Everyone knows proper posture is a big deal, but it’s all too easy to forget to practice it. Over time, bad posture can leave you feeling achy and fatigued, making it harder to work, have fun, and get things done around the house.
If your posture negatively affects your life, stretching is one of the best ways to make a real, lasting change. Read below to learn some of the best stretches for better posture and how to do them.
What Are the Best Stretches for Better Posture?
Try these stretches to improve bad posture and deal with related issues like back pain and a stiff neck. With consistent practice, stretches like these can become second nature as you increase your flexibility, core strength, and confidence.
1. Chest Opener
The chest opener stretch can help you strengthen your abdominal muscles, leading to good posture in the long run. Here’s what you need to know about the chest opener:
Stand up tall and place your feet shoulder-width apart. Practice taking a few deep breaths before you start to relax your muscles.
Next, join your fingers behind your back, straightening your arms to lift them away from your body. Take another deep breath, letting your chest expand to push your hands farther from your chest.
- Hold this stretch for between 15 and 30 seconds. This stretch can help you handle neck pain, rounded shoulders, and other common issues associated with sitting at a desk for too long.
2. Cat-Cow Stretch
The cat-cow stretch is a classic that you can do just about anywhere — as long as you have a bit of privacy. This stretch looks a bit odd, but the results speak for themselves!
Here’s how you do the cat-cow stretch:
Start by getting down on all fours, positioning your hands underneath your shoulders and your knees in line with your hips.
Keeping your low back straight, arch your upper back and breathe in. As you breathe, lift your chest toward the ceiling. Hold your breath for a short time.
Time to exhale. As you breathe out, round your back, tucking your tailbone and angling your chin down to your chest.
- You can do between 10 and 15 reps of the cat-cow stretch several times daily to promote overall wellness and proper posture.
3. Thoracic Extension
The thoracic extension stretch requires a foam roller, which you can get for under $20 locally or online. This handy tool has a variety of benefits, including helping you stretch out sore muscles after a workout.
Here’s how to do the thoracic extension stretch:
Lie on your back with your knees spread apart. Place your foam roller on the ground parallel to your shoulder blades and put your hands on your chest.
- Lean back gently on the foam roller, allowing your thoracic spine to extend. Hold the extended position for between 15 and 30 seconds, then return to your starting position.
If you’re regularly experiencing mid or lower back pain, the thoracic extension stretch may be very beneficial for you. By stretching out your thoracic spine (the middle section of the spine), this posture exercise can help you sit and stand up straight while staying comfortable.
4. Forward Fold With Arm Overhead
This stretch addresses poor posture by engaging your hips, upper back, and shoulders, releasing tension in these key areas.
Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart. Slowly bend forward at the hips, lifting your arms over your head and letting your arms and head lean towards the ground.
- Once you are in the leaned-over position, lock your fingers together and gently move from side to side, engaging your hips, back, and shoulders.
5. Shoulder Blade Squeeze
The shoulder blade squeeze is a simple practice that anyone with poor posture should try. It’s quick, simple, and requires no equipment at all.
Here’s how to do a shoulder blade squeeze session:
Stand up with your back as straight as possible.
Try to squeeze your shoulder blades together for five to 10 seconds.
Relax your shoulders and rest for five to 10 seconds.
- Repeat the stretch for between 10 and 15 reps.
In addition to stretching out your shoulders and back, the shoulder blade squeeze exercise can also strengthen your back muscles over time. For a weighted version of this exercise, give seated dumbbell or resistance band flys a try.
6. Classic Neck Stretch
If you’re sitting at your desk and feeling a bit fatigued, there’s nothing better than the classic neck stretch to get an extra boost of energy.
Follow these steps to get quick and sustained relief from neck tension:
While sitting, let your shoulders relax and take a few deep breaths.
Slowly tilt your head to one side, keeping your shoulders still. Try to touch your shoulder with your ear.
- If you’re habitually shifting into a forward head posture (a common problem for folks who work on a computer), try repeating this stretch every few hours while you work. You’ll find that some of that neck tension melts away, and you can maintain a more neutral posture.
7. Hip Flexor Stretch
Your hip flexors can carry a lot of tension, affecting your posture over time. If you’re noticing a limited range of motion in your hips, try this quick stretching exercise:
Get down on one knee and let your other foot rest flat on the floor in front of you.
While kneeling, engage your glute muscles, pushing your hips forward until you can feel your hip flexors starting to stretch. Hold that position on one side for between 15 and 30 seconds, then switch sides. If your hips hurt, start with a shorter, more shallow stretch and work your way up.
- If you sit for several hours at a time, this stretch can keep your hips from getting tight and sore. Try it out at the office or at home any time you’re experiencing some soreness and physical fatigue.
8. Seated Spinal Twist Stretch
The seated spinal twist can help you relieve some upper body tension, and it only takes a few minutes to complete a session. Here’s how to do this stretch:
Sit down on the floor and stretch your legs out in front of you.
Slowly bend your right knee, placing your right foot just outside your left thigh.
Put your right hand on the ground behind you to support your body, and gently hug your right knee with your left arm. Hold this position for between 15 to 30 seconds, then repeat with your left hand on your left knee.
- This exercise can be incredibly beneficial if you have a problem with slouching. By alternating between stretching the left and right sides of your body, it can work out any imbalances caused by poor posture.
9. Child's Pose With Side Stretch
The child’s pose, AKA balasana, is an integral part of basic yoga. However, whether you do yoga or not, you can benefit from this stretch, especially when paired with some extra movements.
Here’s how to do the modified child’s pose with side stretch:
Start out in child’s pose — bent over on your knees with your face to the ground and your arms extended behind you.
Extend your arms over your head and let them rest on the ground in front of you, palms down. If you feel any tightness or resistance as you do this part of the stretch, slow down and repeat.
With your palms on the ground, slowly move your hands to the left side of your body, letting them stretch your side as they go. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.
- Once you’ve stretched your left side, walk your hands over to the right side of your body and repeat for 15 to 30 seconds.
If you’re experiencing some stiffness and discomfort in the child’s pose, there’s no need to worry; this position doesn’t come naturally to many people at first. Take this stretch nice and slow, and repeat it daily to get the most out of it.
10. Figure-4 Stretch
The figure-4 stretch engages your hips and glutes, which can easily get tight and lose their range of motion after hours of sedentary work.
Here’s how to do this stretch:
Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet placed flat on the floor.
Cross your left ankle over your right knee. Then, with your left hand, grab your right thigh and pull it into your chest, letting your hips and glutes stretch as you go.
- Once you feel some resistance, hold the position for between 15 and 30 seconds before switching to the opposite side.
Better Posture Made Simple
Stretching is a quick and easy way to improve your posture and overall wellness — yet many people never give it a try.
If you’re constantly feeling sore and achy throughout the day, your posture likely has a part to play. If you want to improve your posture over time, factor some of these stretches into your daily routine. In addition, consider other means of supporting your body and providing compression and support for the areas that tend to ache.