Check out these great tips and stretches from world class trainer Don Saladino when it comes to improving posture and back support.
It seems like all we do these days is sit at a desk, hunched over our computer for hours on end, getting up occasionally to make lunch or go for our third cup of coffee as everything on our screen starts to blur together. But we don’t realize the harm we are doing to ourselves by denying our bodies the chance to stretch out and the chance to move. We aren’t meant to sit. We should love the fact that we can run, walk, jump, lift, think, and perform daily functions at a high level. So, why do we neglect this so much?
We sat down with coach and fitness entrepreneur Don Saladino to talk about helpful tips for improving posture, as well as some stretches to get you started on your journey to get to where you want to be. Don has coached actors, athletes, celebrities, and business executives for over 20 years and is a fitness expert for a variety of publications. Knowledgeable and determined to help others reach their goals, Don has cemented his place in the fitness world as one of the best.
Before we get into these stretches, there are a few important words of advice from Don that everyone should know. While stretching is great and should be done, it is not the end-all be-all solution. If you do stretch, it is important to spread it out over the course of your day. Most of us stretch for a short period of time, maybe 10 to 15 minutes, but working throughout the day will allow for more stretching without you even realizing it. Finally, and maybe the most important note, what works for me may not work for you. What works for you may not work for Don and what works for Don may not work for me. While this may seem obvious, it is worth noting because everyone’s body is different and everyone’s goals are different so that is something to always keep in mind.
3 Helpful Tips
When it comes to working on posture, stretching will of course help but this advice from Don can be done apart from stretching and are equally, if not more, important. We all sit for around 7 to 8 hours of the day and we as humans are meant to be active, not stuck at a desk. Don recommends setting an alarm for every thirty minutes. If you are able to, sit for thirty minutes then stand for thirty minutes and alternate this throughout your day. You will eliminate half the time you spend sitting and allow your body to stretch and lengthen to really work on posture. If you can’t stand for thirty minutes, set an alarm and take a few minutes to stretch and move around to at least break the cycle of constant sitting.
Another great tip from Don is to understand the difference between mobility and flexibility. Often times they are used interchangeably, but they are different and you should know how. Flexibility is someone’s ability to move joints effectively through a complete range of motion, passively allowing the movement to happen. Mobility on the other hand is the body’s ability to move through that range motion with control, requiring strength in your flexibility (1). This is where stability comes into play and it is important to know that stability is strength. So, by combining flexibility with stability, you come out with mobility. Mobility allows us to have total control to maximize movements functionally and effectively. Being able to hold a position for a long time is great, but that doesn’t mean your mobile. Make sure you are doing everything to enhance overall functional ability when it comes to your workouts or daily routine.
Finally, getting yourself to relax, take a breathe, and laugh is so important to your overall state. Stretching can improve circulation, but also activate your parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for rest and can induce feelings of calmness and relaxation (2). If working on breathing techniques works best for you, then practice those, really working to clear your mind and decompress from the stress that plagues your busy brain. But laugh. Laughter reduces stress hormones, increases endorphins and strengthens relationships with the people around you (3). In a busy and complex world, take yourself away from the noise and just take a breathe, have a laugh, and enjoy life.
Don offered us some really great stretches to cover all aspects of your needs. Some may be more challenging than others but the goal is to get to the point where they seem easy enough to move onto other stretches. It isn’t a competition. Stretching is for you and every time you do it, your only helping yourself.
Dynamic Hamstring Stretch
The dynamic hamstring stretch requires active movements to increase blood flow and really work the hamstrings. Laying on your back, extend your leg to the ceiling for around sets of 10 and repeat for the other leg.
The couch stretch is great for the hip flexors and quads. It starts on one knee with your foot against a wall while the other is bent in front of you. Loop your fingers and press your hands to the ceiling, gently leaning over to one side to target your lats.
Cat Cow Stretch
Cat Cow works the lower back, core, chest, hips, and neck and is a great stretch to do for anyone of all skill levels. Start on your hands and knees in a neutral position. Enter the Cow pose by inhaling as your belly drops to the floor. Lift your chin and chest to the ceiling. To get to the Cat pose, exhale and draw your belly towards your spine, rounding out your back. Gently tuck your chin into your chest.
Open Book Stretch
The open book stretch will work thoracic extension and rotation. Lay on your side and as you breathe in, move the top arm across your body, turning your shoulders and head with it. Breathe as you hold the stretch and do your best to keep your knees and shoulder on the ground as you go through the movement.
For hip circles, start on your hands and knees and bring one knee to your chest. Make controlled circles with the raised knee, both frontwards and backwards, and repeat the same process with the other leg. These will work your hips and your glutes really well.
T’s-Y’s-L’s-W’s Shoulder Stretch
Depending on your comfort and skill level, these can be done on the ground, on an incline bench, or a medicine ball. With each letter, you will do a set number of reps while holding that position. T’s will see your arms horizontal to you, Y’s at a 45-degree angle over your head, L’s will have your arms out in front of you, and W’s will have your arms horizontal to you but bent down at the elbow. Really work to pinch and squeeze the shoulder blades.
The thoracic bridge is slightly more technical and advanced but a great stretch nonetheless. Start with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Drive through your hands and feet into a bridge, lifting your butt off the ground as your hips extend upwards. Once in a stable bridge position, lift one hand off the ground and reach it across your body with a slight twist. Repeat for the other side.
The hip airplane is one of Don’s all time favorite stretches to really work hip stability and rotation. If you can nail this down and perfect your form, it will clean up a lot of those nagging issues in your hips. In a single leg stance, brace your core. Rotate your body forward over your stance just enough to keep your balance and rotate your torso towards your leg that is down and away from it. Repeat this same process while on the other leg.
Stretching is so important for our overall physical and mental health and wellness and it is important to incorporate into your daily routine. But following these other helpful tips from Don Saladino will also get you on the right track for improved posture and feeling better. Don is incredibly knowledgeable and beyond determined to better peoples’ lives and this stretching guide can really help you get started. For beginners, a mix of static and dynamic stretches are good but for time and efficiency, it would be best to do dynamic stretching before a workout and static after. Really boost your posture and confidence with help from world class coach Don Saladino and get up, breathe, relax, and laugh.
Be sure to follow Don Saladino on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, as well as his website here for great content and everything you need to hit your fitness goals! Also, check out Drive 495 here for information on how you can be a part of an innovative and top tier gym today.
*Images courtesy of Envato
- Haley, Jimmy. “The Importance of Flexibility and Mobility”. (source)
- Harvard Health Letter (2013). “The importance of stretching”. (source)
- Yim, JongEun (2016). “Therapeutic Benefits of Laughter in Mental Health: A Theoretical Review”. (source)