I spend most days sitting for hours on end, whether I’m working or “Netflixing” (those episodes of Daredevil won’t watch themselves.) For a long time, I had no idea how sitting negatively affected my posture.
As we’re going to see in today’s post, proper posture not only makes you look confident but also helps improve your athletic performance and overall health and well-being. As a runner (and health freak), this is something I’m extremely interested in. I bet you’re the same.
Let’s delve into what proper posture is all about as well, and how to improve it.
Enter the Word Posture
I never liked the word “posture.” The term has always conjured up images of people sitting in rigid positions, balancing books on their heads. It’s one of those skills that require a lot of patience and effort to master—qualities I sorely lack.
Nonetheless, the importance of good posture is almost impossible to dismiss. Proper posture — both on and off the running track — is essential to overall health and it’s the cornerstone of efficient and injury-free running.
Proper posture aligns everything in your body, helping your muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments function properly and optimally. By opting for good posture, you’ll help reduce the load on your skeletal muscles as well as enable your body to move more efficiently and freely.
It’s quite literally the foundation of every step you take.
Bad Posture on The Run
Some of you may never have experienced this, but few things can ruin a run—especially a long run—like bad posture. It can cause neck, shoulder, and back pain, wastes energy, interferes with your running gait, and contributes to overuse injury.
What’s the link between bad posture and these issues? It’s not that complicated. Just like good posture ensures proper body alignment, poor posture achieves the opposite. It places excessive stress on your muscles and joints, overusing them and making them tense. That saddles you with a slew of performance and health issues—and you don’t want that.
I know this because I’m speaking from personal experience. I had all sorts of problems that were probably a result of bad posture. For a long time, my lower and middle back felt sore and tired, even following a short run. I also had a burning pain between my shoulder blades and in my lower back after sitting for no more than an hour. Making matters even worse, my poor posture made me look a few inches shorter and many pounds heavier.
Once I started improving my posture, most of these issues simply went away. I still get a bit of back pain now and then, but it’s not as intense, nor does it occur as frequently as it used to, even though I’m working longer hours and running more miles than ever before.
Enter Strength and Mobility Training
In an attempt to fix my habitual slouching, I tried out a mix of techniques for posture correction. As far as I can tell, what helped me the most was the strength and mobility exercises known for dealing with the underlying issues behind bad posture.
The 6 Exercises You Need To Improve Your Running Posture
What I learned from my research is that, more often than not, bad posture is the byproduct of muscular deficiencies in certain parts of the body, usually due to a mix of both weak and tight muscles. This where the exercises described below come into play.
What do these exercises accomplish? They help you improve body awareness, strength, mobility, and flexibility. That, in turn, will help you run in a more efficient way. What’s not to like?
To build and maintain good posture, focus on building strength in the following muscles:
- Core muscles
- Rhomboids and middle trapezoids
- Deep neck flexors
- Glute muscles
Make sure to improve flexibility and mobility in the following muscle groups:
- Hip flexors
The best part about this whole routine is that it only takes a few minutes a day to do at your office, home, or as a part of your regular workout. For a quick fix of your posture, go through this entire circuit three times per day, depending on how much time you have. You’ll feel pretty accomplished afterward.
1. Scapular Retraction
Good posture begins with a neutral pelvis—not tilted forward or backward. Scapular retraction activates the middle portion of the trapezius and rhomboid muscles, which are the muscles that help pull the shoulder blades together and open up the shoulders.
Start by lying on your stomach, both arms held out to the side at shoulder level. For more of a challenge, hold a light dumbbell in each hand.
While keeping your elbows straight and your shoulder blades retracted, slowly raise your hands up toward the ceiling. Hold them at the highest point for a moment, then slowly return to start and repeat.
Do not shrug your shoulders.
2. Wall Angels
Strength is just one piece of the puzzle. As I stated earlier, you also need proper mobility and flexibility in your upper body to build and maintain good posture.
Wall angels activate a wide range of muscles in the upper body, especially in the shoulder and shoulder blades. This stabilizes the muscles around the shoulder joint (rotator cuff) and reduces neck tension.
Plant yourself with your back against a wall and your feet about six inches from the base. Make sure your head, upper back, and buttocks stay in contact with the wall throughout the exercise. Place both arms against the wall with elbows bent at a 90-degree angle, so they form the letter “W.”
Press the entire length of your spine against the wall, slightly tucking in your pelvis and engaging your abs.
Slowly slide your arms up the wall four to ten inches, hold for three seconds, then slowly slide them down to the starting position. Your forearms and wrists should stay in contact with the wall at all times.
You know you’re doing it right once you start to feel your abs and the middle of your back contract to stabilize your spine.
Hold the pose for as long as possible without losing form.
3. Neck Flexors
To maintain proper posture, you also need strong neck muscles—that’s where this exercise can help. Neck flexors strengthen the deep cervical flexors that support the neck and head.
Lie on your back with knees bent, arms relaxed along your sides, head resting on the floor, neck, and spine in neutral alignment.
Gently tuck your chin toward your chest until you feel a gentle stretch in the back of your neck. Hold for five seconds, then slowly lower back to starting position.
Keep your head straight without tilting to either side and keep the muscles in the front of your neck relaxed throughout.
4. Overhead Squat
Overhead squats target major muscle groups throughout the body. They also force your muscles to work through a greater range of motion to control your body position. This extra depth results in improved flexibility and mobility throughout your lower body, including the ankles, knees, glutes, and hips.
Begin by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointing slightly out and your arms overhead, just behind your ears in a “Y” position.
Slowly bend your knees and stick your buttocks toward the back, then squat as low as you can while keeping your lower back flat throughout. Slowly press back up by straightening your knees and driving your hips forward.
5. The Plank
One of the things your core muscles do is to maintain a straight back and stabilize the hips and trunk — that’s why strong core muscles are key for proper posture. In fact, in 8 out of 10 cases of poor posture, weak core and back muscles are to blame.
Enter the plank. When performed correctly, this awesome exercise lights up a multitude of muscles all at once, mainly strengthening the shoulders, legs, and the entire core.
Get on your hands and knees. Step your feet back until you’re in a push-up position, then bend your elbows to a 90-degree angle and position your forearms on the floor. Your body should form a straight line from your heels to your head.
Hold the position for a full minute. Keep your knees straight, your hips low to the ground, and your head relaxed throughout the exercise.
6. Seated Low Row
This is another fantastic exercise for strengthening the upper and middle back.
As the name implies, low seated rows imitate a rowing motion. It targets the muscles around the back including the forward flexors, biceps, rear delts, lats, and erector spinae.
Seated low rows can be performed using a special gym machine or with a pulley. You can also do it at home using a resistance band or a weight.
Sit on a bench, gripping the handles of a rowing machine (or a resistance band tied to a stable object, or holding a light weight in each hand.)
While keeping the palms facing each other, squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull the cables (or weights) towards you. Keep your elbows close to your sides and your shoulders relaxed.
Hold the contraction for a breath or two as you squeeze the shoulder blades down and back, then extend your elbows to a nearly straight position to complete one rep.
There you have it!
The above exercises are all you need to fix your bad posture and help you improve your running form.
I’d love to hear from you if you have any favorite exercises or suggestions for improving posture in the comments section.
In the meantime thank you for reading my post.
Keep Running Strong