5 Posture Training Exercises to Reduce Pain and Sagging

Posture—a word that inspires action with its mere utterance. Did you know that correcting posture requires skill?

Most people think that good posture is simply a matter of sitting up straight and pulling their shoulders back when they remember to do so. Sometimes, it's not that simple. Achieving good posture requires technique.

Posture-related back pain is often caused by issues with the strength-to-flexibility ratio between the opposing muscle groups all over your body that hold you upright.

This article describes simple exercises you can do to help you correct your posture and prevent back pain that's related to postural issues.


Bring Your Head Over Your Neck and Shoulders

Illustration of woman with good posture

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Kyphosis is a common postural issue in which the upper back rounds excessively. It is often a result of day to daily habits, such as sitting at the computer for hours at a time.

People with kyphosis tend to have another problem called forward head posture. In the correct position, the ears should be aligned with the shoulders. When the upper back rounds due to kyphosis, it naturally takes the head forward of the shoulders. The result may be tight and weak neck muscles, as well as neck and upper back pain.

One way to prevent these issues is by paying attention to the ergonomics of your home office. And if you're already having symptoms, try these strategies to help improve your forward head posture.


Exercise Your Upper Back Muscles

Upper Back Exercise

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When muscles become tight, weak, and/or overstretched, they lose their ability to work effectively with other muscles to support your upper back posture. 

When you slump for too long, the pec muscles at the front of your chest get really tight—this is due to rounding your spine. At the same time, the upper back muscles become overstretched.

Posture training that works the rhomboid muscles in the back and stretches the pec groups in front may help you deal with this. A simple action like squeezing your shoulder blades together may be the best upper back posture exercise to help balance and strengthen your muscles.


Separate Your Ribs From Your Pelvis

Pelvis graphic

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Most people don't readily notice this, but when you have posture issues, the ribcage tends to collapse onto the top of the pelvis. Or at least it comes close. This collapse, which may be due to weakness in the abdominal, back, flank, and rib muscles, often creates tightness and weakness in the trunk muscles.

If you work on lifting your ribs, your back strain may improve. A very effective way to target the muscles involved is to do pelvis and ribcage posture training.


Find Your Low Back Curve

Low back curve graphic

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Spinal curves in the low back, thoracic area, and neck help your body support your weight, move, and balance. 

The spine and pelvis are closely related. In fact, the sacrum (the bottom end of the spine) is wedged between the 2 halves of the back part of your pelvis. When your pelvis moves, your spine moves, too. Finding your low back curve and exploring the way it responds when you move your pelvis is key to effective posture training for this area. Try a posture exercise for the pelvis and low back curve.


Get Your Whole Body Involved

Forward bend of the spine and hamstring stretch

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Integrating is the final step in this posture exercise series.

Each area of the spine works a little differently relative to the others. This is based on anatomical design. When you put all the lessons together, you turn basic movements such as spinal flexion and spinal extension into posture training. This is a foundation to move your spine—and pelvis—as one unit. This may be a good activity for a mini-break at work.

To work on whole body posture training, follow the detailed instructions on spinal flexion and spinal extension.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Kim D, Cho M, Park Y, Yang Y. Effect of an exercise program for posture correction on musculoskeletal painJ Phys Ther Sci. 2015;27(6):1791–1794. doi:10.1589/jpts.27.1791

  2. Roghani T, Zavieh MK, Manshadi FD, King N, Katzman W. Age-related hyperkyphosis: update of its potential causes and clinical impacts-narrative reviewAging Clin Exp Res. 2017;29(4):567–577. doi:10.1007/s40520-016-0617-3

  3. Singla D, Veqar Z. Association Between Forward Head, Rounded Shoulders, and Increased Thoracic Kyphosis: A Review of the LiteratureJ Chiropr Med. 2017;16(3):220–229. doi:10.1016/j.jcm.2017.03.004

By Anne Asher, CPT
Anne Asher, ACE-certified personal trainer, health coach, and orthopedic exercise specialist, is a back and neck pain expert.