With so many daily activities requiring computer work and using hand-held electronic devices, it’s really important to target the mid-spine, neck, and shoulders with specific posture corrective exercises.
These are the areas that hunch forward with poor posture, especially when sitting for long periods of time. Exercises that pull the skeleton in the opposite direction build muscle, bone, prevent rounded shoulders, and help to avoid a hunchback posture.
The Mid-Spine And Shoulder Stabilizer does just that. So let’s get started!
Your back muscles are used in just about any movement you do on a daily basis, and you may not even realize it. Each time you bend, twist, turn, lean, and so forth, you’re using your back muscles. Even walking and sitting up use these central muscle groups. So exercises that work the back actually benefit the whole body.
Back exercises often begin with the arms, like today’s move (as you’ll see). That’s because the shoulder muscles are closely connected to the muscles in the upper back, so when you do certain arm exercises, it stabilizes and strengthens the muscles in the thoracic area.
By “certain arm exercises” I am referring to arm circles. This particular type of motion is especially effective at engaging the shoulder blades and upper back.
Below are a few more benefits of a strong back to consider.
When your back is in pain, it affects everything you do. Your back is so central to mobility that when your back hurts, it’s hard to do anything requiring movement. Consequently, you could lose your motivation to exercise, making the problem even worse.
Strong back muscles are an excellent back pain preventative for many of the reasons listed below. And if you currently suffer from back pain, make sure you have the go-ahead from your physical therapist or doctor before trying any back exercises. It’s best to go slowly and work with a qualified physical therapist for existing back pain.
Your vertebrae – in fact, all of your bones – are held in their proper alignment by your muscles. Weak, tight, or inflamed muscles simply don’t do a good job of holding your skeleton in place. Misaligned bones can bring about a host of problems, such as inflamed, painful joints and pain elsewhere in the body. Misalignment causes wear and tear instead of building strength, and headaches can ensue if the shoulders and cervical vertebrae are not in line.
Strong muscles are flexible muscles. Exercise builds muscle fibers that can atrophy when you stop exercising, and it prevents the muscle fatigue that occurs so easily after a couple of weeks of being sedentary. Flexible muscles are less prone to injury as well, a welcome benefit for anyone who’s ever pulled or strained a back muscle.
And finally, a flexible back increases your range of motion, opening up more exercise possibilities and reducing the risk of falling.
Many back muscles are included in your core, which are central to keeping your torso upright. The more superficial muscles are also important balance factors, because a strong back is a stable back.
Your posture is not just about your head and neck. Your whole torso is involved in posture, from your head to your hips. And a great portion of that area is your back!
Regularly contracting and relaxing your muscles while exercising is not unlike a massage, especially if you include stretching in your routine. Relaxed back muscles are much more flexible and less painful.
The specific muscles worked in today’s exercise are the back and shoulder muscles that are directly involved in posture, including the following.
The trapezius is a rather large muscle that attaches at the neck, fans out over the top of the shoulders, and then tapers down to the mid-back to make a kite shape. It covers a lot of area, so if your “traps” are tight or weak, the effects could be felt anywhere from your head to the middle of your back. Tense shoulders are often the result of a tight trapezius.
Your chest and neck also gets an excellent stretch and workout with the Mid-Spine And Shoulder Stabilizer. You may not have considered that your chest and neck muscles have anything to do with posture; but the truth is that muscles such as the pectoralis major and minor in the chest and the extensor muscles in the neck are crucial for proper head and shoulder position. In forward head posture (FHP) and slumped shoulders, the chest and neck muscles grow weak and tight, pulling the head and chest downward.
The neck extensors include the splenius capitis, which attaches at the seventh, third, and fourth cervical vertebrae, and the splenius cervicis, which attaches to the first and second vertebrae. As you can envision, FHP and a hunched back stretch and weaken the neck extensors, decreasing their ability to hold your head in the proper position. Today’s challenge is an excellent strengthener for these muscles.
So let’s look at how to do the Mid-Spine And Shoulder Stabilizer!
You’ll be lying on your stomach for this exercise, so use an exercise mat or lie on a carpeted surface.
- Lie on your stomach with your arms out to the side, palms down.
- Slowly lift your head and chest up off the floor, bringing your arms up no higher than to shoulder height (think of a “flying” position).
- Holding this position, circle your arms backward. Don’t let your hands touch the floor, and don’t bring your arms up more than a few inches past your shoulders.
- Do three backward circles, and then switch directions for three forward circles. This is one set.
- Bring your forehead and arms back down to the floor, rest for a few seconds, and then bring your chest back up and repeat steps 3 and 4 for a second set.
- Perform 3 to 6 sets, or whatever is comfortable for you.
- Keep your neck “long” when you’re doing the arm circles, trucking your chin slightly.
- Remember to breathe deeply when you have your head down on the floor, and exhale slowly as you do the arm circles.
- If this is very uncomfortable for you, feel free to place a slim pillow or folded towel under your chest to cushion the hard floor and to help with lift.
Postural Exercises Have Whole-Body Benefits
As I mentioned above, postural exercises that work the back, chest, and neck muscles have benefits that go beyond standing up straight. Excellent posture helps with breathing, joint pain, back pain, balance, and builds stronger muscles.
And as you work these muscles and nourish your bones with pH-balanced nutrition, your bones are stimulated to increase in strength and density as per Wolff’s Law.
Postural exercises like this one and the ones in the Densercise™ Epidensity Training System work to build bone in the thoracic vertebrae, an area of significant concern for those who want to avoid hunched shoulders and loss of height. In Densercise™, you’ll find many exercises that target the back muscles and shoulders, giving you the confidence and strength you need to stand tall.
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Enjoy the weekend!