How to improve posture & prevent back pain

Sitting hunched over your PC or mobile phone (like a shrimp) for hours can lead to a poor posture and back pain. It can also affect your mental state and self-esteem. In this article you will learn how to improve your posture and prevent back pain with 3 simple steps.

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The pandemic no one talks about

There is a lot of talk about a certain pandemic in our society today. But one pandemic that flies quietly under the radar for most office workers is called: poor posture. But luckily, you have full control over this particular pandemic if you follow the 3 steps in this article. 

The 3-step solution (summary)

Step 1. First, you need to strengthen the muscles at the back of your body (ex. upper back and rear shoulders). These muscles will counteract a forward-curved posture by naturally pulling your shoulder blades backwards. 

Step 2. Secondly, when you sit like a "shrimp" all day, it results in a shortening of certain muscle groups in front of your body (ex. chest, shoulders and hips). These needs to be stretched.

Step 3. Finally, you need to structure step 1 & 2 into a daily routine, by first and foremost designing daily reminders to move at least every 90 minutes. 

These 3 steps applies both to a 30 year old male who can bench press 100 kg with one arm and a 52 year old woman who has not lifted a weight in several years.

Original question and shrimp design from Janis on Twitter.

Step 1. Strengthen weak muscles (back)
Step 2. Stretch tight muscles (front)
Step 3. Structure a daily routine

1. Strength exercises for a better posture

To improve your posture, you need to strengthen the muscles at the back of your body (ex. between shoulders and upper back). These muscles counteract the potentially tight chest muscles and front of shoulders. Add the following 3 strength exercises into your workout routine at least once per week.

1) Seated rows with band (10 reps x 3 sets)
Sit down on the floor and fasten the band around the legs. Pull the band towards you. Imagine squeezing an invisible nut between your shoulder blades. This is perhaps the very best strength exercise for office workers, because it strengthens several important muscles in your back that contribute to a good posture.

2) Band pull-aparts (10 reps x 3 sets)
Shorten the rubber band to shoulder blade width and keep the arms directly in front of the body. Keep your elbows slightly bent. Continue to move your arms apart until the band touches your chest. The purpose is to stroke the back of the shoulder and between the shoulders.

3) Band deadlift (10 reps x 3 sets)
Keep your back straight while shooting your hips forward. Imagine that you have an invisible plank lying on your back. This exercise strengthens all the muscles that are relaxed to sit all day.

Stretches to improve posture

2. Stretches for a better posture (6 min video guide)

Secondly, we need to stretch muscles that become stiff and shortened as a result of a lot of sitting and a forward-curved posture. Often that include shoulders, chest, neck and hip flexors. Here are my top 3 stretching exercises for a better posture.

1) Chest stretch (10 reps) 
There are many variations here. The easiest way is to stand in a door frame. But if you do not have the option where you sit right now, you can push your chest forward while rotating your thumbs backwards, before rotating back.

2) Shoulder rolls (10 reps)
Lift the shoulders towards the ears and roll them back. The purpose here is to loosen up and start the blood circulation in the shoulders and neck after sitting statically for a long time

3) Spine hygiene (10 reps)
Place two fists on the top of the seat and push the hip forward while stretching in the chest. The exercise stretches both the hip flexor and the chest.

Bonus: Deep pushups, where you get a good stretch in the chest at the bottom of the exercise, are also a good combined strength and stretching exercise.

YouTube Video: Full 6 min routine with 12 exercises (perform daily)

3. Structure a daily routine

To really transform your posture you need to make these exercises into a regular routine. Therefore, make sure to set a reminder to stand up at least every 90 minutes to do some light stretching and walk around. It could be a calendar notification or a setting in your sports watch. 

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