Exercises to Improve Your Posture

Do your head and arms jut forward. Are your shoulders rounded? Improve your posture with five exercises from STACK Expert Bill DeLongis.


Take a look at yourself in the mirror and notice the position of your head, arms and shoulders. Chances are your head and arms are jutting forward and your shoulders are rounded.

Look around at your friends and family. Most of them probably have the same tendencies.

This is not how the human body was meant to be.

Two big causes of poor posture are sitting hunched over for extended periods of time and performing too many sets of Bench Presses or Push-Ups instead of exercises that strengthen the back. The pectoral and anterior deltoid (front shoulder) muscles become tight, and the muscles in the upper back become overly stretched and weakened.

Poor posture not only looks bad, it can cause pain and make you more susceptible to injury. According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), people with rounded shoulders are prone to rotator cuff impingement, shoulder instability, biceps tendinitis, thoracic outlet syndrome and headaches.[1]

Add the following exercises to your upper-body workouts to improve your posture and stay injury-free.

Wall Slides

Performed during your warm-up, this exercise helps stretch (open) your chest and anterior deltoids.

  • Stand with your back against the wall.
  • Move your arms out to your sides and against the wall with your elbows bent.
  • Slide your arms up and down the wall in a shoulder-press motion.

If you are inflexible, stand with your feet a few inches away from the wall and work your way to the wall over time.

Sets/Reps: 1x15

3-Point Arm Raises

These open the front of your shoulders and activate and strengthen the small, often overlooked muscles (posterior deltoids, rhomboids and middle/lower traps) in your upper back.

  • Lie face down with your arms extended to form the letter Y above your head.
  • Raise your arms off the ground, hold for one second and repeat for prescribed reps.
  • Keeping your arms straight, lower them to shoulder height to form the letter T.
  • Raise your arms off the ground, hold for one second and repeat for prescribed reps.
  • Keeping your arms at shoulder height, bend your elbows to form the letter W.
  • Raise your arms off of the ground, hold for one second and repeat for prescribed reps.

Sets/Reps: 1x10 of each

Band Pull-Aparts

This exercise strengthens the upper back and helps bring the shoulders back where they belong. Perform toward the end of your upper-body workouts.

  • Grab a band with an overhand or underhand grip and pull it apart while squeezing your shoulder blades together.

Sets/Reps: 3x15-20

TRX W Raise

Rounded-shoulder posture lengthens and weakens the rhomboid muscles, which are responsible for pulling the shoulder blades back, and can lead to multiple shoulder problems. This exercise helps correct the imbalance by strengthening the rhomboids and pulling the shoulders back where they belong.

  • Hold TRX handles with an overhand grip facing the anchor point.
  • Pull the handles to your face and simultaneously rotate your arms to the ceiling.
  • Return to starting position through the same motion.

Sets/Reps: 3x15

Static Chest Stretch

One of the biggest causes of poor posture is excessive tightness in the chest and shoulders. To fix this, you must stretch these tight muscles. Perform this stretch at the end of your upper-body workouts.

  • Bend your elbow to 90 degrees and place it slightly below shoulder height.
  • Place your arm on a door frame or squat rack.
  • Lean forward and slightly away to create a stretch in your chest and anterior deltoid.

Sets/Reps: 2x30 seconds

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[1] Clark, Michael, and Scott Lucett. NASM Essentials of Corrective Exercise Training. 1st ed. Baltimore, Maryland: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2011.

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