Ryan McMahon Fitness | personal trainer Pimlico

Working At A Desk Is Ruining Your Posture. Here's The Fix.

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Part 2: The mobility and exercise routine

Correcting your posture is a two step process: lengthening muscles which have shortened, and strengthening muscles which have become weak.

1. Thoracic extension over foam roller

Hunching over a desk all day causes your upper back to round. If you dont have a foam roller you could roll up a large towel tightly into a cyclinder

This mobility drill will help stretch the lats, pec major and teres major.

  • Lie on the floor with the foam roller sideways across the middle of your back.
  • Inhale as you carefully arch over the roller while keeping your backside and feet on the ground.
  • Repeat 6-8 times before moving the roller 2-3cm further up your spine.
  • Try to do about 4 or 5 different spots on your upper back.

2. Cat-Camel

This movement will help extension and flexion of the thoracic spine (upper back) and mobility of the pelvis.

  • On all fours, inhale deeply as you pull the ribcage upwards rounding the upper back.
  • Exhale fully as you reverse the movement, gently lifting the head, and allowing the pelvis to rotate forwards.
  • Repeat 8-10 times.

3. Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

If you sit for prolonged periods, the hip flexors are in a shortened position. Tight psoas (flexors of the hip) can lead to a variety of lower back and hip issues.

  • Take a lunge position and lower the back knee to the ground.
  • Gently push your hips forward and you should feel a tightness in the front of the hip on the leg that’s on the ground.
  • Gently increase the stretch by squeezing the glute (butt cheek) on that side.
  • Repeat for 8-10 reps or hold the stretch for 15-20 secs.

4. Thoracic spine rotations

Now you’ve extended the thoracic spine, let’s try to get more rotation into your upper back.

  • On all fours, brace your abs and maintain a neutral spine.
  • Place one hand on the base of your neck – not on the back of the head which could cause your chin to drop.
  • If this is tricky for your shoulder, put your hand to your temple as if saluting.
  • Slowly rotate your elbow and your chest towards the ceiling to a point which still feels comfortable, before returning to the start.
  • Allow your head to follow your spine but don’t try to look up at the ceiling.
  • Repeat 8-10 times each arm before switching sides.
  • Try to gradually increase your range of motion with each set.

5. Lat hang from bar

With a rounded upper back your lats and pecs become shortened. Give them some love by stretching them using your own body weight.

  • Simple. Hang from an overhead bar with your hands at shoulder width and without swaying.
  • You should feel a stretch under your armpits and across your chest.
  • To increase the stretch, tuck the pelvis under slightly and take deep breaths, pulling your ribs downwards.

6. Bird Dog

Done right, even the most athletic will find this anti-rotation exercise challenging. If it’s easy, you’re doing something wrong!

A favourite of mine with clients, this will work your whole body. In particular your glutes, hamstrings, lower abs, TVA, obliques, lower back, and lower/mid traps.

It’s also a pretty safe exercise for everyone to try and requires no equipment.

  • Take a position on all fours.
  • Put a slight bend in your elbows and lean slightly forward to spread your body weight 50/50 between your hands and knees (this will really challenge your stability). Your torso should now be completely parallel to the floor with your head aligned with your spine and your gaze directly on the floor.
  • Brace your abs and maintain a neutral pelvis throughout the whole movement (this is where most go wrong!). Try to breath slowly and controlled.
  • Straighten one leg behind by engaging your glute with your toes pulled back towards your shin.
  • Try to get the heel level with your hips without turning the foot out to the side.
  • At the same time, extend the opposite arm out at a 45 degree angle with the thumb pointing to the ceiling.
  • Hold this position tightly for 15-20 secs. Don’t let your abs relax or the lower back will lose a neutral arch.
  • Switch sides and repeat for 4-5 reps on each side.
  • If you’re good at this, you can place a cup of tea on your back and won’t spill a drop changing from side to side. Tip – don’t put a cup of tea on your back while doing this!