I tried this five-minute Pilates posture routine and it helped me sit up straighter

Strengthen your back and shoulders with these three simple exercises

Woman performing seated row with resistance band
(Image credit: mixetto / Getty Images)

I work at a desk most days, which takes its toll on my posture: often I find my back slumping and my shoulders rounding as the day goes on. I’m always on the lookout for quick routines that help me strengthen my postural muscles to counter this.

I came across this five-minute Pilates routine programmed by Jillian Hardwick of HB Pilates, which involves three of her favorite moves to strengthen the back and shoulders. Hardwick is a Pilates instructor and back-pain specialist who discovered the power of Pilates after breaking her back.

The full program—accessed by the website or app—includes classes for beginners and older people, as well as a library of fitness sessions and a dozen live classes a week. I tried the five-minute routine in the hope it would help me sit up straighter.

How to do HB Pilates’ five-minute Pilates for better posture

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You’ll need an open-ended resistance band for this routine. If you don't have one already, here are three affordable options.

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The exercises

Hardwick recommends 8-10 reps of each exercise.

1. Shoulder external rotation

The shoulder external rotation, also known as dumbwaiter, is a great way to counter any rounding of your shoulders. It strengthens the muscles around the shoulder girdle and the upper back.

I had to concentrate on keeping my elbows in and moving slowly and steadily. I could feel this one working the back of my shoulders.

2. Seated row

The banded row works your shoulders and upper back, including your deltoids, rhomboids and trapezius muscles. I had to hold the band close to my feet to feel enough tension. After a few rounds, I could feel the muscles in my back and shoulders working, and best of all it felt like this exercise helped me to sit straighter. Hopefully, I can recreate this position at my desk.

3. Front reach and back extension

The banded reach and extension target the triceps, deltoids and upper-back muscles. I could feel the muscles in my back tiring but it felt good to do an opposing, pushing movement after the row.

I hadn’t done this exercise with the extension added in before and was amazed at how good it felt to stretch out my upper back in this way.

Did it work for me?

After I’d done this routine once I felt like my muscles were starting to wake up, so I did two more rounds. After three rounds I felt like I’d got some movement back into my back and shoulders, and had activated my muscles. For the rest of the day, I sat up straighter than I normally do—result!

I’ll try and make these exercises a part of my routine. I’m sure that doing this daily would make a huge difference to my posture, giving me the strength I need to sit up straight at my desk all day. I plan to team it with some core-strengthening exercises and hip stretches, to undo the damage of sitting all day.

Contributing writer

Camilla Artault is a fitness writer with a passion for running and yoga. She interviews experts and writes about a wide range of topics for Fit&Well encompassing health, fitness and nutrition.