One thing most gym-goers probably don’t focus on enough: body alignment outside the studio walls. While you may work on cardio and strength, paying attention to your everyday posture is also crucial. “If you have pain or movement issues, checking posture can give you insight into what needs to be fixed and why,” says Nike coach and S10 trainer Joe Holder. “Looking at the way someone stands, from the feet all the way up to the neck, can give a lot of insight into over or underactive muscles in the body,” he adds. And while your posture doesn’t need to be perfect, improving it can reduce pain issues and boost your athletic performance.
Luckily, certain exercises do just that. The exercises below, chosen by Holder, include a mix of both strengthening and stretching moves, which will help correct imbalances and keep you aligned. For instance, when it comes to the shoulder rotation exercise, this helps remedy internally rotated shoulders associated with tight pecs and a weak back. (Computer junkies and text addicts, we’re looking at you.)
Set yourself straight and balance out your body by checking out the six exercises below. It’s your complete guide to standing stronger and taller.
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How to: Start standing with feet hip-width apart. Holding light weights, hinge at the hips to begin in a starting position similar to a bent-over row. Your back should be flat and arms straight down in front of you, just above your knees (a). Row your elbows back using your upper back muscles, so you hit a broken T shape (b). Rotate your hands up toward your shoulders (c). Staying in the hinge position, extend your arms straight forward and up to your ears (d). Then return them to the starting position (e). That’s one rep. Perform 3 sets of 8 reps.
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How to: Begin lying on your stomach, with arms and legs extended. Keep your head in a neutral position by looking down to the floor in front of you (a). In a swimming motion, swing your arms down by your sides (b). Then bring them back up and overhead by your ears (c). Focus on keeping shoulders relaxed and moving from the lats and mid back. That is one rep. Perform 3 sets of 8 reps.
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3. Shoulder External Rotation
How to: Grab a dumbbell in each hand or wrap a light, looped resistance band around your hands. Palms face up. Bend your elbows and keep them against your torso (a). Rotate your palms away from your torso until your arms are almost facing outward. You should feel your back and shoulder muscles fire (b). Slowly bring your hands back together (c). Perform 3 sets of 10 reps.
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4. Seated T-Spine Openers
How to: Begin sitting on a bench, hands behind your neck and elbows in close to each other (a). Lift your chest and elbows toward the ceiling, moving from your upper back. Try not to arch from your lower back (b). That’s one rep. Perform 3 sets of 8-12 reps.
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5. Farmer’s Walks
How to: Hold a dumbbell in each hand, with arm extended down by your side. Make sure to keep your shoulders down away from your ears (a). Walk forward, keeping your core engaged and taking strong and deliberate steps (b). Walk for 30-50 yards, then rest. That’s one rep. Perform 5-8 sets.
How to: Hold either a kettlebell or dumbbell in each hand at your chest (a). Pull your shoulder blades back and down away from your ears, as you move the weight up and around your head in a circle, returning them back to your chest. Keep your head upright and neck neutral (b). Do 10 rotations one way, then 10 the other. That’s one set. Perform 3 sets.
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