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While stretching is a key part to any successful workout, there are many stretches you can do to help your body’s posture and alignment. I came across a couple of articles that displayed common posture problems and listed the proper stretches to help with the issues. In this article, I’ll provide more details and pictures of the stretches to help you with your techniques. Bad posture can lead to all of these ailments:
– Chronic back, neck, and shoulder pain
– Foot, knee, hip, and back injuries
– Headaches
– Stiffness
– Fatigue
– Muscle atrophy and weakness
– Difficulty breathing
– Digestion issues
– Impingement and nerve compression
– Sciatica
– Carpal tunnel syndrome

STANDING ASSESSMENT

The best way to check your posture is to use a full-length mirror. Put on form-fitting clothes and be barefoot. Stand tall but comfortable, as you would normally stand up. Don’t force yourself into perfect posture because then you’ll just be lying to yourself for your assessment.

The image below represents a proper posture. The joints are stacked, the ears are over the shoulders, the ribs over the hips, and the hips over the heels. The pelvis and spine are in a neutral position.

posture-power-how-to-correct-your-bodys-alignment-1

If your body doesn’t look like that, then you probably have one of the postural deviations below. I’ll provide an example picture and a description. The stretches will be linked to their examples so that you can learn the techniques.

01-sway-back

DEVIATION 1: SWAY BACK

HIPS PRESS FORWARD AND SIT IN FRONT OF THE RIBS

Overactive muscles: Hamstrings, gluteus maximus and medius, erector spinae, and quadratus lumborum (glutes, hamstrings, and low back)

Stretches: Runner’s stretch, world’s greatest stretch, seated glute stretch, lying crossover, hamstring stretch, hamstring self-myofascial release (foam rolling)

Underactive muscles: Iliopsoas, external obliques, and rectus femoris (hip flexors and lower abs)

Strengthening exercises: Cocoon, exercise ball pull-in, hanging leg raise, scissor kick

 
 

02-lower-cross

DEVIATION 2: LOWER-CROSS SYNDROME

EXCESSIVE CURVE IN THE LOW BACK, PELVIS IS TILTED FORWARD

Overactive muscles: Iliopsoas and erector spinae (hip flexors and low back)

Stretches: Pyramid stretch over ball, kneeling hip flexor, quadriceps stretch, quadriceps self-myofascial release, hug knees to chest

Underactive muscles: Abdominals and gluteus maximus

Strengthening exercises: Pelvic tilt to bridge, single-leg glute bridge, exercise-ball hip bridge, leg-elevated crunch, frog sit-up

 
 
 
 

03-rounded shoulders

DEVIATION 3: ROUNDED SHOULDERS

SHOULDERS IN FRONT OF EARS

Overactive muscles: Pectoralis major and minor (chest)

Stretches: Front deltoid stretch, elbows-back stretch, chest stretch on stability ball, dynamic chest stretch, chair upper-body stretch

Underactive muscles: Rotator cuff, lower trapezius, serratus anterior (muscles in the back surrounding the shoulder blades and rear delts)

Strengthening exercises: Seated cable row, back fly with band, shoulder external rotation, rear- delt row

 
 

04-forward head

DEVIATION 4: FORWARD HEAD

EARS IN FRONT OF SHOULDERS

Overactive muscles: Neck extensors, upper trapezius, and levator scapula (muscles behind the neck that tilt the head back)

Stretches: Neck self-myofascial release, chin to chest, sternocleidomastoid stretch (with palms up, reach your arms as far back as possible while turning your head to look to one side)

Underactive muscles: Neck flexors (muscles in front of the neck that tilt the head forward)

Strengthening exercises: Isometric front-neck exercise

 
 
 
 

05-upper cross

DEVIATION 5: UPPER-CROSS SYNDROME

ROUNDED SHOULDERS WITH AN EXCESSIVE CURVE IN THE UPPER BACK AND A FORWARD HEAD

Overactive muscles: Trapezius, levator scapula, pectoralis major and minor, neck extensors (the back of your neck, traps, upper back, and chest)

Stretches: Neck self-myofascial release, chin to chest, front-delt stretch, elbows-back stretch, chest stretch on stability ball, dynamic chest stretch, chair upper-body stretch

Underactive muscles: Rotator cuff, lower trapezius, rhomboids, serratus anterior, and deep neck flexors (muscles in the back surrounding the shoulder blades, rear delts, and in front of the neck)

Strengthening exercises: Isometric front-neck exercise, seated cable row, back fly with band, shoulder external rotation, rear-delt row

 

DEVIATION 6: HEAD TILT

HEAD TILTED TO ONE SIDE; CAN BE ACCOMPANIED BY ROTATION TOWARD THAT SIDE

06-head-tilt
Overactive muscles: Sternocleidomastoid tilted toward midline. (The sternocleidomastoid runs from behind the ear to the collar bone, works to flex the chin down, move your ear towards your shoulder, and to turn the head.)

Stretches: Side neck stretch, neck self-myofascial release, sternocleidomastoid stretch

Underactive muscles: Sternocleidomastoid tilted away from midline.

Strengthening exercises: Perform daily activities (e.g., chewing, carrying, pulling, lifting, and using a cell phone) evenly on both sides, isometric side-neck exercise

 

DEVIATION 7: UNEVEN SHOULDERS

ONE SHOULDER SITS HIGHER THAN THE OTHER

07-uneven-shoulders
Overactive muscle: Trapezius (muscle running from the back of the neck into the shoulder girdle) on the elevated side

Stretches: Side neck stretch, neck self-myofascial release

Underactive muscles: Serratus anterior (muscle running from upper ribs to the shoulder blade under your pecs) on the elevated side

Strengthening exercises: Perform daily activity like carrying, chewing, pulling, lifting, using a cell phone evenly on both sides; single-arm high-pulley row

 

08-uneven-hips

DEVIATION 8: UNEVEN HIPS

ONE HIP SITS HIGHER, CAN GIVE THE PERCEPTION OF LEG LENGTH DISCREPANCY

Overactive muscles: Internal and external obliques, hip abductors, erector spinae and quadratus lumborum on the raised side (muscles along the side of waist and outer hip, low back, and the hip.). Many other tissues in the knee, ankle, shoulder girdle, neck, and low back may also be overactive.

Stretches: Runner’s stretch, world’s greatest stretch, IT-band stretch, IT-band self-myofascial release, seated glute stretch, lying cross-over, piriformis self-myofascial release, dancer’s stretch

Underactive muscles: Varies based on individual

Strengthening exercises: Avoid high-impact and high-repetition exercises (running, plyometrics, etc.) until the pelvis is aligned. This will reduce the risk of secondary injuries in the ankle, knees, hips, and low back.

 
 

09-feet-turned-in

DEVIATION 9: FEET TURNED IN

TOES ARE TURNED IN TOWARD THE MIDLINE OF THE BODY

Overactive muscles: Tensor fasciae latae (outside of your hip)

Stretches: IT-band stretch, IT-band self-myofascial release

Underactive muscles: Gluteus medius and minimus

Strengthening exercises: Bridge with band tension around thighs, lateral tube walk, squat with band tension around thighs

 
 

10-feet-turned-out

DEVIATION 10: ONE OR BOTH FEET TURNED OUT

TOES ARE TURNED OUT AWAY FROM THE MIDLINE OF THE BODY

Overactive muscles: Piriformis and the other deep external rotators (muscles really deep in your hip attaching the femur to your sacrum)

Stretches: Seated glute stretch, lying cross-over, piriformis self-myofascial release, IT-band stretch, IT-band self-myofascial release, dancer’s stretch

Underactive muscles: Hip flexors and obliques

Strengthening exercises: Cocoon, exercise ball pull-in, hanging leg raise

Conclusion

Doing these stretches on a regular basis should help you notice an improvement in your posture and alignment. I’ll be trying a couple of these myself and will report back my results. While I try to stand up straight and have good posture, my relaxed posture is pretty bad…even my wife tells me that!

– Posture information and images borrowed from BodyBuilding.com
– Stretch information borrowed from a spreadsheet shared on Reddit.com