This post is sponsored by Zappos.
I’m here today to talk about how strengthening your upper back and stretching your chest and shoulders can help to improve your running posture. Even if you are not a runner, these exercises and stretches are beneficial for anyone desiring improved posture.
WHY IS POSTURE IMPORTANT FOR RUNNERS?
Before I get into the exercises and stretches, I want to share a few reasons why you should care about your posture as a runner.
- Tall posture facilitates an open chest and better breathing. When you are hunched forward you are collapsing into your chest and lungs. When you stand up straight and open your chest, you increase your lung capacity. We all know how important it is to be able to breathe deeply and fully when you’re running and paying attention to your posture will help you with this.
- Better posture = better overall form. The better your posture, the better your overall running form will be. Good running form helps you to run more efficiently and faster, and also helps to reduce the overall load on your body and prevent injuries.
- A stable torso and a strong core will better support your low back, hips, knees and ankles.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO STRENGTHEN AND STRETCH TO IMPROVE POSTURE?
A very common postural misalignment is rounded shoulders. This is often caused by weak upper back muscles and tight chest and shoulder muscles. Our back muscles get weak because pushing movements and exercises are much more prevalent than pulling. Many people tend to spend more time training the muscles on the front side of the body that they can see. Also, when the shoulders are chronically rounded forward then the back isn’t doing work day-to-day to support posture and becomes weak. Our chest and shoulders get tight because many of us spend a lot of time hunched over things like computers, phones and steering wheels. Those muscles are in a shortened state because of the rounding.
By strengthening the upper back and stretching the chest and shoulders you are able to set yourself up for success when it comes to improving posture. The back muscles will have the strength that they need to hold the shoulders in place and the chest and shoulders will be open enough to relax the shoulders down and back.
HOW TO STRENGTHEN YOUR BACK AND STRETCH YOUR CHEST AND SHOULDERS
I have three strengthening exercises and three stretching exercises for you to incorporate into your routine if you’d like to improve your posture for running or your daily life!
- Bodyweight Bent Elbow Superman – start in a prone position (on your belly) and bend your elbows at 90 degrees. Slowly and simultaneously lift your upper and lower body off the mat. As you do so, really focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together and drawing your elbows down and shoulders away from the ears. Keep a neutral gaze towards your nose tip or the top of your mat to keep your neck a long extension of the spine. I like to match this movement to breath and slow inhale to lift and slow exhale to lower, really focusing on the glutes, lower spinal and upper back muscles that I am working. Repeat for 10 repetitions.
- Dumbbell Single Arm Kneeling Row – start in a kneeling position with your right leg forward. Place your right forearm across your thigh and hold a dumbbell in your left arm to the inside of your right leg. Lean forward slightly but keep the spine long and don’t round the shoulders forward. Keep your shoulders square towards the top of the mat. Slowly draw your left elbow back bringing the dumbbell towards your low ribs, really focusing on squeezing the area around your left shoulder blade. Return to starting position. Repeat 10 repetitions on each side.
- Dumbbell Bent Over Wide Row – start standing with feet hip’s distance apart holding two dumbbells. Hinge forward at the waist, keeping the spine straight and long. Keep your gaze in front of your feet and resist the urge to look straight ahead so that you keep your neck neutral. Slowly draw the elbows out wide bringing the dumbbells towards the low ribs. Focus on squeezing the upper back muscles between your shoulder blades as you do this. Return to starting position. Repeat 10 repetitions.
- Bound Standing Forward Fold – start standing with feet hip’s distance apart. Interlace your hands together behind you and take a big inhale to open your chest. On your exhale, soften your knees and bend at the waist to fold forward. Reach your clasped hands overhead and away from your low back. If this feels doable, bring palms together to touch, if this feels restricted, use something like a towel to help you find the bind and the stretch. Breathe here for about five full inhales and exhales.
- Bent Elbow Chest Stretch – start lying down on your mat. Bend your right arm at 90 degrees so that you have straight line from your shoulder to your elbow. Make the shape of an L with your right arm. Slowly roll your chest open to the left. Your head can rest on the mat or on a block or pillow. Hold for about one minute on each side.
- Supported Fish Pose – place a block oriented horizontally at the base of the shoulder blades and recline back over the block. Focus on relaxing and taking deep breaths. You have lots of options here to make this comfortable. It can be helpful to place a second block under the head if you’re feeling strain on the neck. You can move your arms around to wherever it feels most comfortable. You can also adjust the position of your legs and either bend the knees or extend the legs. If you don’t have a block you can use a foam roller or a stack of pillows. Stay here for as short as one minute or as long as five! This is a pretty magical pose once you get comfy in it.
GET MY LOOK FROM BROOKS ON ZAPPOS
I’m wearing Brooks from head to toe in this post and I couldn’t love this outfit more! I ordered everything from Zappos and because I’m a Zappos Rewards member, I received free expedited shipping. I had everything on my doorstep in under 48 hours!
I am always a fan of a sports bra with a fun, strappy back and the Brooks Dare Strappy Bra is comfortable and functional. It’s a high-impact sports bra that is perfect for runners who want stylish support. I personally love the molded unicup in the front and the free movement that the back offers. The Books Dare Bra is supportive but lightweight and sweat wicking. It’s also worth noting that it’s seamless to reduce chafing.
This is my first foray into the long biker short look and…I’m here for it! Where do I even start with these shorts because there is so much that I love about them. The Brooks 9″ Greenlight Short Tights have a 9″ inseam and a high waist fit. They feature moisture-wicking fabric and have a supportive feel when on. These shorts do no ride up or fall down. There is one pocket in the waistband and side drop-in pockets. Speaking of the sides of these shorts, how awesome is the crisscross mesh detail! The Brooks 9″ Greenlight short tights are officially my new favorite running and workout bottoms.
Finally, I chose the Brooks Revel 4 running shoe because it’s a neutral, lightweight shoe that is ideal for running, workouts and day-to-day activities. I love these shoes and have worn them every day this week! They come in a lot of color options and I’m thinking about snagging the gold ones too because I like this shoe so much.
I hope you’ll try out these exercises and stretches and let me know what you think! And don’t forget…shopping on Zappos is the BEST thanks to their incredible selection, 24/7 customer service and 365 day return policy!
Are you mindful about your posture? How is your posture? Do you think about it when you’re running or working out?
What’s your favorite style of shorts for running and workouts?