Kettlebell training with its emphasis on strengthening the back of the body offers a number of kettlebell exercises to improve posture. If you have ever wondered which strengthening exercise is most effective to help correct upper crossed syndrome or lower cross syndrome then this article is for you.
In a world that seems to be dominated by electronic devices and desk jobs more and more people are finding a deterioration in body alignment and posture.
There are two major postural strengthening issues that are becoming more and more popular, upper crossed syndrome and lower crossed syndrome.
Let’s look at these two common postures in order to gain a better understanding of how to fix them.
Upper Crossed and Lower Crossed Syndromes
The two most common postural strengthening issues are Upper Crossed Syndrome and Lower Crossed Syndrome.
Upper Crossed Syndrome affects the head, neck, shoulders and upper back and causes a forward head leaning posture (cervical lordosis) and upper back rounding (thoracic kyphosis), elevated and rounded shoulders and scapula winging.
Symptoms may include: back ache, pinched nerves, tingling, breathing issues, headaches and a lack of mobility in the upper body which will lead to further movement compensations throughout the body.
Upper Crossed Syndrome is named after the tightness that runs from the upper back (upper traps and levator scapula) down and through to the chest muscles (pectorals major and minor) and the weakness that follows the lower back (mid and lower traps) up and through to the front of the neck (cervical flexors).
Lower Crossed Syndrome affects the hips, legs, core and lower back and causes the pelvis to rotate forwards resulting in an excessive curve in the lower back (lumbar lordosis) and lower back pain.
Again a cross is discovered by weakness running from the abs down to the buttocks (gluteus max and medius) and a tightness in the lower back (thoracolumbar) that runs down through the hip flexors (iliopsoas) to the quads (rectus femoris).
Both Upper and Lower Cross Syndromes will progressively get worse unless treated because weaker muscles facilitate a tightening of other muscles and vice versa.
Stretching and Strengthening Muscles to Improve Posture
The approach to fixing upper and lower crossed syndrome should be a combination of stretching what is tight and strengthening what is weak.
Shortened muscles must be stretched and mobilised because as mentioned in Sherrington’s Law of reciprocal inhibition:
When a muscle contracts, its direct antagonist relaxes to an equal extent allowing smooth movement.
Sherrington’s Law explains why certain muscles that are overactive and tight, like the upper traps, cause a relaxation in other muscles that only compounds the postural problem.
For those suffering with Upper Crossed Syndrome you should spend time stretching out your Chest muscles (pec major and minor) along with your upper trap muscles.
Watch a video of the Chest stretch below:
Watch a video of the Upper Traps stretch below:
For Lower Cross Syndrome concentrate on stretching out your hip flexors along with your lower back.
Watch a video of the Hip Flexor stretch:
Watch a video of the Lower Back and Hamstring stretch:
For the best results stretch little and often. Stretch at least once per day and at a time when you feel most relaxed.
Kettlebell Exercises to Improve Posture
Kettlebell exercises offer a great solution for those suffering with postural issues.
Unlike many other resistance training options kettlebell training focuses heavily on the posteriors chain, the muscles from heels to the back of the head.
The posterior chain is responsible for straightening up the body (extensors) and counteracting all of the forward bending that is so common today due to sitting and slouching.
Those with Upper Crossed Syndrome need to strengthen the cervical flexor muscles, rhomboids, mid and lower traps.
For Lower Crossed Syndrome strengthen the abs, obliques, and buttocks (glute max and medius).
Here are the 11 best exercises to improve posture:
1 Kettlebell Slingshot
The kettlebell slingshot will help improve your posture by forcing an upright position and driving the shoulders back and down.
Possibly one of the best beginners kettlebell exercises to improve posture is the slingshot should be performed with the core muscles tight and the hips stationary.
As you pass the kettlebell around your back think about keeping the shoulders back and down away from your ears.
Lift the chest and ribcage as you perform the exercise.
A great upper cross exercise for those with upper crossed syndrome.
Change directions every 10 – 20 repetitions.
Watch the Kettlebell Slingshot video below:
Kettlebell Regular Row
The kettlebell regular row will strengthen the mid back and posterior shoulder muscles.
If you suffer from upper crossed syndrome then this kettlebell exercise will help pull the shoulders back and open up the chest.
Care must be taken when performing this exercise to target the mid and lower back rather than the upper back. Focus on pulling with the elbow back and upwards.
Keep your shoulders down and away from your ears throughout the exercise.
Ensure your weight is back on your heels so you can feel your hamstrings engage.
The upper and lower back should be kept in a straight line by keeping the chest up.
Perform slow repetitions focusing on pulling with the mid and lower back rather than the shoulder.
Practice 6 – 12 repetitions on each side for a workout to improve posture.
Want more? 10 Kettlebell Exercises for the Back
Watch the Kettlebell Regular Row video below:
3 Kettlebell Farmers Carry
The kettlebell farmers carry is an excellent exercise to straighten up your posture and develop you core and oblique muscles.
This is an excellent self correcting kettlebell exercise meaning that it is very hard to perform the exercise badly without quickly inducing fatigue and having to stop.
If you suffer with upper crossed syndrome then this exercise will help pull the shoulders back and create better alignment from head to toe.
If you have lower crossed syndrome then this exercise will develop and strengthen the core and oblique muscles which will better help with the stabilisation of the pelvis.
You can also perform the kettlebell farmers carry walking up a hill which will help to better develop the weak buttock muscles usually found in lower crossed syndrome.
Holding the kettlebell in one hand, set your scapula by pulling your shoulders back and down. Don’t not let your shoulders lift up towards your ears.
Walk for 30 – 60 seconds with a kettlebell that challenges you, then change hands and repeat.
Want more? See 52 Kettlebell Exercises with Videos
4 Kettlebell High Pulls
The kettlebell high pull exercise will strengthen the muscles of the mid back and help pull your shoulders backwards.
Be sure to keep a nice high elbow and pull backwards horizontally to maximise the activation of the mid back.
If you suffer from lower crossed syndrome then this exercise with develop the glute muscles while those with upper crossed syndrome this will help to strengthen the back.
Keep your weight back and on your heels in order to activate the posterior chain and muscles at the back of body from head to heel.
Practice 10 – 20 reps on one side before changing hands.
Want more? How to Master the Kettlebell High Pull
Watch the Kettlebell High Pull video below:
5 Kettlebell Renegade Row
The kettlebell renegade row is a challenging exercise certainly not for the beginner.
You will achieve huge core muscle activation while you hold the plank position without allowing your hips to drop.
The rowing aspect of the exercise will strengthen and develop the mid back which is important for all those suffering with upper crossed syndrome.
If you suffer from upper crossed syndrome then you need to be very careful not to overactive the upper back (upper trapezius muscles) when you row.
You can ensure an effective rowing technique by pulling with the elbow back and upwards using a slow and controlled tempo.
The renegade row can be made slightly easier and safer by using just 1 kettlebell and placing the other hand on a box, bench or a parallette.
Practice 5 – 10 repetitions on each side keeping your body tight and inline.
Watch the Kettlebell Renegade Row video below:
6 Kettlebell Windmill
The kettlebell windmill will strengthen the obliques, shoulders and back while at the same time opening up the hips and lengthening the hamstrings.
If you suffer from upper or lower crossed syndrome then the kettlebell windmill can be helpful for you.
The kettlebell arm should be kept straight throughout the exercise in order to take the pressure away from the shoulders and into the back.
Perform the exercise slowly and with control especially on the way down, always keeping your focus on the kettlebell.
Load the back leg with the majority of your weight and keep it straight.
If you find it difficult to reach the floor with your hand then stop when you feel you need to bend your back leg.
Practice 5 slow and controlled repetition on each side.
Watch the Kettlebell Windmill video below:
7 Kettlebell Lunge with Rotation
The kettlebell lunge with rotation is an excellent exercise for fixing both upper crossed and lower crossed syndrome.
The lunge aspect of this exercise will strengthen and develop the glutes and hamstrings while the rotation will condition the core muscles and open up the back.
Keep the chest and ribcage lifted throughout the exercise and the eyes looking forwards.
If the kettlebell is too heavy then there can be a tendency to lift the shoulders up towards the ears, you must resist this temptation and let the shoulders sink back and down.
You must work on nice deep lunges making sure the back knee gets as close to the floor as possible in order to activate the buttock muscles correctly.
Failure to lunge deeply will miss the whole purpose of the exercise.
Nice deep lunges along with a full rotation will also open up the hips and improve your hip flexor length which is very important for addressing lower crossed syndrome.
Perform 12 – 24 total repetitions changing sides each rep for a workout to improve posture.
Want more? See 16 Kettlebell Lunge Variations
Watch the Kettlebell Lunge with Rotation video below:
8 Kettlebell Single Leg Deadlift
The kettlebell single leg deadlift exercise teaches good synergy and alignment between the upper and lower body while at the same time strengthening the glutes, core and back.
It is important to keep the core tight and the back flat as you pivot through the hips.
The shoulder holding the kettlebell should be pulled back and down, don’t allow the kettlebell to pull the shoulder out of its socket on the way down.
Keep your weight back on your heel to load the hamstrings and glute muscles effectively.
The exercise should be performed slowly on the way down to gain the benefits of the eccentric part of the lift.
The back foot will try to rotate outwards so be mindful of this and keep the toes pointing towards the floor as much as possible.
Perform 5 slow repetition on each leg for a great postural workout.
Want more? How to Master the Single Leg Deadlift
Watch the Kettlebell Single Leg Deadlift video below:
9 Kettlebell Swing
The kettlebell swing is the ultimate full body conditioning exercise but is also excellent for improving your posture from head to toe.
The swing is based on the deadlift movement pattern and so power is generated from the hips using the glutes and hamstrings.
The top section of the swing should involve a tight contraction of the glutes along with a bracing of the abs.
For those suffering with lower crossed syndrome it is important to focus on rotating your tailbone underneath during this top part of the swing.
Don’t allow the kettlebell to pull you forwards as you swing, keep the shoulders back and down.
It is very important that you do not swing the kettlebell with your shoulders and ensure that it is your hips that do all the work.
Perform 10 – 20 swings concentrating on getting tight at the top.
Want more? Ultimate Guide to the Kettlebell Swing
Watch the Kettlebell Two Handed Swing video below:
10 Kettlebell Side Lunge
The kettlebell side lunge will strengthen the glutes in the often neglected lateral plane which is important for fixing lower crossed syndrome.
Keep your chest up and ribcage lifted as you perform the lunge.
Take your time to get deeper into the movement, the lower you can go the more activation you will get in the glutes.
Try to keep your weight back on your heels rather than your toes to achieve full muscle activation at the back of the body.
Work up to a total of 10 repetitions getting deeper and deeper into the movement with each rep.
Watch the Kettlebell Side Lunge video below:
11 Kettlebell Turkish Get Up
The kettlebell turkish get up is the ultimate full body mobility and strengthening exercise.
The get up is another self correcting exercise which means that you will find it very difficult to complete without good posture and body alignment.
Beginners should practice the exercise without a kettlebell and move slowly through each phase of the exercise.
The more you practice the turkish get up the more the body will open up and strengthen in the places that you need it the most.
Those with upper or lower crossed syndrome will gain tremendous relief from just practicing this exercise daily without a kettlebell or 4 – 5 times per week with a kettlebell.
Watch the Kettlebell Turkish Get Up video below:
Conclusion to Kettlebell Exercises to Improve Posture
Above I have listed 11 kettlebell exercises that you can use to improve your posture along with upper cross exercises and lower cross syndrome corrective exercises.
There are two popular types of posture condition, upper crossed and lower crossed syndrome.
The kettlebell exercises to improve posture above will help to strengthen the muscles that have become weak and straighten up your posture.
Some of the kettlebell exercises above will improve your upper body posture, others your lower posture and some your posture from head to toe.
All postural strengthening exercises should be used in combination with soft tissue, mobility and stretching exercises to create balance throughout the body.
To see more posts about prehab/rehab workouts, go here.
Best of luck
Have you tried any of these kettlebell exercises to improve posture? Let me know below….