The Perfect Posture Workout

These eight elongating moves will increase your power both inside and outside of the gym.

When it comes to good posture, most of us are posers. It's easy to straighten up when someone important is looking, whether it's your boss or your trainer. But when no one's keeping tabs, you let it all go, rounding your back and shoulders over whatever blue-lit device is at your disposal.

For the sake of your fitness goals, you have to get in line. Here's why.

“Good posture not only presents an alert and lively image, but also allows you to perform exercises more efficiently, effectively and safely,” confirms NASM-certified personal trainer Khalia Frazier, a Zumba, yoga and barre instructor at several Equinox locations in Los Angeles. A strong skeletal and muscular alignment enables the body to function at its best, minimizing the risk of injury.

As a model, choreographer and actress, Frazier knows firsthand how crucial standing tall is to the way she moves behind the camera and at the gym. “When posture is comprised, you don't breathe as easily, energy output decreases, and stress increases,” she warns. Such stress on the framework may lead to chronic injury, such as lower-back, neck and shoulder pain, as well as headaches and muscular imbalances.

Make a powerful posture an effortless part of your daily life with Frazier's barre-inspired moves that strengthen the posterior chain, back and shoulders. Her routine:

(1) Stability Ball Single-Leg Pike to Handstand: Start in plank position with hands directly beneath your shoulders and the tops of your feet on the stability ball. Shift your weight forward over your shoulders, hands and pelvic floor. Engage abs to raise hips, drawing the ball inward a bit, and lift one leg overhead (as shown). Hold for 20 to 30 seconds. Repeat 3 to 5 times on each leg.

(2) Stability Ball Ride Row: Grab 2- to 3-pound dumbbells and position your pelvis on the stability ball. Press your body against the ball with straight legs (wider than shoulder-width) and toes grounded in floor. Start with palms facing inward in first position, elbows slightly bent. Activate back muscles to open arms out to your sides (as shown). Head and neck should remain neutral with your gaze facing the floor throughout the exercise. Do 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps or until fatigue sets in.

(3) Supine Single-Leg Chest Expansion: Lie on your back with your arms at your sides and feet on the floor. Start with 5 reps of easy hip lifts, or bridges, to warm the spine. At the top of your last bridge, pull your left knee to your chest and walk hands up to support your ribs, keeping your elbows close to your body. Extend your left leg, kicking up your heel (as shown). Point and flex your foot a few times. Return to start and repeat on the other side.

(4) Supine Front Attitude with Forward Arm Raises: Lie face up with 2-pound weights in each hand, palms facing inward with elbows slightly bent. Contract your abs, hollowing your stomach, and lift your head and shoulder off the mat. Bend knees, lift feet, and open your hips, keeping your big toes lightly touching. Alternate hands overhead (keeping the dumbbells in sight), as shown, for 10 to 12 reps and 2 to 3 sets.

(5) Supine Leg Cross: Lie on the floor with legs lifted 90 degrees and arms in first position above your chest. Contract abs, lift your head and your shoulders off mat, and simultaneously bring your arms overhead (above your forehead). Lower legs at 45 degrees (without stressing the lower back), as shown, and open and close legs, alternating front legs. Do 10 to 12 reps for 2 or 3 sets.

(6) Prone Plié: Lie facedown on the mat like a starfish, arms and legs wide apart. Bend the knees and bring your heels together so that your knees come off the mat. As you squeeze the heels, engage your abs and activate your back to lift your head and chest up, keeping your gaze on the front of the mat to protect your neck. Bring your arms over your head and out to the sides while pressing your heels and feet upward, as shown. Repeat 10 to 12 times.

(7) Forward Fold to Arabesque: Start folded over at the waist with arms overhead. With soft bent knees, turn your feet out with one foot slightly in front of the other. Lift your chest to stand and simultaneously lift the back leg and bend. The arm on the side of the standing leg stays overhead, while the other arm drops to shoulder height, as shown. Hold this position for 8 counts. Repeat on the other leg. 

(8) Back Leg Lift on Stability Ball: Stand in front of a stability ball with heels together, toes turned out (from the hip), and soft knees. Rest your hands lightly on top of the ball. Slide one leg back and up, parallel to the ground while keeping the standing leg slightly bent (as shown). Hold for 15 seconds. Alternate legs for 3 to 5 reps.

Photography by Mike Rosenthal; Hair + Makeup by Spencer Barnes; Art Direction + Styled by Ashley Martin Heckman