Although your bones stop growing in adulthood, exercises that improve your posture and decompress your spine can make you appear taller. These exercises focus on developing proper posture and strengthening the abdominal and spinal muscles as well as lengthening the spine.
Posture and Height
Adults cannot lengthen bones. Proper posture is both healthy and makes you appear taller. The pelvis should be positioned neutrally. It is common for the pelvis to tilt forward due to weak abdominal muscles, increasing the curvature of the lower back and sticking the stomach forward. Though less common, a slouching posture where the stomach is pushed back and the shoulders forward can be corrected by strengthening the muscles of the torso. Continual pressure on the back compresses the vertebrae closer together. Hanging and swinging exercises relieve pressure on discs between vertebra, restoring them to a normal size. The regular practice of yoga can also create space between the vertebrae in your spine giving you an inch, maybe two, of extra height. But the stretching poses for your spine would have to be performed every day for you to keep that height.
Hanging relieves the pressure compressing your spine. Hang upright from a bar or use an inversion table or boots. The bar should be high enough for you to hang freely. Slowly relax your spine. Continue for 20 to 30 seconds. Repeat three to five times. When hanging by your arms, don't hyperextend your shoulders. The ball of the joint should be firmly in the socket.
A kettlebell is a metal ball with a loop handle. Kettlebell swings can help decompress the spine while strengthening the core and hips evenly. Hold the kettlebell with one or both hands between your legs and drive with your hips to swing the kettlebell to chest level. Allow momentum to carry it back between your leg, bending at the knee and hips to absorb the weight. Your hips should lock forward with each swing and your arms should be relaxed like the chain holding a wrecking ball. If you are not familiar with kettlebell training, find a certified instructor when starting.
Tilting the pelvis forward and backward strengthens supporting muscles and increases awareness of pelvic posture. On your hands and knees, with your hands shoulder-width apart and your knees hip-width apart, alternate between arching your back upwards and tailbone downward, rounding the back, and arching your back downwards and releasing the upper chest toward the floor. These are known in yoga practice as cat tilt and dog tilt, respectively.
The cobra is a yoga pose that strengthens the muscles supporting the spine. Begin by lying flat on your stomach. Pressing your hands, hips, and legs against the floor, raise your torso, tilting at your hips and arching your back. Do not force the range of movement, and breathe smoothly throughout the exercise.
The Janda sit-up was invented by Vladimir Janda, M.D., to improve lower-back health. The Janda sit-up is performed while pressing your heels backwards against a weight such as a kettlebell or dumbbell. This inhibits the hip-flexor muscles that tilt the pelvis forward, curving the lower back and increasing lower-back strain while performing a normal crunch. The Janda sit-up is much harder than a crunch; perform two to three sets of five reps for complete abdominal isolation and better posture.
Though improper posture may indicate imbalanced strength of muscles, it can also indicate a serious medical condition or nutritional deficiency. Any individuals with injuries to the back or other health problems should check with their doctor before beginning a new exercise routine.
- Teeter Hang Ups: Medical Studies on Inversion Therapy
- Enter the Kettlebell; Pavel Tsatsouline
- Yoga Journal: Break out of Your Slump
- ABC-of-Yoga.com: Cat Pose
- ABC-of-Yoga.com: Dog Pose
- ABC-of-Yoga.com: Cobra Pose