You’ve probably all heard the buzz about the dangers of prolonged sitting and the scary headlines like, “sitting is the new smoking.” While it’s true that long periods of sitting can have some very negative effects on your body over time, the fact is that we often HAVE to sit because of our jobs.
One thing I really tend to notice with our training clients – especially those that are new to us – is how they stand. Through our assessment/movement screen process, I can usually pick out the ones that sit a lot throughout the day. They tend to have rounded, slouchy shoulders with minimal mobility through the shoulders and thoracic spine. We often will take a profile picture of new clients to actually show them what their posture looks like. Their faces say it all when we show them what they look like – it’s NOT a good look!
Many people are stuck at a desk all day and are hunched over a computer. Over time, you’re bound to develop the “slouch.” There are, however, some things you can do to improve your posture and keep your upper body feeling good and working the way it was meant to.
Here are three simple exercises you can do at your desk that will help open up the chest, retract the shoulder blades, and give your posture a make-over in no time. Do them a couple of times a day or whenever you feel the need to straighten up and get away from the keyboard.
1. Opening up The Collar Bone
While sitting on the edge your chair, focus on being tall and then opening up your collar bones by pulling the shoulders back and pinching the shoulder blades in toward your spine.
Your focus is on those muscles around shoulder blades and mid back. You’ll also notice a light stretch in the front of the chest.
What often ends up happening with slouchy shoulders is there’s tightness in the front of the chest that rounds the shoulders and also there is weakness in those scapular muscles or shoulder blade muscles, the mid back muscles, and the thoracic extensors which are the muscles in the mid back that extend the thoracic spine.
You need to work all three of those by sitting nice and upright. So while we’re working on those thoracic extensors by opening up the collarbone, we’re also working on the shoulder blade muscles and the mid back muscles.
Start off doing this one for 5-10 rounds of a 5 second hold and then relaxing for 2-3 seconds. After that 5 second hold becomes comfortable, progress to a 10-15 second hold. You’ll also want to try and work on your breathing as you master this move. Try to breathe deeply in through the nose and out through the mouth as you hold those shoulder blades in.
2. Mid Back Tightener
From a seated or standing position, take your hands behind your head and pull your elbows back. You want to focus on tightening-up that mid back and then relaxing. Once again, hold it for about 5 seconds and then progress up to 10-15 second holds for a 3-5 sets. Don’t forget to get those deep breaths in!
With this move, you are once again stretching out the front of the chest as well as adding a stretch through the lat muscle (outer back). You’re also targeting those three muscles in the mid back that we need to work on when it relates to activation, endurance and strength of that muscle in order to overcome those rounded shoulders.
3. Laced Fingers over the Head
Once again, start off by sitting on the edge of your chair or standing nice and tall. Lace the fingers and bring the arms over head as high as you can. Imagine you’re reaching up to the ceiling. Hold for 3-5 seconds and then bring the hands all the way back down before repeating for about 5-7 reps. Really focus on taking in as much air as you can and pushing it all out as you hold the top part of this stretch.
Your focus is on lightly stretching the outer back area with the arms over head and working on those thoracic extensors. When you bring the laced fingers overhead, you’re also working on those scapular muscles and increasing the range of motion through shoulders.
For those of you stuck at a desk or feeling a bit slouchy through the shoulders, give these three stretches a try a couple of times/day. You (and those around you) are sure to notice your improved posture in no time!
About the writer: Ken Grall is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and owns and operates an Edge Fitness in Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about Ken.