We all want better posture right, especially if we are struggling with neck, shoulder or back issues.
If you are serious about ridding yourself of annoying niggles and pain, stay with me and get to know the top five muscles to strengthen for better posture. Regular strengthening work on all of these muscles have done wonders for helping me to beat my own lower back pain.
So without further a do; here are my top five muscles to strengthen for better posture and why
Strong Glutes For Better Posture
What You Need to Know
- The glutes are one of the key muscles in helping us support better posture.
- They help to stabilise the pelvis (so support your lower back).
- The glutes work with the hip flexors and the abdominals at the front to keep the pelvis and the trunk in ‘neutral’ – this helps keep us free from lower back pain and problems.
- The glutes extend your leg back and propel the body forward when walking and/or running. If it doesn’t work, the back and hamstrings will try and help, which can over time cause pain and injury in lower back, hips and knees.
Yoga poses to try.
- Setu Bandhasana (bridge pose with variations – e.g. one legged bridge).
- Shalabhasan (locust and other prone backbends).
- All standing poses.
- All Balances.
What You Need to Know
- We have quite a few abdominal muscles; the transverse abdominus, external and internal obliques and the rectus abdominus. We need to strengthen all of them better our posture.
- They protect your abdominal organs – provide a container for your internal organs so that they don’t move around. The muscles provide that container by wrapping around vertically, horizontally and transversely.
- The abdominals, along with other core muscles allow you to move your trunk in all the different directions that you want to go, whilst protecting the spine at the same time.
- They stabilise the top part of the body over the bottom part (rib cage, head,)
- The abdominals control the pelvic-lumbar relationship (keeping the pelvis and lower back curve happy) with assistance from the glutes and the hip flexors. This is key to preventing lower back pain and disc problems.
Yoga Poses to Try
- Chakrasana (cat/cow and variations).
- Urdhva Hastasana (standing half moon pose).
- Kumbhakasana (plank pose – all variations).
- Navasana (boat pose).
- Uttanpadasana (lying leg raises).
A Stronger Mid/lower trapezius for Better Posture.
What You Need to Know
- This is an amazing muscle which is shaped like a kite.
- The top part of this muscle is called the upper trapezius (you will meet this muscle again in my next blog on muscles which need to be released for better posture).
- We then have the mid and lower trapezius. These two tend to get weak on many of us, so it is important to strengthen them regularly to help better our posture.
- All the traps work together to stabilise the shoulder blades on the back.
- When the mid and lower traps are weak, the shoulder blades move forward which contribute to rounded shoulders and a bigger upper back curve (hyper-kyphosis).
- They are very hard to locate and connect with as they tend to be weak. Just be patient and do your best. It will get easier over time.
Yoga Poses to Try
All of the following can be practised with different arm shapes (Y, W, T work well). These arm shapes will help you work these forgotten muscles.
- Prone backbends like Bhujangasana (cobra) or Shalabhasana (locust pose).
- Uttanasana (standing forward fold).
- Parsvottanasana (pyramid pose).
- Utkatasana (chair pose).
What You need to Know
- Your neck flexors are the unsung heroes in terms of the head support department and must be strengthened regularly to combat our sitting and tech lifestyles.
- They work in conjunction with our other neck muscles to keep our head nicely balanced on top of the spine.
- They are difficult to connect with (like the mid and lower traps), so have patience with yourself when trying out the pose below.
- If you have noticed that your ears go beyond your shoulders (even when you are not looking at your phone or computer) this is a sign that these muscles are weak. Weak neck flexors contribute to text neck which is the start of the slippery slope towards consistant back, shoulder and neck pain.
Yoga Poses to try
To wake up the neck flexors we need to be a bit more mindful of how we are holding our head in space. Instead of giving you specific yoga poses I would like you to try this simple practice (Jalandhara Bandha). Once you get used to it integrate into your practice.
- Sit or stand. Place one or two fingers on your chin
- Keeping your chin parallel, gently press the fingers against the chin so that it feels as though your chin is sliding back in space. Be careful not to lift and drop the chin down; keep it level. Can you feel some deep neck muscles kicking into action? You may also feel your shoulder blades connect with the back ribs more snugly.
- Take a moment to internalise how that feels.
- Now try replicating this in your practice and you move through your favourite yoga poses.
Serratus Anterior and Rhomboids
What You Need to Know About Why You Should Strengthen this Batman and Robin Dynamic Duo (for better posture)
- These two are a dynamic duo and are connected to one another is such a way that they are really one muscle. I like to call them the dynamic duo or ‘Batman and Robin.’
- The rhomboids are designed to draw the inner shoulder blades together (retraction)
- The Serratus Anterior (SA) work to draw the shoulder blades apart and towards the rib cage (protraction).
- For healthy posture we need a balance of strength between the two. If there is any imbalance then the shoulder blade will be pulled away from its happy place.
- A weakness in the SA also causes that winging action, where the inside of the shoulder blade sticks out during certain movement like push ups.
- When both these muscles work in synch you can beat neck, shoulder pain and back pain and your posture will improve considerably.
Yoga Poses to try
As with the neck flexors I am going to give you a move which will not only help you become more aware of the relationship between the two, but will strengthen the muscles (for better posture) in no time. The technique is easy to integrate into your yoga practice.
- I include this move a lot in my own practice and during classes.
- Get onto all fours and ensure that your knees are directly under your hips, and your hands are directly under your shoulders.
- Ensure that your elbows remain straight through the whole movement
- Keeping the table top position, pinch your shoulder blades together (retraction) as though you want to hold a penny between your shoulder blades. You will only move a few centimetres. Inhale.
- Exhale, and now push back against the floor so that your shoulder blades move apart (protraction). This action is like a baby cat pose (but you are only moving the upper back).
- Play with the two positions, retracting and protracting the shoulder blades.
- Repetitions: 3 x 10-15
- I hope you found my top five muscles to strengthen for better posture, helpful.
- Before I go, please note that for the purpose of keeping things nice and simple I have generalised the muscles which tend to need to be strengthend on most people. Therefore, if you want a more individualised approach for you it is helpful to see someone who can asses your own personal posture habits and advise you accordingly. My holistic body coaching service can help you do just that. Feel free to reach out and arrange a FREE consultation with me.
- You may be interested in reading my other blog posts on posture:
Want a short practice video which will demonstrate these moves and more? Just click on the link below to take you straight to the class!