In the last post, found at Posture Correction 1 Restore Length To Tight Muscles, we saw a number of myofascial release and stretching exercises for anterior pelvic tilt and forward head posture. Those exercises are geared toward re-lengthening chronically tense muscles. Here, we’ll look at how to restore strength to weak muscles that help people undo postural dysfunction.
Forward Head Posture
The main muscles you need to strengthen to undo forward head are in the neck and upper back. These muscles contract to pull the shoulder blades back and the head up straight.
Push Back Neck Exercise: You can use your hands as resistance for working out the back of the neck. Just clasp your hands behind your head and, with your hands, try to pull your head forward while, with your neck, trying to push it back.
Side Push Neck Exercise: Again, use your hands as resistance. Place your right hand on the right side of your face, then try to push your head to the left with your hand while resisting this movement with your neck.
Mid-Trap Workout: Lie on the floor on your stomach; stretch your arms out to the sides. With thumbs pointing up, lift your arms off the ground. This targets the lower and middle parts of the trapezius muscle.
Anterior Pelvic Tilt
The most important muscles to strengthen with anterior pelvic tilt are those in the posterior chain (the gluts, hamstrings, etc.). It’s also a good idea to hit up the lower abdominals, which can help pull the pelvis up in front. The following are all excellent back pain exercises generally. (If you have a spinal condition, though, any exercise is best pursued under the guidance of a physical therapist.)
Posterior Pelvic Tilt: Standing with your buttocks, shoulders and head against a wall, push your lower back into the wall. This will engage the abdominals and gluts, allowing them to learn this new pattern. Hold this position for about 30 seconds and do it a few times a day.
Bridges: The bridge is an ideal exercise for developing the gluts, hamstrings and transversus abdominis, the latter of which act as spinal stabilizers. Start with the standard bridge, with both feet on the ground and a diagonal line from your shoulders to your knees, then try more complicated variations, like the one-leg bridge.
Torso Twist: This exercise targets the lower abdominals. Sit cross-legged; stretch out your arms, then end at the elbows until your fingers touch with your palms facing you. Rotate your upper body about 45 degrees on an exhale, engaging your abs. Return to center and rotate to the other side.
The number of repetitions and frequency with which you do these exercises depends on a number of factors: current fitness level, degree of postural distortion and amount of time your muscle memory has been adapting to harmful patterns. If you’re improving posture from home without the help of a health professional, remember to start slow. Watch instructional videos to make sure your form is good. Avoid further injury by exercising correctly.
With the re-lengthening advice from the last post and the strengthening advice found here, you have the basic tools for posture correction. The third and final post in this posture series deals with behavioral changes to reinforce healthier muscle memory patterns. Check it out at Posture Correction 3 Behavioral Changes.