Standing up straighter gives us presence and confidence. We all look and move better when we stand or sit fully upright. It's much easier if you have good movement in the spine and stronger back and chest muscles. Here are 5 of my favourite exercises to help stop pain, stiffness and forward slumping.
1. Move it with a roller
You can use this "Peanut Roller" for all parts of the back. I love it for the upper and mid back, and it gives great relief when you've been sitting for ages and need get things moving. This simple, effective self treatment device empowers you to help eliminate your own pain.
For a 10% discount on this roller at Movewell UK, see use the discount code CLAIRECAL10
2. Bridge with "windmill arms"
This is brilliant for the whole back and hips. Lying down, you lift up your hips, then bring your arms up to 90 degrees. Lift one arm behind you, then alternate the arms. This strengthens the big straplike muscles running up each side of the spine, and works the deeper abdominal muscles too.
If it's too tricky or painful lifting like this, you can do it with your back flat
To make this more challenging, you can use a short roller underneath you. This requires great neck control, and can strain the neck, so take care. It does really give the upper back and shoulders a controlled work out though!
This exercise also strengthens the whole body. Keep the back flat, and lift the arm out in front of you. Then lift the opposite leg out behind you. Maintain the position for 5-10 seconds. It's not as easy to keep the back flat as it looks!
4. Thread the needle
This Pilates based classic is harder than it looks. Lift the arm out to the side,
Place your arm out to the side hand facing away from you. Then bring the arm underneath you, with hand facing the ceiling. You should get a lovely stretch through the upper back and back of the shoulder.
Bow and arrow
Another great pilates exercise. Stand with arms in front of you. Then bend the arm and pull it behind you (like an archer drawing back his arrow). Now straighten the elbow and extend the arm behind you. Then bend the elbow slowly, and bring the arms forward again, so they are back straight out in front of you (back to the starting position). Then do on the opposite arm. Looks simple, but hard to do well repeatedly. Great for rotation and racket sports players who want to open up the shoulders and chest too.
3 quick wins
Looking for a shortcut?
1. A decent bra makes all the difference, physically (less pain and strain), psychologically and aesthetically, ! If finding the right sports bra is a challenge, see here
2. Set the screen, stop looking down. We all look down at the phone without realising it! Keep it more in front of you.
3. Sit less, move more. Break up long periods of sitting with standing and stretching.
If you struggle with upper back pain or a rounded back, you can find out more on what causes it and how to fix it in my "body language" blog