Posture 101 and Exercises

Maybe your parents or significant other have repeatedly told you to “stand up straight!” Perhaps you’ve heard the quote: “A good stance and posture reflect a proper state of mind.” Regardless, we all know that good posture is important. But what exactly is good posture and why is it so important? This blog post will discuss why good posture is so important and how to improve yours so that you’re feeling and looking your best.

Why Is Posture So Important?

As a personal trainer, the very first thing I look at is the client’s natural posture. I can learn several things from a postural assessment:

  • Weak (lengthened and underworked) muscles
  • Tight (shortened and overworked) muscles
  • Increased weight/pressure on the neck
  • Deviations in everyday functional movement

Conducting a postural assessment is crucial for planning the initial stages of an exercise program because it helps the client improve their baseline fitness levels before moving onto more complex exercises. Think of the house or apartment you live in. It’s imperative to have a strong foundation in order to make the building safe to live in. Our bodies operate the same way: we need strong, straight foundations before adding more demanding challenges to our bodies.

In short, we need to straighten the body before we strengthen it. So how do we do that?

Components of Posture and Exercises for Each

Most people tend to think of posture as being all in the shoulders (a.k.a. pull your shoulders back and down). There are actually three components that comprise your posture, and we will discuss each one plus some exercises to help achieve good posture. If you are unsure of the safety for of any of these exercises for your particular health conditions, please seek guidance from your doctor.

Posture Component #1 – The Head

Most people walk around with a forward head position due to prolonged sitting and craning our heads towards screens. This is not optimal because every inch that your head juts forward adds ten pounds of weight and pressure to your neck. It can also result in a hunchback look over time. Additionally, a forward head position can result in tightness in the back and sides of the neck as well as weakness in the front.

Optimal Head Position:

  • Ear is in line with your shoulder
  • Cheekbones are in line with your collarbone

To check your head posture, stand naturally and have someone take a picture (or use a camera with a timer function) from the side of your body like the photos above. (DO NOT TRY TO CHANGE YOUR NATURAL POSTURE FOR THIS. In order to really help your posture get better, it’s very important that you work from your honest baseline.)

You can also stand with your heels and back against the wall. If the back of your head does not touch the wall, you most likely have a forward head tilt.

Exercises for Optimal Head Position:

If you suffer from a forward head position, don’t worry! There are some exercises you can perform every day to help improve it.

     1. Lying Down Chin Tucks

Lay down with your back against the floor and knees bent. Tuck your chin to your chest so that the back of your neck straightens against the floor. Hold this for about five seconds and then release. Do 15 repetitions, take a 30 to 60 second break, and then do one more set. You can do this multiple times throughout the day!

     2. Against the Wall


Against the wall

Lean with your back and heels flush against the wall. Make sure your glutes (buttocks) and shoulders are also touching the wall. Tuck your chin down towards your chest slightly and pull the back of your neck towards the wall so your head is touching the wall. Your neck should be long and straight, not curving. Hold for 30 seconds. Take a 30-60 second break and do one more set. This can also be done multiple times a day.

     3. Neck Stretch

Use your hands to gently guide your right ear to the top of your right shoulder so you feel a stretch in the left side of your neck. Hold for 30 seconds before switching to the other side. Repeat one more time on both sides of the neck. **If one side feels particularly sore and tight, you can increase the stretch by 10 to 20 seconds or so. You can also stretch the back of your neck by holding a chin tuck towards your chest.

Takeaway Tip: Always think of having your head pulled back so your ears and shoulders are aligned. The more conscientious you are of walking and exercising with your head properly aligned, the more automatic good head posture will become.

Posture Component #2 – The Shoulders

This is the one we are probably most informed about, so we will briefly go over it and discuss a few exercises you can do at home.

Optimal Shoulder Position:


Optimal Shoulder Position

Your shoulders should be back and down, not rounded and forward.

Exercises for Optimal Shoulder Position:

 1. Shoulder packing (on the floor)


Lay down with the back of your head against the floor, knees bent, and feet flat against the floor about shoulder width apart. As you exhale, “pack” your shoulders BACK (bring them down to the floor). Hold for five seconds and then release. Do 8 repetitions at first and build up to 12 or 15.

Next, “pack” your shoulders DOWN (extend fingertips towards feet so your shoulders are pulled away from the ears. Do the same number of repetitions and sets as when you packed down.

     2. Shoulder Packing (Against the Wall)

When you’ve done a few days of shoulder packing on the floor, stand flush against a wall with feet shoulder width apart. Follow the same directions as packing on the floor but this time you will do it standing against a wall.

Takeaway Tip: Always think of having your shoulders back and down. The more conscientious you are of walking and exercising with your shoulders packed back and down, the more automatic good shoulder posture will become.

Posture Component #3 – The Pelvis


Optimal Pelvic Alignment

To check how your pelvis is contributing to your posture, I want you to do the following steps:

  • Stand naturally with natural posture in front of a mirror (again, do not try to correct anything; stand how you would if you were standing or walking in everyday life)
  • There are two bony landmarks in the front of your hips and two in the back, just above the buttocks. Find both of these now.
  • Turn so you can see one side of your body as you mark the front and back bony landmarks on your body.
  • If the front bony landmarks are in line with the back ones, you have proper posture. Imagine a bucket of water around your pelvis. Ideally, the bucket would remain flat and straight so no water would splash out of the front or back.

There are two pelvic deviations which we will cover now.

1. Anterior Pelvic Tilt: (most common)


Anterior Pelvic Tilt

If the back bony landmarks are higher than the front ones, this means your pelvis tilts forward (anterior tilt). Using the bucket analogy again, with this tilt, the water is splashing out of the front of your bucket.

This deviation is so common because most people sit for a large part of their day, overusing the fronts of their thighs.

Likely Tight/Overactive Muscles:

  • Hip flexors (front of your thigh)
  • Low back muscles

Likely Weak/Underactive Muscles:

  • Abdominals
  • Hip extensors (glutes and/or hamstrings)

Exercises to Correct Anterior Pelvic Tilt:

  • Stand sideways to the mirror, engage your abs, and tuck your glutes until the front and back bony landmarks are in a straight line. Do this throughout the day.
  • Ab exercises (such as planks)
  • Hamstring and glute exercises (such as straight-legged deadlifts, quadrupeds, donkey kicks)
  • Stretches – hip flexors and low back (be sure to warm-up the lower body before stretching)


2. Posterior Pelvic Tilt:


Posterior Pelvic Tilt

The opposite of the anterior tilt is the posterior tilt. If the front bony landmarks are higher than the back ones, your pelvis tilts backwards. This means water is splashing out of the back of your bucket.

Likely Tight/Overactive Muscles:

  • Abdominals
  • Hip extensors (glutes and/or hamstrings)

Likely Weak/Underactive Muscles:

  • Hip flexors (front of your thigh)
  • Low back muscles

Exercises to Correct Posterior Pelvic Tilt:

  • Stand sideways to the mirror and push your glutes out as you engage your lower back until the front and back bony landmarks are in a straight line. Do this throughout the day.
  • Low back exercises (such as supermans and quadrupeds)
  • Hip flexor exercises (such as squats, lunges, leg presses)
  • Stretches – abs, glutes, and hamstrings

Takeaway Tip: Always think of having your front and bony landmarks in a straight line. The more conscientious you are of walking and exercising with proper pelvic position, the more automatic good pelvic posture will become.


Now it’s time to implement the posture tips that are applicable to you! Just remind yourself throughout the day to:

  • Bring the head back so ears are aligned with shoulders
  • Align your front and back bony landmarks for optimal pelvis position
  • Keep shoulders back and down

If you’re looking for a personal trainer to travel to your home and you live in or around central Maryland, contact me here.