Back It Up: Strengthen and Stretch Your Back for Body Balance

My pet peeve?  Rounded shoulders.  Maybe it’s because my mother knew that all of us would be tall and being the tallest in class, as a girl, was definitely not cool.  If you were ever looking for a “Hynd girl” in a photo, we were Back Row Center.  Sigh. We grew up to the command, “stand up straight!”.  She enrolled all of us in dance classes, even my brother, with the sole purpose of posture and alignment.  It worked.

It was only later, as a motivational speaker on health and fitness and as a certified personal trainer, that I fully understood that in order to stand up straight you HAVE to engage (contract) the muscles in your back.   I’ve spent years in the gym observing the typical exercises done by most: chest press, bicep curl, upright row and abdominal crunches.  See him now?  Big, rounded, muscular shoulders, iron sculpted arms, pecs that can flex independently of each other and the coveted ripped abs.  All the focus is on the front of the body.  Women do it too, it’s just not as exaggerated a look .

The problem here is imbalance.  We work the front of the body because it’s the front of the body that we see in the mirror.  The result is weakened back muscles resulting in rounded shoulders. The bigger problem with this imbalance is that it often leads to achey, strained backs.  That, as most of us know, is no fun at all!

I offer you two simple back moves that energize and strengthen:

1. Camel Ride (pictured below left)

Targets: The lower spine.

What It Does:  Releases lower-back tension, opens the hips, stimulates the digestive and immune systems, and promotes mental focus. Perform this simple move every morning to become alert and uplifted instead of sluggish and stressed.  When you flex the spine, you flex the mind!

How To Do It:  Sit cross-legged on the floor with your hands resting on your ankles. Bring your ribs and chest forward, gently arching your back, as you inhale. Then move the rib cage backward and round your lower spine as you exhale. Keep your neck relaxed and your chin parallel to the ground. Continue doing this exercise in unison with your breath for about two minutes.

2.  Swimming (pictured below right)

What It Does:  Strengthens muscles in the lower, middle, and upper back and improves posture.

How to do it: Lie facedown, with your belly on the mat, legs stretched behind you, hip-width apart. Contract your abs to lift your navel in toward your spine, and stretch your arms overhead with both palms facing the floor. This is the starting position. Exhale as you lift your right leg and left arm up and away from the floor; lift your limbs as high as you can without bending at the elbow or knee. Inhale as you switch the legs and arms, reaching the left leg and right arm up as you lower the right leg and left arm. This is one repetition. “Swim” for 30 fast-paced repetitions and release.

1.  Camel Ride                                                                                                  2.  Swimming

From your motivational speaker, Polly Pitchford, who wants you to walk “straight” out into the day!


Motivational Speaker Polly Pitchford didn’t always know the phytochemical benefits of kale, in fact, those words weren’t even in her vocabulary 30 years ago. Neither did she see any reason to do jumping jacks on a cement surface for an hour. But all it took was a chance vegetarian cooking class and some high-energy music to open her eyes upon a whole new world of healthy living. For 30 years Polly has practiced, studied, taught, educated and lived a healthy lifestyle that makes her such a powerful speaker.

Polly’s down-to-Earth and humorous approach mirrors her own lifelong journey to lasting, positive changes. The audience walks away with tangible plans for improving their health and their lives through food, fitness and fun.
To book Motivational Speaker Polly Pitchford, call 941-685-7725 or visit her at

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  1. Funny you should mention this, Polly.  My trainer at the gym the other day just told me the same thing!  In fact he quietly pointed out a beefy guy on the other side of the gym who had that “look” that you were talking about.  He encouraged me to work on those back muscles too.  So if I’m hearing this again from you – then somebody’s trying to tell me something!!!  Thanks!

  2. Bravo Polly… once again you’ve articulated a relevant concern of mine and provided a practical and readily applicable solution. Thank you!

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