Instantly build self-esteem—and the appearance of a few extra inches—with these posture-boosting exercises.
It’s not fair, but taller people make more money. True story: Research shows that employees earn $700 more per year than their peers for every inch taller they are. Well, it’s time to even the score. While you may not be able to actually grow, the exercises below can increase how tall you appear—not only bumping up your earning potential, but improving the way others treat you, boosting your confidence, and reducing neck and back pain as your posture improves. A study from Harvard even showed that assuming powerful positions—those with chest lifted and head held high—can increase your confidence in just two minutes.
Ready to get a leg up on the office competition? Practice these five moves before your next big meeting.
1. Chin Tuck
If you’re desk-bound, all that sitting has probably pushed your head forward and rounded your shoulders, says Brian Kelly, a physical therapist at Pivot Physical Therapy in Washington, DC. To fix it, you’ve got to stretch your pectoral muscles. “Releasing this musculature helps to alleviate the excessive forward pull, allowing the shoulders to relax into a proper, anatomical position,” says Kelly.
To help reposition your head back to where your ears are in line with the cap of your upper arm bone, Kelly suggests performing cervical retractions, or chin tucks. To do them, stand up straight with your shoulders back. Pull your chin straight back, giving yourself a double chin. “You should feel a stretch along the back of the neck,” says Kelly. Hold the position for up to 30 seconds. Perform the move up to three times per session, two sessions per day.
2. Hip Stretch
Time to blame your chair again: Lots of sitting means tight hip flexors. These tight muscles are often paired with tight erector spinae muscles in your back, resulting in back pain and anterior pelvic tilt—in layman’s terms, “Donald Duck butt.” To combat it, Jeremy Frisch, director of Achieve Performance Training in Clinton, MA, has his clients warm up with a kneeling hip flexor stretch, which turns on the core and glute muscles, releasing the extension of the hip.
To do it, kneel on one knee less than an arm’s length from a wall. Place both hands on the wall and press hard against it, like you’re trying to push it over, for several seconds. Then press your kneeling knee hard into the floor for several seconds. Repeat on the opposite side.
3. Chest Stretch
To reverse the rounded shoulders brought on by sitting all day, use this powerful pose along with the two following it, all from Aaron Brooks, founder of Perfect Postures in Newton, MA.
First, perform a single-arm doorway chest stretch: Stand in a doorway with one foot in front of the other. Place your forearm on the doorjamb with your elbow bent 90 degrees at approximately shoulder height. Lean your upper body through the doorway until you feel the stretch in your chest area; hold for 30 seconds. Repeat with the opposite arm, then repeat once more with each arm.
4. External Rotation
Sit on the floor with your back against a wall and legs extended. Roll your hips forward creating an arch in your back. Tighten your quadriceps (thighs) and flex your feet so that your toes are pointing back towards you. Flatten your upper back and head against the wall. Squeeze your shoulder blades together without shrugging your shoulders.
Next, place your upper arms against the wall at shoulder height with elbows bent 90 degrees and forearms perpendicular to the wall, palms facing down. Then rotate your arms upward so that the backs of your hands touch the wall. Do three sets of ten reps.
5. Arm Rotation
Sit on a chair or bench with your knees bent 90 degrees and feet hip-width apart, toes pointing forward. Extend your arms out to the sides at shoulder height, keeping both shoulders level. Make light fists and rotate your arms back so you feel engagement in your mid-back. Hold for 40 seconds.