The Prone Cobra.

Many patients ask: 

“What exercises could I perform to assist or improve my posture?  We asked Dr Stuart Robbins (Osteopath) this question.

His Answer:

Whilst there are many, and that they usually need to be individualised to the patient’s specific needs, one of the more effective exercises I’ll often prescribe is The Prone Cobra.

I find the prone cobra, when performed in concert with a chest stretching routine, can have remarkable impact on improving patients posture.  Furthermore I personally perform this exercise for about 3 minutes in total every second day and have done for many years now.

It aims to reduce both thoracic kyphosis (rounded shoulders) and anterior (forward) head carriage, both of which I often see in patients suffering neck and shoulder tension and/or headaches.

The Prone Cobra when performed as I describe is not a stretch, but it is a strengthening exercise that focuses on postural muscles of the back and neck.  These postural muscles require endurance to cope with the demands of both gravity and occupational or recreational postural demands.  I find that it is especially relevant for many desk workers, students, breast-feeding mothers or even hands on fathers.

From the outset I want to say that performing this or any other exercise or routine aimed at improving your posture is almost a waste of time if you are still going to sit slumped at your desk.  For this reason I remind patients to address their ergonomics first; whilst I’m not going to go into ergonomics at length here I often refer patients to simple videos I feel tell the story on ergonomics quite well, I’ve included one here in the hope it also helps.


* Warning * If you have any specific concerns regarding your suitability to perform this or any other exercise please discuss it with your treating Osteopath in your next consultation.

1.  Gently squeeze your bottom to assist in stabilising your pelvis and low back.

2.  Slowly extend through your mid to upper back, lifting your head off the ground, keeping a neutral neck (keep your eyes down – you shouldn’t look around the room whilst performing this exercise and should have your nose approximately an iPhone width from the ground).

3.  Initially turn your palms towards the ground and then slowly away from yourself aiming your thumbs towards the sky.

Hold this final position for 5 – 30 seconds, you’ll likely feel muscles working between the shoulder blades and often at the back of your arms in your triceps.

Perform 3 – 6 times with 3-10 seconds break between sets.

* The frequency with which you’ll perform this exercise will depend upon the other demands of your life, but aiming for 6 x 30 seconds every couple of days will put you in good stead to cope with the demands of a desk based occupation.

4.  There are a number of variations and progressions with this exercise including changing the arm positions to represent letters – W’s, T’s, Y’s, L’s, and the use of resistance, all of which can be discussed with your treating practitioner.