Visit our Facebook page for exclusive access to:
Research, Health-Articles, Clinic Updates, and Much More

Posture Exercises Phase 1

How Posture Exercises Improve Your Health

Hey desk jockeys, this is Dr. Kevin Christie again today – excited about today’s show on posture exercises.

This will be a two-part series on posture and today will be episode one. And we’re going to jump into three things today that will help you with your overall posture. One is going to be the upper crossed syndrome; I’m going to teach you about that and give you the understanding of what that is and how to combat that. The second thing is we’re going to discuss a little bit of a cueing trick that I use to make sure people are in good posture, and that will be “sternum up” which I’ll explain. And then we’ll dive into some corrective exercises. In all of these exercises, information will be in the show notes at www.moderndeskjockey.com.

So before we get started, posture seems to be a common issue. We did have a previous episode with Dr. Burns, and she is from the American Posture Institute and does amazing work with posture. And that was the precipice of wanting to jump into an another episode or two on it and give you some of the take home details that you can do and implement at your work station at home to try to fix this common issue.

Essentially posture can be traced to a lot of our conditions that we’re dealing with. It’s just very common to see the desk worker not only working in bad posture but also living their daily life in bad posture. And we see it cause everything from neck issues, headaches, shoulder problems, mid-back for sure, even lower back. A lot of different muscular skeletal conditions and breathing issues that we’re seeing.

How Posture Exercises Improve Your Health
Man with impairMan with impaired posture position defect scoliosis and ideal bearing.

So I wanted to make sure that we had some really good podcasts on this. And I’m going to do an exceptional job of our show notes to make sure you have images of all the exercises that will go over for our phase 1. We have a phase 1, 2 and 3 exercise program. I’m going to give you phase 1 for this episode and then we’ll get into phase 2 for the next posture episode that we have.

So you’ll have plenty of resources for that. Alright, so I had mentioned the upper crossed syndrome. And a lot of people hear me talk about this when we’re dealing with everybody from athletes to desk workers to just the regular non-sitting population as well.

And I want you to try to get this visual. And I will have this in the show notes again as a reference. But try to visualize this. They call this the upper crossed syndrome because it’s like an X. And on one part of the X is the chest muscle, opposite of that is the mid back muscle group. Then we have the back of the neck, and then we have the front of the neck. Okay?

And if you draw an X from the chest up to the back of the neck, that’s one line. Then we go from the front of the neck down to the back. So it kind of forms an X. And what ends up happening is the chest, and anterior shoulders tend to become tight. The back of the neck tends to become tight. So we have tight and tight, then the front of the neck muscles tend to become really weak which kind of you can always see sometimes their head – people’s heads jotted out and they have that forward head posture. So the front of their neck is really weak, and the mid back muscles are really weak.

So you get this slouching posture because of some of the tightnesses and some of the weaknesses. And this becomes a problem in the posture issues that we’re seeing.

So that’s the upper crossed syndrome. And again, show notes will give you a better visual of that. It’s always hard to describe that just in an audio format. But you’ll get the idea of what it’s causing.

So we’ll try to design exercises that will target the upper crossed syndrome. There is a lower crossed syndrome which is what we’re going to discuss in next week’s episode. So you’ll get that information as well. But with the upper crossed syndrome, we want to target exercises that are going to get some flexibility and mobility in the chest and anterior shoulders, the front part of the shoulders. We want to design some exercises that are going to give some strength and activation to the mid back so that we can balance that out. We want to give an exercise for the front of the neck, that’s the deep chin retractions that we give. And even the [inaudible 04:37]’s posture that we’ve talked about. But you’ll see this exercise, the neck retraction which will help out with the front activating the deep neck flexors. And then we want to do some mobility, flexibility work for the back of the neck, the deep occipitals, which are below the base of the skull so we can kind of get some flexibility and relaxation of those muscles.

Everybody knows the upper trap muscle. It’s that big muscle from the neck to the shoulder where we get those trigger points. So we just get a lot of tightness there.

Because what ends up happening is you feed that system, like if you’re in poor posture, your head’s going to go forward a little big and now those muscles in the back of your neck are going to be holding up the head, trying to at least and it’s going to put a lot of strain on it.

So we need to understand the upper crossed syndrome, and we obviously need to target it with some corrective exercises.

The second aspect of targeting that upper cross syndrome or poor posture is just simply awareness. And the awareness that we devise, we had to do this for a company, City Furniture, that’s down here in South Florida that had a lot of issues with their truck drivers and some of their manual laborers, so we had to devise some really good cues to have good body preparation and awareness.

And one of them out of the three, the one that pertains today is what we decided was just think sternum up. So that sternum is the chest bone right there. If you think that sternum up, you’re going to maintain good posture whether you’re seated or during activities. Because what happens is if you think sternum up and you get in a good posture, you’re now into the neutral spine. And neutral spine is the key to protecting the spine and putting less stress on the back, neck, and everything else so that the sternum up helps with that.

Now if you carry that sternum up mentality we’re cueing into your activities, it’s also going to cause you to hinge at the hips when you bend over which is good. Most people won’t even bend over when doing anything; brush their teeth, pick up their child, exercise, anything like that. The bend at the back which is bad. They’re hinging at the lumbar spine at the lower back. When we want to be hinging or bending at the hips. You can test this if you’re at your work station at home now, just think sternum up and make sure that that stays up the whole time and then kind of bend over. You’ll see that you’re hinging at the hip and not the lower back. Whereas if that sternum collapses down and kind of rounds down forward, you’re at the lower back which is bad.

So we want you to think sternum up at all times. Whether you’re sitting at the desk or doing activities. Even some of the small activities. You know, we have a saying that sometimes these injuries that people sustain, it’s from the feather, not a TV. If they go to pick up a TV, they brace themselves and get in good position, and they know that you have to lift this heavy object. Whereas if it’s something small and light, they don’t and it ends up throwing out their backs. So keep that in mind as you’re sitting or doing activities as sternum up. And that will help you prevent the poor posture and the injury that occurs with it.

Okay, so that was part 2, so one was the upper crossed syndrome, two is sternum up. Now we’re moving to part 3 and look at some corrective exercises that you can do for this. We have all these in our e-learning center plus a lot of other information in there. We have a whole injury prevention strategy in there as well. But I will put these beginner level phase 1 posture exercises on the show notes at moderndeskjockey.com, so you’ll have free access to that.

Posture Exercise 1 – and again you’ll have access to it, so I’m just going to name the exercise and what it does. I’m not going to be able to go through the full description of each exercise and everything. But the first one we want to make sure we’re doing is some mid back or thoracic spine mobility. And one of the good ones that we use for that is the foam roller. And it just really helps get some mobility within the spinal segments and the musculature, and just really works on some extension into that mid back which helps with the proper posture.

So exercise one is the foam roller. And moving on, you know, if you have any pain or discomfort before or during these beginner level exercises, please consult your physician to gain clearance to perform these activities. You know, I have to give the disclaimer, if you’re having any pain with this, we don’t want that. Or if you have red flags going into it, you need to be aware of that as well.

Posture Exercise - Foam Roller

The second posture exercise we like is what we call quadruped or all-fours, pelvic tilts. We want to try to set that pelvis into a neutral position. Too many times people have a very flat lower back or a posterior pelvic tilt. Or they have an arched lower back or anterior pelvic tilt. And that’s going to set the spine from bottom to top in a bad position. So we want to work on some pelvic tilting and being able to get some range of motion in that from anterior to posterior, front to back and then be able to find what neutral spine is and maintain that.

Posture Exercise - All-Fours

Posture Exercise 3 we have is the wall angel slides. And again, Google is good as well. You can find some of these exercises there. But I would prefer you to go to our website because we did a very good job of putting the correct descriptions on here and you know, not everything on the internet is true.

Posture Exercise - wall angel slides

So the wall angel slide is going to help get some stretch into the chest, into the front part of the shoulders that we discussed. And then it’s going to get some mobility in the mid back. As you see mobility in the mid back helps because you’ll see some people have a rounded mid back. And there’s almost not anything they can do about it if the spine is not allowing to flatten out a little bit.

So we need to work on mobility within the spinal segments as well. So do that posture exercise, number 3 which was the wall angel slides.

Posture exercise 4 is the chin retractions. Remember we discussed earlier if you get that jotted head forward into your head carriage, and you get weakness in the deep neck flexors in the front part of the neck, this is a great exercise to activate that and then get better head posture. And it’s going to prevent some of that upper crossed syndrome. So we’ll check out the chin retractions as well.

And then lastly on our phase 1 of our posture correction is proper breathing technique. Believe it or not, too many people breathe wrong. And what they’re doing is when they breathe, it’s they’re raising up the shoulders a little bit, so it’s almost like a vertical breathing. It’s the best way I can describe it over the podcast here.

Instead of when they’re breathing coming out through the stomach, through the diaphragm, more of an expansion of the rib cage and stomach versus an elevation of it. What happens when you breathe over and over again with that elevation, you end up overworking all the muscles, you’re getting improper breathing, just a lot of negative effects of it. So we wanted to make sure that we tied in some breathing into that.

So I recommend implementing these five exercises right away. Obviously the cue of sternum up and then this will help correct that upper crossed syndrome which is one aspect of poor posture. There’s many, and again we’re going to cover them in another episode on the lower crossed syndrome and then into phase 2 of the posture correction.

So look out for that one, I think earlier in the show I might have mentioned it’s going to be next week, it might be two weeks after the release of this one. But I’ll keep you posted on that.

So that’s it for today. Please implement these as soon as you can; this is one of the ones where you can just implement it on day one and then build that habit after three weeks, and it’s going to be routine, and you’re going to see a lot of benefits from it. Thank you.