Weekend Challenge: Back Straightener And Chest Expander - Save Our Bones

I’m really excited to share this weekend’s challenge. It’s so simple, but very targeted and effective at opening the chest, pulling back the shoulders, and straightening the upper back.

Exercises for this area of the body are crucial for improving and maintaining good posture, which typically worsens as we age. Upper spinal alignment is of particular importance in this day and age, when texting, typing, and prolonged sitting cause the upper back to round out and the head to jut forward and down (FHP).

The Back Straightener And Chest Expander addresses all of that and more, so let’s get started!


Your thoracic vertebrae compose the segment of your spine that runs roughly from the base of your neck to the area just below the middle of your back. The condition and position of these vertebrae reveal your postural state, along with your scapulae. In fact, there are various bones and muscles in this area that affect posture, so I’d like to take a brief look at them.

You have twelve thoracic vertebrae, which make up the middle of your back between your cervical (neck) and lumbar (lower back) vertebrae. The thoracic vertebrae are mid-sized, being larger than the cervical and smaller than the lumbar; and the vertebrae at the top of the thoracic column are smaller than those at the bottom, as they get progressively larger toward the lower back.

The thoracic vertebrae are distinctive from the others bones of the spine. They have facet joints on either side for connecting to the ribs, with the first one, known as T1, having two facets – one entire, one partial, or demi – for connecting to the first rib’s head and the top half of the second rib’s head, respectively.

Like all bones in the spinal column, the thoracic vertebrae have an opening, called the foramen, through which the spinal cord passes. In the thoracic vertebrae, the edges of this opening, called the pedicles, are larger, creating a more significant vertebral notch inferiorly.

T12 begins to slant laterally as the lumbar vertebrae do, gradually creating the arch of the lower back.

The scapulae roughly span the distance from T3 through T8, and their position is of paramount importance in posture. In forward head posture, or FHP, the scapulae begin to slide forward, causing the back edge (or “spine”) of the scapulae to jut outward. Unstable scapulae can cause a host of problems, from neck pain to reduced shoulder mobility. And a rounded upper back always has out-of-place scapulae as part of the equation.

Today’s exercise positions the scapulae back where they belong by strengthening the muscles that hold them in place, and by promoting thoracic vertebrae alignment. In addition, the stretching that today’s exercise includes helps release tight, shortened muscles that can pull bones out of alignment.

The Back Straightener And Chest Expander also stretches the muscles of the chest, such as the pectoralis major, counteracting the hollowed chest that accompanies FHP. In addition, today’s exercise expands the ribcage, allowing the shoulder girdle and thoracic vertebrae to release into position.


All you need for this exercise is a wall.

  1. Sit on the floor close beside a wall, with your feet straight out in front of you. Keep your back straight, and look straight ahead.
  2. Take the arm that is next to the wall, and turn your hand so your palm is against the wall.
  3. Slowly bring your arm forward, up, and back to make an arc on the wall, bringing it as far behind you as you can. Keep your palm lightly against the wall. If you are too close to the wall to complete the move comfortably, don’t lean away from the wall. Instead, move your whole body out from the wall and simply sit further away.
  4. Bring the arm forward and repeat the arc.
  5. On the fifth (or so) repetition, gently lean forward when your arm is just past your shoulder and about to descend down the wall. Keep your back and neck straight and lean at the hips, thinking of bringing your chest down to your legs, not your forehead.
  6. Come back up and do five more repetitions, leaning down during each one.
  7. Switch sides and repeat.

I recommend you follow up with The Back Flattener, one of my favorite Weekend Challenges for maintaining upper back alignment. The Back Flattener, like the Back Straightener And Chest Expander, is easily done indoors; and in fact, today’s exercise is best performed in an indoor environment with straight, smooth walls.

Indoor exercises are perfect for this time of year, when inclement weather makes long walks difficult or impossible. And a treadmill requires an expensive gym membership and a trip to the gym, which may not be practical or possible in bad weather.

So winter is the ideal time to start exercising for your bones right in the comfort of your own home, or change up your existing routine to include some moves that are well-suited for the indoors.

The Densercise™ Epidensity Training System is just the thing to jump-start your indoor exercise regimen. With over 50 exercises that take just 15 minutes, three days a week, it’s easier to work out for your bones than ever before, no matter what time of year it is.

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So don’t let the cold and snow stop you! Take a look at Densercise™, and you’ll see how simple and effective targeted exercise can be, indoors and out.

Enjoy the weekend!

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Comments on this article are closed.

  1. Clara Mitchell

    I think your exercises are just what the doctors should be ordering. I enjoy learning natural and helpful things to do to keep me on the go.

    Thank you,


  2. Mer

    I love these weekend challanges. I try them all because I have -3.3 osteoporisis.
    I have question about your vitamin calcium. is it made it differently from AlgeaCal?

    The makers of Algeacal Plus made a statement about how much lead was found in their vitamin. “Update (11/17/15): We were recently informed by a CL member that AlgaeCal provided the following information in response to the member’s inquiry about lead in AlgaeCal Plus. In the response, AlgaeCal appears to acknowledge the amount of lead found by ConsumerLab.com in 2011, but provides information which we consider misleading regarding how that amount of lead compares to what is found in the U.S. diet:
    –There are 5.2 mcg of lead in a daily dosage of 4 capsules of AlgaeCal Plus. It is just like taking a daily serving of other typical plant foods according to the FDA’s publication.”

  3. Sharon Parshall

    Your Densercise program would be far more effective and help more people if only you would offer it on a DVD. Trying to do exercises from a book or off a computer is very difficult, and consequently I don’t do them.

  4. Ros

    Hi Vivian,
    I have osteoporosis and am not taking any medication as yet! My doctor suggested starting either Fosomax or Prolia. I don’t want to take either, however, I am at 20% risk of a fracture. I am a bit worried as to what to do after reading all your information.
    I am taking supplements and have a good diet.
    How can you help me?

  5. Grace Aisu

    Thanks Vivian for the weekend challenge. It is hard when the body pains. Will tray

  6. Marlene Villar

    Good morning Vivian,
    I’m always excited and looking forward for your e-mails.
    Since my surgery on my right arm and other surgeries,
    I haven’t been consistent with my routine exercises.
    I’m learning to listen to my body, instead of pushing it.
    Thank you for sharing this exercise and I will try it
    slowly. Have a wonderful day. Marlene

  7. Teresa ochoa

    I looked several times the exercise of today, but I hope I can do it right. I do not see it leaning forward the image, is confusing.
    On the other hand , I read about the sodium intake, in our modern diets, it was very interesting and helpful, so we can find ways to eat w less salt. Also, my resolution for this year is eating less acidic and more alkaline. Both , sodium, and acidic foods, are the problem.
    Thanks Vivian

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      You are welcome, Teresa! As far as leaning forward in today’s exercise goes, that portion is not pictured; but you can add it in after about 5 repetitions of the hand motion. Or you can choose to do this exercise without leaning forward. It will still be excellent for your posture!

      • Elaine

        I also am very grateful for these exercises on posture. I too had difficulty figuring out the part about leaning forward. I gather that it just means to lean forward and not really go down very far. My experience is that maybe it is best to just have the intention to go down with my back straight even if I can only move my hips forward a tiny bit, like rocking forward about 1/4 inch. Is that what you mean or can some people who are very flexible actually go down some distance?

        • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

          Yes, that is fine, Elaine. 🙂 Just lean as far forward at the hips as you can. If it’s 1/4 of an inch, no problem! Again, you can leave that portion out of the exercise if you prefer.

  8. Catherine

    The messages sent to me are always of a good help to me as I constantly learn new things. Am very pleased.

    • Hey Vivian

      I had a copy of the 7 day cleanse but I can not find. How do I get another copy. I have osteoporosis and I have really enjoyed all your books and print outs about it.

      Mary Ann

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      That’s great to hear, Catherine – keep learning!

      • Grace Aisu

        Hi Vivian the exercises are great but you need to be fit to do them. Am constantly in pain sometimes getting out of bed is difficult. Will try but it is difficult. Thanks

  9. Betty

    I too have some physical problems affecting my ability to exercise as I used to do, mostly back related, So like Genie I thank you for all that you send, such a wealth of information and will apply as possible to myself.

  10. Genie

    Hi Vivian,

    I am not in a position to do all of your exercises, much to my disappointment as I see such wonderful benefits.

    I can’t kneel, sit on the floor, lay on the floor, in fact I would never get down there but I don’t give in so I have to follow your sitting and standing exercises (when suitable i.e. not too ‘energetic’ for me).
    With this latest exercise, could this be done by standing up with a relaxed lower back ? I would appreciate your advice as I have to obviously, be very careful.
    I have osteoporosis, kypho scoliosis, 6 crushed vertebrae in the lower back, los of height of 6″ and a distended colon which doesn’t work on its own (due to hypothyroidism, we believe) and unfortunately, the colon is in the wrong place (in front of the liver rather than behind it) so I have to be careful in any type of exercise as I do not want any mega surgery but certainly need/want to continue, carefully, doing what I can with exercise for obvious reasons.
    I will add while I have the opportunity, thank you for all the wonderful work you do for us all. it is so much appreciated, you have no idea how much. Well done and if not too late, Happy New Year to you.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Hi Genie,

      You are very wise to assess each exercise before attempting it. You know your individual situation and health concerns, and you know your body best. Every health decision you make should go through the “you” filter!

      Keep up the good work, and I admire you for doing whatever exercises you can.

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