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While it’s easy to find leg routines that you can perform with minimal equipment, it’s tough to improve posture and upper-body strength without overworking certain muscle groups and underworking others. This can lead to muscular imbalances that exacerbate the issue.
“Muscle imbalances can be a product of performing too many exercises in single planes of motion,” explains Joelle Cavagnaro, MS, CEO of Level TEN and co-owner of Fit Coach Pro. “Technology has also done us a bit of a disservice in the posture department. The slouching you do when sitting at your computer? The hunched-over position you’re in when scrolling Instagram? Muscularly, these rounded shoulder and forward neck postural examples are typically a product of weak or tight chest muscles, a weak core, tight or weak glutes, and a weak back.”
Fortunately, many of the same movements that strengthen your upper body also can improve your posture. The trick is knowing how to put those movements together so you stretch tight muscle groups while you strengthen others, allowing you to get more out of your workout in less time.
6 Exercises for Better Posture
Here’s a quick series of exercises to improve posture and upper-body strength in just a few minutes using mostly bodyweight and minimal equipment.
1. TRX Row
The TRX row is one of the best-ever bodyweight moves, targeting postural muscles in the upper back and shoulders while simultaneously strengthening your grip and forearms. As you develop more upper-body strength, you can easily adjust the intensity of this exercise by walking your feet forward or placing them on a box.
Action: Grip the handles and walk your feet forward. Keep your core tight and hold your body in a straight line as you retract your shoulder blades and bend your elbows to row your body up to the handles. Perform three sets of eight to 12 reps.
2. Bench Dip
Dips are another tried-and-tested bodyweight movement that stretch the tight muscles of the chest while targeting the shoulders and triceps. To get the most out of this movement to improve your posture and upper-body strength, make sure your chest is up and your neck neutral throughout the movement. As with the row, you can increase the challenge of this exercise by stepping your feet further forward as your strength improves.
Action: Sit on the edge of a bench or chair with your hands on either side of your hips. Supporting your weight with your hands, lift your hips off the bench and shift them forward. Keep your chest up and back straight as you bend your elbows to lower your body down. Press through your hands and straighten your elbows to come back up. Perform three sets of 10 to 12 reps.
3. Bent-Over Scapular Slide
This is a variation of a common shoulder rehab exercise and a great way to strengthen your core, back and shoulders to improve posture and upper-body strength. Although this exercise is challenging enough using just bodyweight, you can add a light set of dumbbells or bands for extra resistance.
Action: From a standing position, bend at the hips to hinge forward. Holding this position, bring your arms up and out to the side with your elbows bent and palms facing the floor, forming a W with your arms. Extend both elbows to raise your arms overhead, allowing your shoulder blades to glide up as you move. Reverse the motion by retracting your shoulder blades and bending your elbows. Keep your body stationary as you move. Perform three sets of 10 to 15 reps.
4. Judo Push-Up
This is an advanced variation of the push-up because it requires more shoulder, arm and core strength, as well as flexibility in the chest and back.
Action: Begin in a pike position with your hands and feet on the floor and your hips in the air. Bend your elbows to move your forehead toward your hands. Keep your head low as you glide your chest forward, allowing your hips to drop down into a bent-arm plank. Balancing on your hands and toes, straighten your arms to press your body up. To complete the rep, perform each movement in reverse, lowering your body down, gliding back as you lift your hips and straightening your arms to return to the pike position. Perform three sets of six to 10 reps.
5. Tabletop Hip Thrust
The tabletop or crab position stretches the chest and improves shoulder strength and mobility while strengthening the core and glutes. This is an important component to improve posture and upper-body strength since most of our daily movements tend to pull our shoulders forward and weaken our upper back.
Action: Sit on the ground with your knees bent and your hands next to your hips. Push into your feet and hands to lift your hips off the ground. Engage your glutes and extend your hips to a tabletop position, with your knees, hips and shoulders in a straight line. Hold for a beat, then lower your hips back down with control. Perform three sets of 15 to 20 reps.
6. Push Plank
Any type of plank hold strengthens the postural muscles in the back and core, and this variation targets the arms, chest and shoulders to increase strength in these areas.
Action: Begin in an elbow plank. Slide one hand back and straighten your arm. Repeat with the other hand, pressing up to a straight-arm plank. Drop back down to the first elbow, then repeat with the other arm to return to the elbow plank. Repeat, alternating which arm you begin with to strengthen both arms evenly. Perform three sets of 16 to 20 total reps, eight to 10 on each side.
Many women struggle to find the right balance when it comes to building total-body strength and improving posture. Use this routine to avoid the trap of working the same muscle groups over and over again.