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Improve Your Posture One Muscle at a Time

25 years as a therapist and trainer, Sylvia is hell bent on tackling clientele health and lifestyle concerns with the written word.

Do you feel achy between your shoulder blades? Does the pain in your neck radiate up into your head giving you a throbbing headache? Could it be your posture?

Do you feel achy between your shoulder blades? Does the pain in your neck radiate up into your head giving you a throbbing headache? Could it be your posture?

Poor posture not only makes us look older, it makes us feel older too. With prolonged poor posture, some muscles respond by becoming short & tight. Other muscles become weak & overstretched. The result is pain.

Correct Posture

When the vertebrae of your neck are stacked properly on top of one another, it is practically effortless for the musculature of your neck & upper back to hold up your head & maintain correct posture. This is the goal.

The following article lists specific exercises that if done consistently, will help you regain the health of each muscle involved, thereby improving your posture, eliminating your pain & helping you to look & feel younger.

Proper posture.

Proper posture.

Head forward posture.

Head forward posture.

Suboccipital Muscles

When your neck is craned forward, you must tilt your head upwards to be able to see where you’re going.

As a result, the small muscles between your neck & head (your Suboccipital muscles) become tight, shortened & overworked. These muscles begin to hurt & eventually send pain referral up into your head & thus you experience a headache.

Against the wall/door posture check.

Against the wall/door posture check.

Against the Wall Posture Check

  • Place your back on a wall or door
  • Feet apart & knees slightly bent
  • Place buttocks, upper back & head against the wall
  • Chin should not be jutting forward! Tuck chin in, eyes looking straight forward
  • If this is difficult, place a folded towel is placed behind head
  • Keep your shoulders relaxed & your hands on your thighs
  • Squeeze your scapulas together at about 30%
  • Relax against the wall while maintaining posture for 30 seconds
  • Step away from wall & maintain posture for as long as possible
  • Do this exercise each & every time you go to the bathroom

Head Nods

  • Holding the "Against the Wall Posture" position,
  • Using your ear as the pivot point:
  • Tuck your chin in as far as you can &
  • Slide the back of your head up the wall
  • Do 5 head nods each & every time you go to the bathroom
Sternocleidomastoid Muscle

Sternocleidomastoid Muscle

Sternocleidomastoid Muscle (SCM)

With prolonged head forward posture, your SCM will become shortened & tight. Eventually, your SCM will actually pull your head forward making it difficult for you to bring your head back into correct posture.


The SCM Pincer Exercise

  • Lay your head on the pillow & turn it to one side
  • Lift your head off the pillow & your SCM will be obviously standing out
  • Grasp the muscle then rest your head back on the pillow
  • Self-massage, gently pinching up & down the length of the muscle
  • Do this each night when you first get into bed for both sides
Pectoralis Major Muscle

Pectoralis Major Muscle

Pectoralis Major Muscle

With prolonged poor posture, your chest (Pectoral) muscles become tight & short, giving you rounded, internally-rotated shoulders.

Pectoralis Major Stretch

Pectoralis Major Stretch

The Pectoralis Major is Easily Stretched

  • Stand adjacent to a door jam
  • Tuck in your chin
  • Hold your upper arm just below parallel to the floor
  • Anchor your elbow & your palm against the door jam
  • Take a step forward until you feel a gentle stretch in your Pectoral muscles.
  • Hold for 60 seconds. Repeat for other side. Do this once per day.
  • If this stretch causes you shoulder pain or discomfort, slide your elbow down until the stretch is comfortable.
Pectoralis Minor Muscle

Pectoralis Minor Muscle

Pectoralis Minor Muscle

On the other hand, stretching the Pectoralis Minor is difficult. You’ll need the help of your Massage Therapist, Physiotherapist or Personal Trainer to gain an effective stretch on this muscle.

Infraspinatus Muscle

Infraspinatus Muscle

Infraspinatus Muscle

If your shoulders are always rounded & internally-rotated, the Infraspinatus muscle (the muscle on the back of your shoulder blade) is constantly “on stretch”. As a result, it becomes lengthened & weak. When compromised, this muscle becomes very sore & often sending pain referral up into the neck & down the arm.


Infraspinatus Strengthening

If you are using a therapeutic band:

  • Tie one end to a doorknob
  • Stand perpendicular to the door

If you are using a pulley-machine:

  • Make sure the pulley-machine is on the lowest weight
  • Handle should be positioned at half-mast
  • Stand perpendicular to the weight stack
  • Tuck in your chin
  • Slide shoulder blades back & around the ribcage so that they are meeting at the spine
  • Pin your elbow in your side
  • Externally rotate your arm & pull the pulley handle away from you
  • Slowly return the pulley handle to its former position
  • 1 set of 15 - 25 repetitions

Infraspinatus Stretching

  • Tuck in your chin
  • Ensure your shoulder stays down
  • Bring your arm across your chest & pull, holding it above the elbow
  • Once your arm is across & shoulder is down, then point your thumb toward the floor
  • Hold for 15 - 30 seconds
Rhomboid Muscles

Rhomboid Muscles

Rhomboid Muscles

With the overuse of the Upper Trapezius, the Rhomboid Mid & Lower Trapezius become weak with lack of use. In order to relieve the painful, overused Upper Trapezius, the Rhomboids, Mid & Lower Trapezius must become stronger.


Rhomboid Strengthening - Scapular Scrunches

  • Each night after brushing your teeth, look into the mirror
  • Tuck in your chin
  • Slide shoulder blades back & around the ribcage so that they are meeting at the spine
  • Rest your hands on your thighs & try not to involve your arms – only your shoulder blades
  • Watch your shoulders in the mirror to ensure they stay down
  • If you allow your shoulders to ride up you're actually exacerbating the problem
  • Repeat 25 times

Lower Trapezius Strengthening - The Wall Slide

  • Press your buttocks, upper back & head against a wall
  • Bend your elbows at 90 degrees & press your arms into the wall
  • Elbows pointing to floor / hands at shoulder level / palms forward
  • Keep your knuckles against the wall & slide your arms upward
  • Repeat 10 times - work your way up to 20 times

Please Come Back & Share Your Experience!

Please Note:

No one body is the same as another - bone structure dimensions differ vastly requiring the muscles, tendons & ligaments to be different lengths & attach at slightly varying angles. To gain the most success from the above exercises, make an appointment with your physiotherapist, massage therapist or personal trainer & ask them to lead you through an inaugural session & make the appropriate modifications unique to you.

If you like this article, please share it!

All rights reserved; no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise, without prior permission. Copyright 2010 - 2015.

  • Sylvia Leong RMT CPT ARS
  • Tony Leong CPT AFI

© 2010 Sylvia Leong


Sylvia Leong (author) from North Vancouver, Canada on May 24, 2015:

Marilyn Fritz I'm so glad the neck exercises are helping!

Sylvia Leong (author) from North Vancouver, Canada on May 24, 2015:

DebMartin, Peggy W, RTalloni & Prasetio30, thanks so much for your comments. I really appreciate it.

Sylvia Leong (author) from North Vancouver, Canada on May 24, 2015:

Thanks for stopping by Mbwalz. Best of luck with these exercises. I hope they help!

Sylvia Leong (author) from North Vancouver, Canada on May 24, 2015:

Thank you for your comment Global-Chica. I work from my laptop as well. However, I usually set myself up on the bed leaning back against a bunch of pillows. I set my laptop on a book & then that book on top of a pillow. I find this more ergonomically functional.

Marilyn from Nevada on May 13, 2015:

This is a fantastic hub! Thank you for sharing the information in such an understandable format. I am sharing this information with my friends and family as many suffer from various muscle issues that you have indicated here. I totally agree that posture can make a massive difference in how a person feels, and functions. I love the neck exercises you describe, I'm using them today! Great information!

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on May 08, 2015:

Very informative hub. Thanks for sharing, especially for health. Voted up and have a nice weekend!


RTalloni on May 06, 2015:

Working on my posture is an ongoing process. Thanks for a look at exercises to help retain good posture.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 06, 2015:

I'll be pinning this to my health board and will definitely give some of these exercises a try. Will also share. Good article!

MaryBeth Walz from Maine on May 06, 2015:

This is really a great article. I could ID practically all of that. I have an article about Cervicogenic Migraines that relates to this. Since I have EDS, I have a harder time using my muscles and when they spasm, they pull joints out of alignment. I will try these exercises though.

Thanks - Voted up and shared!

Oh, and I book marked it too!

DebMartin on May 06, 2015:

Super info. We all probably need to get our heads away from our computers/devices/phones more. Time to go outside and play!

Anna from New York, NY on May 05, 2015:

I've been concerned about my posture since I work on a laptop all day long, basically slouched over and have noticed that my posture is not all that great anymore. I love these tips and tutorial on improving posture. Great article. I'm sharing this!

Sylvia Leong (author) from North Vancouver, Canada on April 22, 2015:

Good luck with the exercises Cougsam & thank you for your comment.

Sam from Seattle,WA on April 19, 2015:

This is great. I definitely get soreness from my Rhomboid and probably my Sternocleidomastoid too. I never knew those were the muscles I was having problems with. My fiancé can usually work them out with a quick massage but I'll give your exercises a try. Thanks!

Sylvia Leong (author) from North Vancouver, Canada on July 29, 2011:

Hi Deadlyking,

The first thing you should understand is that no one body is the same as another & this makes an overall cure for lower back pain impossible.

To cure YOUR lower back pain you first need to figure out what is causing it. For example:

• Tight hamstrings can cause lower back pain & the cure would be to perform a hamstring stretch on a daily basis.

• Weak core muscles can contribute to lower back pain & the cure would be to perform several core strengthening exercises everyday for about 6 weeks.

• A herniated disc could cause lower back pain & one option would be surgery.

Now, I have no idea where you live, but in Canada & the U.S. there is a profession called physiotherapy (or physical therapy) & they excel in figuring out the cause of an injury & they have the knowledge to prescribe a “cure”. I recommend making an appointment with a physiotherapist (or the equivalent in your country). The physiotherapist will determine the reason for your back pain, and then show you the appropriate way to alleviate the discomfort.

deadlyking on July 28, 2011:

how to cure lower back pain , any suggestions plz

healthy massage chatswood on March 23, 2011:

This kind of information proper muscle posture is what i've been looking for, i'm glad i found it.

full body massage chatswood on March 23, 2011:

Nice reference for muscle posture, it's important to know all the information about proper muscle posture.

Ralph Cochran on February 22, 2011:

By far the very best information I've found on HubSpot currently. Retain it up!

dusy7969 from San Diego, California on February 06, 2011:

nice working so that people like it i also read it.

Sylvia Leong (author) from North Vancouver, Canada on January 17, 2011:

Thank you, Katiem2! I'm glad I could help.

Katie McMurray from Ohio on January 16, 2011:

Oh MY I so appreciate this as my teenage daughter needs this. They always get it better when the information comes from an outside source! You've done and amazing job, well done and much much appreciated as good posture is vital to good health and mental health! :) Katie

pallavidh on December 19, 2010:

I have backache sometimes, it should be an easy change to stop leaning forward. Thanks Sylvia, this was very helpful!

Sylvia Leong (author) from North Vancouver, Canada on December 19, 2010:

Thank you, Eileen for reading & commenting!

Eileen Hughes from Northam Western Australia on December 19, 2010:

Correct posture is very important, and if we let ourselves go it puts too much stress on our back and this will affect many other parts of your body.

very informative hub thanks for sharing