Too much time spent hunched over mobile devices can weaken your back, worsen your posture and lead to aches and pains elsewhere in your body. Add some killer upper back exercises to your fitness routine and you’ll not only counteract the effects on your back but reap full-body rewards as well.
“Training the muscles in the upper back has so many benefits. You can improve posture, prevent low back pain and build confidence. A toned upper back looks amazing in a suit, dress or bathing suit,” according to Personal Training Manager Jason Foster of Equinox Highland Park.
Foster recommends these eight exercises to whip your upper back into shape:
- 3 sets of 12-15 for toning
- 3 sets of 8-10 for strength
1. Sit with feet flat, directly under knees.
2. Hands shoulder-width apart, use an underhand grip on the bar.
3. Maintain a long spine, exhale, pull the bar down toward chest.
4. Pause with the bar just above the chest.
5. Inhale, slowly release, and repeat.
1. Start with feet shoulder-width apart, slight bend in the knees.
2. Hands slightly wider than hip-width, use an underhand grip on the bar.
3. Slowly move forward with bent knees, tailbone stretches away from the head, hips move back, spine remains long.
4. Exhale, pull the bar toward hips, keeping chest open and gaze at the horizon, pause, hold for 1 second.
5. Inhale, release the bar back down, repeat.
1. Hold the exercise band, anchored (about navel height) directly in front of body.
2. Sit on a stability ball, feet flat on the floor, knees at 90 degrees.
3. Maintain an upright posture, open chest, exhale, pull hands back toward body, elbows toward hips.
4. Keep wrists neutral, hands move towards navel, elbows to 90 degrees.
5. Inhale, slowly release, repeat.
Squat to Row
1. Hold exercise band, anchored between ankle and knee height, feet shoulder-width apart.
2. With an upright spine, open chest, squat, pushing your butt back and down, inhale, allow bands to pull your arms forward, control torso on the way down.
3. In one motion, exhale, push through heels, raise up and pull hands toward hips, keeping elbows close to the body.
4. Release arms, as you repeat the next squat.
Single Arm Bent-Over Row
1. Stand in front of a bench or chair, feet hip-width apart.
2. With a light weight in left hand, step back with the left leg.
3. Keeping right leg forward, lean on the bench with right hand.
4. Maintain long spine, exhale as the elbow and shoulder move up.
5. Inhale, slowly release down, repeat.
This is a great warm-up exercise for the back and a perfect midday computer break exercise.
1. Lay facedown on mat or other soft surface.
2. Extend active legs straight back.
3. Place hands under shoulders.
4. Roll shoulders up then down back.
5. Raise upper body off the ground, using very little arm strength, keeping gaze forward, neck relaxed.
6. Release and repeat.
Thoracic Spine Mobility
1. Start in a low lunge, head, shoulders, and hip directly over right knee.
2. Keep right foot directly behind knee, hips level.
3. Lean forward, place right hand on floor, line fingertips up with front toe.
4. Reach up toward the ceiling with the left hand.
5. Move from upper back as left hand reaches under right arm.
6. Reach up with left arm and repeat.
Foam Rolling on the Upper Back
1. Lay on left side.
2. Place roller under left arm.
3. Bend right leg behind for balance and leverage.
4. Roll back-and-forth, side-to-side, finding tight spots along the upper back for several minutes.
5. Switch sides.
Exercises demonstrated by Jason Foster and Christy O’Brien of Equinox Highland Park.
Interested in fitness and philanthropy? Learn more about UNICEF’s Kid Power Campaign. Working to end global hunger, the Kid Power band keeps track of kids’ activity; the more active they are, the more points they collect and the more funds that are distributed to deliver food to malnourished children around the world.