Many of us spend more time seated than we would like. Think about how many hours a week you find yourself behind a desk or steering wheel. Celebrity trainer Andrea Orbeck refers to it as “the corporate stance.” “When we sit for long periods at a time, our hips are actually at a 90 degree angle which shortens and tightens our hip flexors (the muscle that lift the knee). When the hip flexors are tight, they tilt the hips forward slightly. When we stand and the hips are still tilting forward from the tight hip flexors, it compromises our posture and pulls on the back muscles and hamstrings, which often leads to back problems,” Orbeck explains. Bad posture is another result, adds Orbeck, “Sitting for long periods of time usually accompanies a slouched upper body when bending over a desk or computer.”
According to Orbeck, the best ways to alleviate the problems associated with too much sitting are stretches and strengthening movements that are in opposition to the movements that cause the trouble. So, we asked Orbeck for some stretches and exercises to prevent back pain and help our poor posture.
“My top postural strengthening movements make up my Posture Series,” says Orbeck. It’s easy and all you need is a little time and elastic tubing. “They are inexpensive and come with handles and varied resistance. You can find them in any sporting goods store or online,” Orbeck says.
Andrea Orbeck’s Posture Series:
Targets: Quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, trapezius muscles, lats, spinal erectors, abs
Because the deadlift works so many muscles, particularly your core muscles, it can help reduce lower back pain and improve posture. Standing with feet shoulder width apart (SWA) contract your shoulder blades, slightly bend the knees and tilt forward at the hips. Find your hamstrings to hinge your body down until you are almost parallel to the ground, maintaining the proud chest and pulled back shoulders. Contract the hamstrings to stand you back up, finishing you to a tall, erect position. Maintain a slight arch of the lower back, avoid a rounded spine and place the emphasis of the weight on your heels, not your toes. Perform 10 to12 repetitions.
Targets: Back, biceps
Use rubber tubing with handles. Anchor it in a door or affix it to something stable. Standing with feet SWA, walk away to generate tension in the band with arms stretched out in front, grip handles of tubing with palms facing forward. With posture tall and shoulders drawn back, row the elbows back while maintaining a tall chest. To increase tension in the band, walk farther away to create more resistance. Do two sets of 20 repetitions.
Standing Lat Pull Down
Targets: Back, lumbar spine
Stand and hold a band in both hands above your head. Hands are a bit wider than shoulder-width, the abs engaged. Keeping the left hand stable, contract the lat muscles on the right side to pull the elbow down toward the ribcage. Feel the back in the movement and refrain from tilting to the side as you pull. Return to start and repeat for one to three sets of 15 to 20 reps before switching sides. You control the tension in this exercise. If you need more intensity, hold the hands closer together or use a heavy band. Don’t move the non-working arm but, instead, contract your muscles to keep the arm completely stable as the other arm moves.
Reverse Lunge with Tubing
Targets: Back, quads, glutes, inner thighs
Stand with your feet SWA and keep your trunk upright. Hold the tubing in the same position as you did with the standing row. Pulling the handles toward you, hold the row and slowly, take a large step backward with your right foot. Lower your hips until your left thigh, which is in front, is parallel to the ground. Your left knee should be directly above your ankle. Your left foot should be pointed straight ahead and your right heel should be lifted. Pushing through your left leg, contract your glutes strongly to return to the starting position. If you are a beginner, alternate from left to right leg. For more of a challenge, perform all 10 reps each leg.
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