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Having good posture helps more than your physical appearance. Improving your posture and strengthening your back muscles will help alleviate back pain and prevent unnecessary sprains and strains. Sitting up straight is not the only solution
Knowing how to protect your back from injury will not only provide you with increased posture, but overall body strength as well. Whether you are suffering from a history of vertebral fracture or plagued by chronic back pain, there are safe and effective exercises that will bring you relief and protect your back from further injury.

Lifting 101

1.    Plan it. The first thing you should do before lifting an object is plan ahead. Part of the prevention involves knowing what you are doing. If you are lifting a really heavy object, obtain another person and agree on a plan.

2.    Keep it close. You should always lift close to your body. Your core area or trunk is stronger and more stable than your arms. Hold the object firm and balanced close to your body.

3.    Keep your feet shoulder-width apart and take short steps. This will provide you with a solid base of support during lifting. If your feet are too close together, or too far apart, this could hinder movement.

4.    Always bend your knees and keep your back straight when lifting. Focus on the lifting motion and keep your spine straight. You should raise and lower the object to the ground by bending your knees. The muscles of the legs are much stronger than those of the back.

5.    Keep your stomach muscles tight. By tightening your abdominal muscles, your back has less force on the spine and surrounding muscles.

6.    Ask for help. You should not lift alone if the object is too heavy, of an awkward shape, or you are out of shape,

Exercises that Help Promote Good Posture and Strengthen Your Back Muscles

1.    The Waxing Exercise. This particular exercise will help promote good posture and strengthen your upper back muscles. You should sit up straight in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Next, bring your arms to your sides with your elbows closely tucked to your body. Extend your forearms out until they are at a 90 degree angle with your upper arms and are parallel to the floor. With palms down, push your shoulder blades inward and together while forcing your chest outward. Hold this for five seconds and make a circular motion with your hands, as if you were waxing a car. Do this for 30 seconds. Repeat ten times.

2.    The Pelvic Tilt. To promote lower back strength, lie on the floor with your back and feet flat against the flat surface. Put your hands behind your head. Push with your feet to lift your lower back approximately 5 inches from the floor. Keep your upper back flat against the floor and hold this position for around 15 seconds. Repeat ten times.

3.    Wall Slides. These are good exercises to strengthen and improve the way you sit. Simply stand about 18 inches away from a sturdy wall with your feet shoulder width apart. Lean and put your back against the wall. Slowly bend at your knees and slide down the wall. Keep your shoulder blades pushed against the wall and keep your back straight. Slide as far down as you can and hold for 15 seconds. Do this ten times.

4.    The Pilates Plank Exercise. This is one of the best known core strengtheners. Lie face down and raise your body into a bench-like position, support it with your forearms and toes. Keep your back flat and hold this position for a count of 10 to start and progress to as long as you can. Do this is sets of 10. Over time, you can build up to a one-minute plank.

Advice from Experts for Improving Posture

To improve standing posture, stand with your weight mostly on the balls of your feet. Keep your feet slightly apart at shoulder width. Let your arms hang naturally down along the sides of your body. Tuck your chin in a little and be sure your head is square on top of the neck and spine. Stand straight and tall with your shoulders upright. For improvement in walking posture, keep your head up and eyes looking straight ahead. Avoid pushing the head forward and keep your shoulders properly aligned with the rest of your body.

Driving posture is important too. You should sit with your back firmly against the seat. The seat should always be a proper distance from the pedals and steering wheel so you will not have to lean forward or reach excessively. The headrest should be in the middle of your head to keep it upright.

Sleep posture is important as well. Choose a relatively firm mattress and use a pillow for proper support and alignment of the Head and shoulders. Consider the use of a rolled-up towel or small firm pillow under the knees to support the spine.

General Advice from the Experts

1.    If you have to sit for long periods, place a rolled up towel or small, firm pillow at the small of your back for support.

2.    To reach your feet to tie your shoes, or other tasks, sit on a chair and cross one foot at a time over the opposite knee. This prevents strain from excessive bending at the waist.

3.    Use a backpack with straps that snap in front at the chest and waist.

4.    Protect your back when you sneeze or cough by tightening your abdominal muscles. Do this while placing one hand on your back or pressing your back into a chair or the wall for support.

Potential Problems

No advice is better than the advice of your family doctor. Before embarking on any exercise plan, you should have yourself cleared by a medical expert. If exercises are performed with poor technique or by someone with an existing back injury, it could do more harm than benefit. Health and fitness specialists recommend an individualized exercise plan to improve overall posture and strengthen the back muscles.

  • Brody, J.E. (2011). The New York Times. Forget about crunches: Here is how to protect your back. Retrieved from:
  • Schubbe, J. (2011). Guidelines to improve posture. Retrieved from:
  • Photo courtesy of Unfurled on Flickr:

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