Almost all of us are guilty of being chronic sitters. The negative effects of this epidemic are too numerous to list in a single article, but today we'll discuss how to counter the damage it does to your posture.
 
The exercises included in this article will activate key posture muscles and restore muscle function to the hips, spine, and shoulders. These exercises are intended to change your posture alignment, which will in turn reduce symptoms of pain in different parts of the body. They don’t just treat the symptoms, they correct posture. 
 
When we sit, our hips roll back into flexion. This leads to a loss of natural lumbar curve, which often leads to back pain. In the exercise instructions included in this article you will notice cues to relax your stomach. In order to restore the natural curve of the lower back, it is important that the abdominal muscles relax, and that the pelvis re-learns how to tilt forward into extension. Maintaining tension in the abdominal muscles prevents this forward movement of the pelvis and restricts natural breathing.
 
Keep in mind that these exercises are not for everybody. All postures are different. If any of the exercises included in this article cause pain, then discontinue those exercises immediately. Listen to your body, and only do what feels right to you.
 

Alignment Exercises for Better Sitting

Sitting Knee Pillow Squeezes

This exercise introduces the body to the functional sitting position, versus the average slumped-forward position our bodies have become accustomed to. As the name implies, this exercise targets the adductor muscle group of the hips. 
 
Instructions: 
  1. Sit in the middle of a chair with your feet pointed straight ahead, 4-6 inches apart. 
  2. Place a block or foam roller between your knees. 
  3. Roll your hips forward to place an arch in your low back. Hold this position throughout the exercise. 
  4. Squeeze and release the block/foam roller with your knees. 
  5. Repeat for 3 sets of 20. Be sure to keep your stomach relaxed for the duration of the exercise. 

 

 

Sitting Abductor Presses

Just like sitting knee pillow squeezes, this exercise introduces the body to the functional sitting position. The hip abductor muscle group goes to sleep when we sit. This exercise will force them to wake up.
 
Instructions: 
  1. Sit in the middle of a chair with your feet pointed straight ahead, 4-6 inches apart. 
  2. Place a strap around your knees. 
  3. Roll your pelvis forward to place a small arch in your low back. Hold this position throughout the exercise. 
  4. Press outward against the strap, then release. 
  5. Repeat for 3 sets of 20. Be sure to keep your stomach relaxed for the duration of the exercise. 

 

 

Relax the Shoulders Into Alignment

Floor Block

This exercise actively targets the muscles that stabilize the shoulder. Be sure to keep your glute muscles relaxed and allow your ankles to drop out to the sides for the duration of the exercise.
 
Instructions: 
  1. Lie on your stomach with your forehead and nose flat on the floor. The tops of your feet should be on the floor, with your big toes touching and your heels dropped out to the sides. 
  2. Place your forearms on 6-inch blocks directly above your shoulders.
  3. Lock your elbows and point your thumbs to the ceiling. 
  4. Curl your fingers into the golfer's grip position by curling your fingers to your first knuckle so that your entire palm is open. Rotate your thumbs away from each other, with the movement coming from your shoulders. 
  5. Hold this position for 1 minute or until you feel your upper back relax. 
 
For the second position, keep your arms on the blocks and slide the blocks out to a 45-degree angle, rotate your shoulders outward and hold for 1 minute, or until you feel your upper back relax. 
 
For the last position, slide your arms and blocks out to a 90-degree angle, rotate your shoulders outward, and hold for 1 minute or until you feel your upper back relax. 
 
 
Note on the height of the blocks: If you use 6-inch blocks and you either feel like you have a hard time keeping your hips relaxed during this exercise, or you are not able to rotate from the shoulder joint, this is an indicator the blocks are too high. Start with 2-inch blocks, and work your way up to 6-inches. More is not better here. The goal is to allow your body to change, so be sure to choose a block height that works for you. 
 

Modified Floor Block

This exercise is a counter to the typical typing position. It works by opening up the chest and shoulders and also promoting pelvic and lumbar extension.
 
You will not necessarily feel a big stretch with this exercise. The magic ingredient here is that it is a low-demand, longer-duration exercise. It is a long, passive release which will allow for changes that cannot happen with exercises that are shorter and more active.
 
Instructions: 
  1. Lie on your stomach with your forehead on the floor. Your feet should be pigeon-toed and your buttocks relaxed. 
  2. Elevate your bent arms 4-9 inches by placing your forearms and elbows on blocks. Breathe and relax your upper body. 
  3. Hold for 6 minutes. Do not press your arms into the blocks. If this hurts your shoulders, lower the height on the blocks. Let your stomach and chest fall into the floor, causing your hips to tilt forward naturally. 
 
If you feel like your nose is getting squished into the floor, place a folded towel under your forehead. It is important that you are comfortable and able to relax into this position.
 
 

Hip Exercises With Modified Floor Block

These exercises activate the glutes and the rotators of the hip while promoting extension of the thoracic spine. They also correct internally rotated femurs and valgus knees (knees that cave in) by providing lateral hip stability and strength. Modified Floor Block variations are great for people who struggle with glute activation during squats and other lower body exercises.
 

Modified Floor Block Ankle Squeezes

Instructions: 
  1. While in the Modified Floor Block position, place a block between your ankles/feet. 
  2. Bend both knees to about 90 degrees and flex your toes down toward the floor. 
  3. Press and release your ankles/feet into the block. Be sure to press through the balls of the feet and the heels. 
  4. Repeat for 3 sets of 20. Be sure to keep your upper body relaxed for the duration of the exercise. It may be necessary to spread your knees apart a bit to feel the contraction in your hips. 
 

Modified Floor Block Abductor Presses

Instructions: 
  1. While in the Modified Floor Block position, place a strap around your ankles. 
  2. Bend both knees to about 90 degrees and flex your toes down toward the floor. 
  3. Pull your ankles/feet outward against the strap and then release. 
  4. Repeat for 3 sets of 20. Be sure to keep your upper body relaxed for the duration of the exercise.
 
 

Alignment Before Movement

We’re always told to “just get out of the chair and move,” and that’s great advice. You need to be proactive about your health and incorporate more movement in your day-to-day life. 
 
But remember, taking your body from sitting all the time to moving with abandon is reckless. It's like jumping in a car that is badly in need of an alignment, and driving it as fast as it will go down the freeway. Prevent unnecessary wear and tear and prolong the life of your vehicle (your body) by using these exercises to straighten out before you get moving.
 
More Alignment Correction From Coach Maryann:
 
Teaser photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
Topic: