, move the band up and keep the same resistance throughout the movement. Maintain a neutral posture as you move your arms up. Remember not to overstretch the band at the top. Repeat this movement X times, rest and repeat 2 more times.
Shoulder Pull apart: Shoulders down. Pull the Resistance Band apart as you keep your wrists straight. Your body will touch the resistance band but keep your posture neutral. Your upper-mid back muscles should be working. Think about your mid-back muscles doing the pull (imagine you are trying to bring your shoulder blades to touch each other). Control the movement back to the starting position. Complete 3 sets of X controlled reps.
Modification: if you are not familiar with the shoulder pull apart or can’t do the exercise properly, you can start by holding one end of the band with one hand, and pull with the other hand. You can also attach one end to a handle and pull with the other arm.
Rotator cuff strengthener: Hold the resistance band between your hands. Point your hands outwards for external rotation. Pull the band outwards as you externally rotate your arms in a comfortable range of motion. This is a small yet important exercise. Complete 3 sets of X controlled reps. Rest for 40 seconds in between sets.
Low impact row: Start in a standing position. Anchor the band between your foot. Make sure both ends are equal in length and contract your shoulder blades and pull up. You will feel this exercise in your traps as well. Complete 10 controlled reps for 2 sets.
Standing band row: anchor the resistance band around a bar or a table leg (if stable enough). Step backward to create resistance. Core engaged and neutral posture, pull the band and hold for a second and return to starting position in a controlled movement. Complete 2 sets of 10 reps.
You can complete the upper body exercises either back to back as a circuit, or just pick couple exercises and do them with a minute rest in between. The important thing here is good quality repetitions, controlled movement, and proper breathing. Your back muscles will help maintain that good posture as you work on strengthening them.
I hope this post was helpful to you 🙂 Please let me know if any questions or comments. Oh, and the products on this post are affiliate links, so it just means I get a small commission from Amazon if you decide to buy any. Obviously, I use them myself and wouldn’t recommend anything I don’t trust.
PS: don’t forget to grab your back pain kit!