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Upper Back Posture Exercises

Proper Upper Back Posture can prevent neck and shoulder strain.

Slouching for long periods of time can cause neck and shoulder muscle pain. Strengthening the muscles in the upper back and the back of the shoulders and stretching the muscles in the chest and front of shoulders can improve upper back posture.

Strengthening the muscles used to keep the shoulder blades closer together and down help keep the upper back upright.


Strengthening Upper Back Exercises

Warm up first. Be sure to warm up with five minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as brisk walking or using an exercise bike to increase blood flow to the muscles and reduce the risk of injury before strengthening or flexibility exercises.

How Many Repetitions and Sets

Work up to at least one set of 10 - 15 reps (the most benefit comes from the first set). If you find an exercise difficult start with fewer repetitions and add a couple of repetitions each week until you can do 10 - 15 repetitions. To further increase endurance add a second set of 10 -15 repetitions after you can handle one set. In time, add a third set. Rest for about 30 - 60 seconds between sets.


How Much Weight / Resistance to Use

Start with light weights and increase weight gradually to avoid injury. Upper back exercises involve the shoulders, including the smaller muscles and tendons around the shoulder joint, which must be able to handle the weight. Ultimately, you should aim to use weights that cause the targeted muscles to become slightly fatigued after 10-15 repetitions.

Proper form is also important in avoiding injury. When doing the dumbbell exercises below, lift the weights slowly and smoothly.

Strengthening exercises (for the same muscle group) should be done three times per week on non-consecutive days. Rehabilitation exercises that are done using very light weights/resistance may be done more frequently, as recommended by a physical therapist.

Remember to Breathe.

Scapular Squeeze (this exercise can be done three times per day)

Stand with feet hip-width apart with arm hanging at sides. Keep shoulders down (away from ears) and back. Squeeze the shoulder blades towards each other. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times.

external rotation with exercise band - start positionexternal rotation with exercise band

External Rotation and scapular squeeze with exercise band: strengthens back of shoulders and upper back

Stand or sit with neutral posture. Hold exercise band with palms up, elbows bent at right angle (upper arms at sides, lower arms parallel to floor). Keep the shoulder blades down and back. Keep elbows next to body, rotate arms outward and squeeze shoulder blades together. Return to start and repeat 10 times.

 

SAFETY NOTE:

Some of the following upper back exercises involve bending forward (hinging) from the hips.
You must be able to maintain proper form to do exercises that involve bending forward from the hips safely. Do not round your back - you must have sufficient core strength to keep your back neutral. Bending forward from the hips increases the load on your lower back and holding weights increases the load further.

If exercising in this position causes lower back pain, start with an alternate version of the exercise (e.g. lie on exercise bench or place hand on stationary object to help support the lower back and exercise one side at a time) until your core strength improves. (See core exercises for exercises to improve core strength).

How to Hinge (Bend Forward) from the Hips:

To bend from the hips, stand with neutral posture, feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent. Keep back firm and shoulders down and back, lean forward from hips (hips traveling backward) until torso is at desired angle - usually between 45 degree angle and parallel to floor.

TIP: Use a mirror to check your form.

row-bentover45degrees-starthip hinging

Hinging from the hips, torso at 45 degree angle and almost parallel to floor.

Do not round your back when performing exercises that involve bending forward from the hips - in other words - do not bend from the waist.

Your back should remain neutral (retain the natural slight inward curve in the lower back) to reduce stress to the lower back.

 
Upper back posture exercises continued...