Posture is an oft-overlooked aspect of fitness that affects how you feel, how you look, and even your performance in the gym. When it's poor (which can be brought about by anything from prolonged sitting to texting) it can lead muscles and tendons to grow dehydrated and stiff, limiting range of motion and putting athletes at risk for injury, says Alex Zimmerman, director of Equinox’s Tier X program. In addition, a hunched-over position can affect your breathing muscles, which play an important role in performance and recovery, Zimmerman adds.
While not overly taxing, the moves in this posture workout provide hydration, blood, and oxygen to muscles and tendons—in turn, preserving range of motion and combating the effects of aging and technology. Work through the moves one after the next. Repeat two to three times. Do it three to four times a week for best results.
Why you need it: “The position of the rib cage can affect body mechanics and have a negative impact on our posture. When there is faulty breathing, this can reduce space around the shoulder joint leading to impingement and pain.”
How to do it: Lie face down. Place hands underneath forehead and take a deep breath in, focusing on pushing belly button into the ground. Limit the chest from expanding and focus on the abdominal area. Exhale slowly through lips. Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, breathe out for 7 seconds. Repeat 5 times.
Why you need it: “This is one of the most effective exercises for promoting mobility and stability of the shoulders and spine. With the addition of a load to this position it not only forces you to stabilize, it ensures that the joint is properly aligned, allowing for movements that are often compromised as a result of sitting or overuse in sports.”
How to do it: Start laying face-up on the ground and press the kettlebell straight up with your right hand. Bring your left hand overhead vertically and press your right foot into the ground in order to roll your body over until your right knee lands on the ground. If this position is easy, you can straighten out your bent leg, emphasizing more rotation in the trunk. Rotate the kettlebell back and forth in the air 10 times. Repeat on the other side.
Why you need it: “We have connective tissue that runs all the way from the foot to the back of the neck. This stretches and increases range of motion through the hip, thoracic spine, and shoulder.”
How to do it: Stand with right foot forward and left leg back. Slowly lower body, getting the left knee close to the ground, while simultaneously reaching up toward the ceiling and across body, having left arm come up and across the head. Repeat 10 times.
Why you need it: “This is an excellent exercise for challenging the trunk and improving its ability to counterbalance the effect of gravity. It also improves stability and function of the thoracic region, which gets compromised in our daily lives.”
How to do it: Hold kettlebells (8 kg for beginners; 16 kg for advanced) in plank position. Push one kettlebell into the ground while lifting the other one off the ground, bringing hand toward armpit, not any higher. Work to limit any rotation of the hips. Repeat 5 times per side.
Why you need it: “Farmer carries are a premier exercise when it comes to promoting proper body alignment, healthy posture, stability, and grip strength (a predictor of overall health).”
How to do it: Pick up two heavy kettlebells (choose a weight you can carry for 30 seconds). Walk for 30 seconds to 1 minute and put the weights down.
Why you need it: “This exercise forces you to overcome the effect of gravity and our tendency to want to come forward during a squatting exercise due to weakened postural muscles alongside the posterior [back] chain in the body.”
How to do it: Hold a kettlebell (12 kg for beginners; 24 kg for advanced) with both hands directly under chin. Squat as low as possible without discomfort. Return to the starting position. Repeat 10 times.
Why you need it: “Our postural muscles and tissue need to be challenged in a three-dimensional way. This exercise challenges lateral and rotational stability while improving lower body strength—all critical for good posture.”
How to do it: Hold a kettlebell and put opposite leg forward so you're in a split stance. Lower one knee toward the ground slowly and come back to the starting position. Repeat 10 times.