I went over four years without setting foot into a gym (or lifting a single weight) due to a severe case of chronic fatigue and Lyme disease. As an exercise physiologist and certified strength and conditioning specialist, this was super frustrating! I just returned to the gym in April of this year. Despite being sick, my posture never faltered because I did specific exercises and stretches at home. I was able to design a program that wasn’t weight bearing and is a great way for people at all fitness levels—whether you work out several days a week or are just beginning—to improve their posture. If I hadn’t done these movements, there’s a good chance I’d be experiencing pain, including shoulder and back pain. Here are six things that might be causing your back pain because they’re exacerbating bad posture, and exactly how to fix it:
1. You don’t do reverse flies.
The reverse fly helps strengthen the muscles that pull your shoulders back, which is essential for those with rounded shoulders. However, people rarely do them! Your rows and lat pulldowns are not enough. Yep, you read that right.
While I was sick, I did reverse flies several times a week. What did I use? Nothing, just my body. Stand in an athletic position, knees over your ankles in a slight squat. Cross your arms in front of your body. Then pull your arms back as far as possible. Hold this for 5 to 10 seconds. You should feel the muscles between your shoulder blades contract. Repeat as often as you like (several times a day if your posture is truly bad). Since returning to the gym, I do the exact same exercise but using weight, my favorite being a cable system.
2. You do exercises that encourage more hunching and rounding.
None of us needs to be doing exercises that require hunching and rounding the torso, which exacerbates postural problems. Naturally, the gym is chock-full of abdominal machines (which require torso rounding) that draw people like magnets. The gym I…