How to Get a Stronger Core & Better Posture, According to a PT
May 20, 2020
This content is brought to you in partnership with OrthoCarolina, one of the nation's leading orthopedic practices with offices across the Southeast.
Many of us have been working from home over the past few months — and that can mean makeshift workspaces that aren't necessarily ergonomically ideal (and, uh, a lot of time hanging out on the couch watching Netflix).
When our bodies are in these not-so-great positions, we can see a worsening not just in our posture, but in our core strength. And really, the two are more linked than you might think.
We spoke with Matthew Erbe, a physical therapist and clinical specialist at OrthoCarolina, to talk a bit about why your posture and core strength are crucially important for your overall physical health — and a few expert-approved ways that you can improve both.
First and foremost: Why is it important to focus on core strength?
"We refer to it as your 'core' not only because its the center of your body, but also because it is the center of all movements your body makes," Erbe explained. "Your core muscles are active (or should be active) for all movements you make throughout a day and postures you maintain throughout a day."
Yep, your core muscles are active not just when you are exercising, but also when you're sitting at your desk during the day.
Erbe added that our core muscles consist of not just the "six-pack" abdominal area, but all of the muscles in our abdominal region and lower back — including the deeper layers of muscle closer to your spine. (i.e. transverse abdominis and multifidus).
Why should we care about our posture?
Posture — or the position we hold our body in when sitting or standing — is important because things that occur when we are in a static posture can affect what we do when we want to be active.
"When we spend more time on the couch or sit poorly at our desks, our core muscles can become inactive and stop working as well as they should," Erbe said. "This can make it difficult for your core muscles to work as they should when you exercise, which can ultimately lead to injuries."
How are core strength and posture related?
"Improving core muscle strength can help lead to better posture, because the muscles that help maintain good posture will be able to activate more easily throughout your day," Erbe said. "But to truly improve your posture, you need to work on that, too — not just core strengthening exercises. You have to specialize your training for what you are trying to achieve."
What are some ways you can work to get a stronger core and better posture?
"If you want to get a stronger core Pilates and Yoga are a great way to do that. If you are normally a runner or cyclist, or you just sit at your desk a lot throughout the day, simply adding a Pilates or Yoga session 1 or 2 times per week can be very helpful to strengthen your core," Erbe said.
If your goal is to improve posture, Erbe also recommended working on posture drills throughout your day.
"If you work at a desk, the best thing you can do is take breaks from sitting and get up frequently to walk around getting out of the seated position," he said. "Also do a posture check once an hour, set a alarm or reminder to help remind you."
Things Erbe said you should include in your posture drill / posture check include:
Feet: You want your feet flat on the ground, with a comfortable bend in your knees.
Hips/Tailbone: You want to be sitting on your sit bones, not sliding forward or slouched in your chair so that your sitting on your tailbone ("We call this sacral sitting," Erbe said).
Core: You want your abdominal muscles to be gently activated bring your lower abdomen towards your spine and not too big of a curve in your lower back.
Chest/Shoulders: You want your chest gently pointed towards the sky and your shoulder blades gently squeezed together and downward.
"You may only be able to maintain your posture check for a few minutes while you continue to work and then you will naturally forget about it. That's when you should get your hourly drill reminder," Erbe said. "Doing this a few times throughout the day can have a big pay off on your posture and preventing/improving pain you may have."
Learn More About Making Healthy Choices From the Experts at OrthoCarolina
Whether you've recently experienced an injury, need help with recovery after tough workouts, or are simply experiencing chronic pain and need help managing it, OrthoCarolina can help. Make an appointment at a location near you to start getting the treatment you need.