Strong muscles play an important role in maintaining posture and balance during movement. There are several muscle groups, including the hamstrings and large back muscles, that are critically important in maintaining good posture. While the ligaments help to hold the skeleton together, these postural muscles, when functioning properly, prevent the forces of gravity from pushing us over forward.
How to Check Your Posture?
Stand up against a wall with your feet slightly apart and about 9-10 cm (3-4 in) away from it. Make sure your bum and shoulder muscles are relaxed and touching the wall. Place your hand between the wall and the lower part of the back. If the whole of your hand goes through, then it is likely that your pelvis tilts too far forward and your lower back is too arched. If you can’t get your fingers through at all, then it is likely that your pelvis tilts too far back and your back is too flat. The ideal posture is when you can place your fingers through the gap.
Go to a mirror and look at what you have discovered at the wall. You now know that your pelvis is in either the wrong or the right position and that the alignment of your lower back is influenced by that position.
Spend a moment now side-on, with your feet shoulder width apart, your knees slightly soft and your upper body relaxed. Gently tilt your pelvis towards and backwards and then from side to side. The ideal posture is when your pelvis is tilted neither too far forwards nor too far back. It needs to be in a neutral position with a natural curve in your lower back.
The following exercises redress the balance of a hollow back posture. But everybody should exercise their abdominal and buttock muscles to ensure strength and stability of the spine.
You may want to place a cushion under your head for comfort. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet slightly apart. Starting in the groin area, begin to draw in the lower part of your abdominal and flatten your back to the floor.
Hold for 2 counts and then release for 4 counts. Build up to holding (and releasing) for 5 counts.
You should feel a pulling sensation in your lower tummy; make sure your back stays flat.
Lie on your back as for the tummy tightener and draw in your lower abdominals as before. While holding the contraction, bring your opposite hand and knee together and push them slightly against each other. Hold for 2 counts and then release for 4 counts. Repeat on the other side. Build up the hold to 8 to10 counts.
Make sure your upper body remains relaxed and your back flat; do not hold your breath.
Whenever you do any buttock exercises you need to contact your abdominals consciously. This will make the buttock muscles work more effectively. Lie face down with your hips on a cushion. Keep your legs straight. Hold in your abdominals and squeeze your buttocks. Now lift one foot about 8 cm (3 in) off the floor and take your leg out to the side by 15-20 cm (6-8 in), squeezing your buttocks as you do so. Hold for 2 counts and then slowly come back to the centre for 2 counts. Repeat with the other leg.
Lie on the floor on your tummy with your feet slightly apart. Your hands can be on your bum or on the floor, with palms up. Keeping your hips pressed to the floor., use your lower back muscles to lift your shoulders off the ground for 2 counts, then lower for 2 counts.
It is essential to make sure you stretch your muscles. When you tone them, they can become tighter and more flexible. Stretching reduces muscular tension and keeps muscles more supple.
Front thigh and hip flexor stretch
Find a chair or table that is about 15 cm (6 in) higher than your knees. Stand with your feet slightly apart and in an upright position, with your abdominals held in. Bend your supporting leg so that your knee is slightly soft. Bring the other foot up behind you and use your toes to hook your foot on to the chair. Tilt your pelvis under to prevent you from arching your back. Hold this stretch for between 10 and 30 seconds. Repeat with the other leg. Make sure your knee faces the floor and your abdominals are held in right.
Back stretch 1
Lie on your back, then hug your knees towards your chest with your hands behind them. Hold for between 10 and 30 seconds.
Keep your body relaxed; breathe normally
Back stretch 2
Lie on your front with your elbows bent and hands flat on the floor. Gently lift your head and shoulders off the floor by pushing on your hands until you feel a stretch down your tummy. Hold for between 10 and 30 seconds.
If you find you have strain in your back or that is over-arching, lower your elbows to the floor or omit this exercise
Look straight ahead of you and think about lengthening your spine; keep your hips on the floor; make sure you find a level that is comfortable.
Lie on your back, then bend your right knee towards you and place your left foot on the floor with the knee bent. Take your right foot across your left knee. Now bring your left knee up towards you with your hands at the back of the knee, and hold for between 10 and 30 seconds. Repeat with the other leg.
if you find this exercise difficult, try to keep your left foot flat on the floor and your right foot across your left knee. Sit up with your hands on the floor behind you for support.
Relax your upper body and make sure you keep your back straight
Note: Poor posture can lead to excessive strain on your postural muscles and make them more prone to injury and back pain.