As many of us continue to work remotely and huddle over our screens for endless Zoom calls, our necks and shoulders are taking a beating. Over time, the muscles in our shoulders and upper back weaken, leading to poor posture.
But slouching isn't something you want to sweep under the rug. Poor posture can take a real toll on your health by affecting your balance and making you more susceptible to falls, among many other issues, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Fortunately, working out with mini bands can take your shoulders and back out of their slump. These tiny but mighty pieces of fitness equipment are great for targeting your shoulder and back stabilizer muscles — aka the smaller muscles that support the large muscle group and assist your joints. Honing in on these muscles is what's going to help you stand with confidence and prevent injury.
These posture-improving mini band exercises can be done while sitting at your desk or at the gym. Many mini bands come in a set of three different resistance options: light, medium and heavy. So choose a band that will challenge you but won't make it too difficult for you to do the exercises with proper form.
1. Banded Front Raise
Banded front raises train your muscles to lift things in front of you with good posture while building shoulder strength and stability.
- Loop a mini band around your wrists and stretch your arms, about hip-width apart, to create tension in the band.
- Keeping your arms straight and maintaining the tension in the band, raise your arms to shoulder height.
- Lower your arms back down to the starting position
As you lift your arms up, make sure to drive your shoulders down your back to activate your lat muscles. This will help keep the tension out of the shoulders and keep your back open.
2. Banded Lat Pull-Down
This exercise helps undo a hunched-over posture by opening up your chest, which is the antagonist muscles (opposing muscle) of the lats. Feel free to turn this exercise into a single-arm move and adjust the range of motion for your level of comfort.
- Loop a mini band around your wrists and lift your arms straight overhead.
- Create tension in the band by keeping your arms shoulder-width apart.
- Pull your arms down behind you until the band is parallel with your shoulders.
- Then lift your arms back up overhead.
3. Banded Seated Low Row
The seated low row releases your shoulders from a slouched position and helps keep your spine erect. The more you choke up on the band, the more challenging the exercise will be.
- Sit on the ground with your back upright and your legs extended out in front of you.
- Wrap the mini band around your feet and hold the band with hands, arms fully extended.
- Pull your elbows back by squeezing your shoulder blades together.
- Then, release and bring your hands back out to the starting position.
Don't let your shoulders round forward, and focus on using your shoulder blades to move the band as opposed to your elbows. This helps fire up the stabilizer muscles in your back.
4. Banded Single-Arm Shoulder Press
In addition to standing tall with your chest proud, this move forces you to engage your core, which often gets lost with poor posture.
- Hold the mini band in one hand and cross your opposite arm over your shoulder to hold one end of the band in place. Make a goal post with your arm, forming a 90-degree angle, palm facing out.
- Brace your core and press your arm overhead, creating tension in the band.
- Lower your arm back down to return to the starting position.
- Once you finish all reps, switch sides.
Make sure to keep slight tension in your shoulder blades to activate your back muscles; these muscles support your shoulder.
5. Banded Triceps Pushdown
Your triceps are an important piece of the puzzle in the stabilization of your shoulder joint, as they're attached to your shoulder through your back. By strengthening your triceps, you'll take some of the load off your shoulders when carrying things overhead or doing other pushing movements. The added perk is you'll also have strong, defined arms.
- Hold the mini band with one hand and cross your opposite arm over your shoulder to hold one end of the band in place.
- Bend your elbow to form a 90-degree angle with your arm.
- Keeping your elbow bent and tight at your side, straighten your elbow by moving your palm toward the floor, face down.
- Bend your elbow again to 90 degrees, returning to the starting position.
- Once you finish all reps, switch sides.
To truly target your triceps, make sure to isolate movement in your elbow as you bend and straighten your arm.