How can I improve my posture?

To maintain proper posture, you need to have adequate muscle flexibility and strength, normal joint motion in the spine and other body regions, as well as efficient postural muscles that are balanced on both sides of the spine and throughout the body. In addition, you must assess your postural habits at home and in the workplace and work to correct them, if necessary.
A good way to improve your posture is to strengthen your postural muscles.  Some important postural muscles are the erector muscle group, abdominals, latissimus dorsi, and your gluteal muslces.  Doing exercises such as squats, abdominal curnches, back rows, & back extensions.  If you work in an office or are in a car for hours there are simple ways to improve your eroginamic posture in these sitted positions. For example, in your office or where your computer is raise your seat or the monitor so that your head is in a neutral position. Make sure your gluteals are all the way back against the seat and your shoulders are back and down.

Posture is more than standing up straight.  This is static posture.  We also have dynamic posture; our posture during movement.  Both are equally important.  Before tackling dynamic posture, let's take a look at proper static posture.  The feet should be approximately hip-width apart with toes facing forward and in line with the knees.  Distribute weight evenly throughout the entire foot.  The shoulders should be pulled back so they align with the ears.  The chin should be "tucked" in, not jutting forward.  Hold the navel in toward the spine.  This is proper static posture, with the kinetic chain checkpoints in proper position.

A common postural dysfunction found today is rounded or hunched over shoulders.  We spend many hours a day sitting; in the car, at the computer, in front of the TV, etc.  Our body gets use to this position.  The muscles of the chest (the pecs) become shortened and tight, and the muscles of the upper back (mid and low trapezius and rhomboids) become lengthened and weakened.  Because the chest muscles are overactive, they can pull harder than the weakened upper back muscles causing an imbalance.  We can correct this by improving the flexibility of the chest muscles, and improving the strength of the upper back muscles.

Begin with a Pec Stretch: Stand in a doorway with one arm raised (level with the shoulder) and a 90 degree angle at the elbow.  Place the forearm against the door frame and lean forward.  You should feel a good stretch in the chest on one side.  Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and then switch to othe other side.

To strengthen the upper back:  A Mid-Row exercise is a great way to strengthen the muscles of the upper back.  Use the cable machine at the gym, or some rubber tubing stretched around a sturdy pole.  Stand with your feet hip width apart, navel pulled in.  With tension on the tubing or an appropriate weight on the cable machine, pull your arms back, bending at the elbows and keeping the elbows close to the body.  Be sure to "squeeze" the shoulder blades together to activate those weakened postural muscles.  These are endurance muscles, so it is appropriate to perform 2 to 3 sets of 15-25 repetitions.

There are a number of things you should do to improve your posture.  "Stretch what's tight & strengthen what's weak" is often recommended.  But one form of training often underappreciated for improving posture is "balance training".  For example, when you stand on a wobble board, you learn to center your body parts in proper alignment.  As you find this "centered" position, balancing will become easier and you will be able to feel your proper posture.  Make a mental note of how this new posture feels and use it as a reference point to correct faulty postures throughout the day.

Improving posture may take time. Our posture tends to become poor because of our lifestyle; sitting in a car, at a desk, at our tv, at our computer. If your posture has been consitantly poor for several years or more, it may take some serious retraining of your muscles and consistant mental focus or 'awareness' of your body in space. One thing is certain, good posture is important for health! The benefits of good posture are too numerous to list, from injury prevention to a sense of well being, the list goes on and on. In most cases poor posture can be corrected by some simple stretching, stregthening and, what I like to call, 'regrouping'.  To regroup, do a personal assesment by guiding your awareness through different checkpoints in your body, from the feet to the head. Start standing while looking in a full body mirror if available. Look at your feet, do they point out, or in? Bring your toes forward, knees over the tops of your feet. Keep your knees slighty engaged, don't let them lock. Tuck your tailbone under, then stick it out behind you. Then bring it to a neutral place, or rooted downward. From there inhale and begin to lengthen your spine. Visualize creating space between each vertebrae. Next, roll your shoulders forward, shrug to your ears, then roll them back, flatten your shoulderblades, then gently bring your shoulders down and 'slide' your shoulderblades down your back. This lifts and opens your chest. Finally lengthen your neck. Let the base of your skull 'float' on top of the spinal cord. Lift the crown of the head upward. Do the same exercise when you are sitting, only begin with both feet on the floor (no crossed legs), then start from the tailbone upward. Eventually this regrouping can be done in about 30 seconds without having to look in the mirror. This exercise helps you become aware of the places that are tight and the places that are open. For example, it may be difficult to roll the shoulders and flatten the scapulae (shoulderblades). Simple stretches of tight areas (perhaps the chest) and stregthening of the weak areas (the upper back) my be necessary. Bring awareness of your posture into your day. Try setting your watch to beep every hour and take the first 30 seconds of each hour to regroup and walk your mind through the checkpoints in your body. Whether you are active or static, practice until good posture becomes a habit.      
Being aware of how you sit and stand makes a difference in your posture.  It may feel a little uncomfortable at first, but your muscles will adapt and proper posture will be done without thinking about.  Proper posture prevents injury and burns more calories to help someone lose weight faster.

If you have correct posture you should be able to draw a straight line from your ear down to your shoulder, hip, knee and ankle.  Here are some simple things to do while you are sitting and standing to make sure you maintain proper posture:

Eyes should be looking straight ahead with your chin tucked and ears in line with your shoulders
Keep your shoulders slightly retracted
Draw-in belly button towards the spine
Keep your knees in line with your second and third toe.
Keep your feet pointed straight ahead

One important thing to know is when you do something over and over it will create bad posture.  For example, if you sit all day at work you start to have muscles that become tight and muscles that are weak.  To help with that make sure you get up and move around throughout the day.

The most common postural misalignment is the forward head posture sometimes called the C-Curve. This is where the natural curves of the spine start to form a C shape. This can be improved by a number of ways, here are two: (1) core strengthening exercises that help support the spine in upright position (2) and staying in neutral spine when you are sitting and standing. 
Neutral spine is the best posture for the body. It is when your ear, shoulder and hip are in alignment.  This posture puts the least amount of stress on the spine and can prevent and help reduce back pain. 
(1) Often times, individuals with the forward head posture need to strengthen the upper back muscles and lengthen (stretch) the chest muscles to pull the body upright. Rows and pullovers are good back strengthening exercises and any chest stretching exercises to open the front body would be helpful.

 (2) To help improve your sitting and standing posture imagine a string attached to your sternum (mid chest) that is lifting your chest up. Now, engage your abs by pulling your belly in towards your spine, lift the rib cage and you are on your way to improved posture.


A comprehensive approach to improve posture requires a mix of stretching exercises, strengthening exercises and sound ergonomics. Poor posture can result from many factors including repetitive motions (e.g. farming, working in a factory) extended periods of sitting in front of a computer, driving, or watching television. Many of these activities take your body out of ideal alignment and places stress on your joints. For example, extended periods of sitting places your hip flexors (muscles in front of your hips) in a shortened position and causes them to tighten. This can place excess stress on your low-back. Some important muscles that are prone to tightness as should be stretched include your calves, hip flexors, chest, and latissimus dorsi (large muscle on your back). Some important muscles to strengthen to help improve you posture include your gluteals, abdominals, and mid-back and rotator cuff.

Here is the quick answer I tell my clients to improve posture...
Stand up. Try to touch your belly button to your spine. Then try to touch the ceiling with the top of your head.

Having good posture is very important as it keeps your body properly aligned and can correct muscle imbalances that may be causing you pain or inhibit full range of motion. Look at these 5 check points to make sure you have proper posture.

1) Feet: Keep feet straight and evenly balanced with weight.
2) Knees: Shoulder-width apart, straight and slightly bent
3) Hips: Straight and level        
4) Shoulders: Shoulder blades drawn back and down. Shoulders level.
5) Head: Back and not protruding forward   

Participating in a flexibility routine can help you create proper alignment if you have muscles that are too tight (or feel like you have 'knots' in your muscles). Strengthening muscles that are too loose and not supporting your properly can also be helpful.

This is an excellent question! 

The first thing that we should ask is, "what type of posture do I have?"  The reason why you want to know what type of posture you have, is because that will directly impact the type of corrective measure you take. 

For example: 

If I have a spinal alignment (posture) that is like the hunchback, per se, then I would conclude that I have an extremely tight chest musculature which is pulling my shoulders towards the front of my body.  When this happens, the muscles behind me which are the muscles that support the scapula (shoulder blades) are extremely elongated or stretched... the overstretched muscles allow the shoulder blades to come away from the spine.

Even though this is a very common situation, it is very important to make sure that you follow the corrective exercise protocol.  The way that I normally address this type of condition is to make sure that the individual is warmed up ready to exercise. I next will have this person stretch the tight muscles first, then I use exercises that shortened the overstretched muscles on the opposite side of the torso or joint. 
Which basically looks like the following:

Warm up:  5 - 10 mins of light cardio

Stretch:  The chest and shoulder muscles

Strengthen:  The muscles that support the shoulder blades and upper spine

For the sake of keeping it simple, I would have to just say that it all depends on what type of posture you do have.  Because everyone is different, it would be best to have somebody that is trained to a postural assessment.  Once the assessment is complete, ask any of us here in this forum and we would be more than happy to help you in any way shape or form.  :) 

In happiness,

Josh Chewning

Dr. Mike Clark, DPT

View these tips to improve your posture!


Yusuf Boyd, NASM Elite Trainer
Athletic Training

One way of improving posture I always teach is this:

Take a deep breath and pay attention to what your body does. Take another, and another. What happened? Correct, your chest rose up, shoulders rolled back in an erect position, and your head centered over your shoulders. This is only the beginning, take that deep breath again but this time hold the new position that your body comes too (remember to continue to breathe). You will probably be able to maintain this position for approximately 15-30 seconds before you fall back into your normal posture. From this point on whenever you notice yourself slouching at your desk or in your car, or while standing, take a deep breath and maintain that position while continuing to breathe and do what ever it was you were doing. What you will find is that that 15-30 seconds will begin to increase over time.

In addition to this little exercise you will also need to begin a postural strengthening and flexibility program that can be easily integrated into your workout.

When you are standing and talking to people interweave your hands behind your tailbone and relax them there. Most people who slouch I have noticed look down a lot. Make a consistent effort looking above eye level throughout your day. It automatically makes you pull your shoulder blades together. Or wear a backpack using both shoulders straps. Also when you are working out drop down periodically and do up dog. Really focus on pulling the top of your head away from your tailbone.
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
If you stride across a room like a young Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, your good posture will keep the muscles in your abdomen, back, and pelvis (your "core") strong and flexible -- a big boost to staying injury-free when dancing like Travolta, jogging, golfing, or biking. Need extra work on your core? Yoga will make you stronger and keep your joints younger.

But if you're as wilted-looking as Napoleon Dynamite, you're setting yourself up for weak muscles, arthritis, back pain, fatigue, headaches, and even a potbelly. Luckily, you can roll back your body's "real age" if you trade in your slouch 'n' pouch for the virtues of vertical. Here’s what we recommend:
  • Hold your head up straight. Don't jut out your chin.
  • Keep your shoulders down and shoulder blades back.
  • Stretch the top of your head toward the ceiling. Tuck your stomach in.
  • When standing, keep your weight centered. Put your hands on your hips. Don't slight your hip bones or pelvis forward or backward.
  • When seated, no twisting, leg crossing, or foot swinging. Plant your feet on the floor, knees bent at a right angle and even with or slightly higher than your hips. There's no need for a board down your back -- let your lower back curve naturally. Just don't collapse on one hip.
Good posture gives you confidence and makes a great first impression. Both give you an edge, personally and professionally.
Here are some simple steps you can take to improve your posture:
  • Stretch daily.
  • Move more.
  • Select exercises that work multiple muscles.
  • Limit machine exercises to two per workout.
  • Do more planks, bridges, and core work.
  • Work the muscles you can't see when looking in the mirror.
The first step to learning and maintaining correct posture is awareness. Many people find it helpful to have someone videotape them while they are standing or sitting in their usual positions. The video should capture front, back and both side angles. This enables patients to see how they hold themselves in various activities and identify problem areas. Often, people find that their backs are curved too much, their heads are jutting forward or they have a sway in their lumbar spine.

What does ideal posture look like? Imagine a line that runs down the front of the body from above the chin to chest and down to the knees, touching all of these points.

Another tip for good posture: create a 90-degree L-shape using the thumb and index finger. Place the thumb (the bottom end of the L) on the chest, and then line up the index finger so that it touches the front of the chin. This puts the head, chin and chest in neutral alignment. Now, imagine a longer line extending from the junction of the thumb and index finger down to the belly button. Finally, relax the knees slightly and stand balanced equally on both feet.

Start by looking in the mirror while making small adjustments. Correct posture may actually feel a bit unnatural at first, but with awareness and frequent practice, it will become second nature. Aim to make adjustments several times a day. Often, people find that as one part of the body, such as the neck, falls into place, the rest of the body follows.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.