Weekend Challenge: Seated Back Straightener

This weekend’s exercise can be done while seated and it also offers good postural correction for those confined to a wheelchair or who otherwise have difficulty standing.

The Seated Back Straightener flattens the upper back, preventing and correcting kyphosis since it opens up the chest and tones the back muscles. All you’ll need is a pair of dumbbells, water bottles or cans of food to get started.

Why:

Osteoporosis is not necessarily a causal factor in the development of a hunchbacked appearance (kyphosis), and kyphosis is not necessarily a symptom of osteoporosis. The two conditions do share some common ground, however.

When bones are weak and fragile, they are more likely to slip out of alignment and, particularly in the case of the vertebrae, to become compressed. This can cause the shoulders to round out and a hump to form on the upper back. But poor bone integrity is not the only cause of kyphosis.

Postural errors practiced by those without osteoporosis are also a culprit behind this condition. Forward head posture (FHP), prolonged sitting with a rounded-out back and shoulders, and weak abdominal muscles lead to poor posture and a hunchbacked appearance.

Postural exercises like the Seated Back Straightener address kyphosis regardless of the cause. Engaging key muscles in the arms, shoulders, chest, and back is the first step toward counteracting the above-mentioned postural errors and, ultimately, flattening the upper back. Additionally, the pressure of muscle on bone increases strength and density in these vital areas.

The Anatomy Of Good Posture

Good posture becomes automatic if the right muscles are toned and the bones aligned. Here is a quick look at the muscles and bones involved.

  • Levator scapulae – as the name implies, these muscles are responsible for lifting the scapulae, or shoulder blades. They run between the lower four cervical vertebrae in your neck and your shoulder blades.
  • Rhomboids – Despite their small size, the rectangular rhomboids are crucial for proper posture. They connect the ribs, shoulder blades, and cervical and thoracic vertebrae, rotating your shoulder blades inward and back and, no less importantly, positioning your head.
  • Pectoralis major and minor – These are the “pecs” so often referred to by bodybuilders and fitness buffs. They are rarely mentioned in connection with posture, but they are very important nonetheless. Exercises like the Seated Back Straightener “open the chest” by stretching and toning the pecs, thus counteracting the caved-in chest position so common in those with kyphosis and poor posture.
  • Triceps – Did you ever consider that the muscles in the back of your upper arms have a role to play in posture? Because these muscles connect the scapula and humerus (upper arm bone), their integrity has much to do with the position of the shoulders. The triceps originate in various places on the shoulder blades and insert at the elbow, and they work to rotate the arm into the correct position for proper posture and a flat upper back, which is a motion you’ll find in this weekend’s exercise.
  • Trapezius – The trapezius muscles span more than just the top of the shoulders near the neck. They also cover most of the upper back, connecting the shoulder joints to the cervical and thoracic vertebrae. The trapezius is shaped similar to a kite, with the top of the kite at the base of the neck and the tapered point at the base of the thoracic vertebrae. As you might suspect from its position and shape, the traps draw the shoulder blades back and hold the bones of the upper back in place.
  • Scapulae (shoulder blades) – You’ll see many references to these important postural bones in this weekend’s challenge. That’s because the scapulae play a central role in posture; they are highly mobile, which makes them prone to slipping out of alignment, so proper toning of the muscles that connect to them is crucial.
  • Clavicle (collarbone) – Despite being a relatively thin bone, the clavicle is the only bone that connects your arm to your upper body. It’s also the only horizontal long bone in the body, connecting the scapulae to the breastbone, so it’s clear that its alignment affects posture. The clavicle’s position influences the position of the chest and shoulders, and working the right muscles brings the clavicle into its proper placement.
  • Humerus (upper arm bone) – The rotation of the humerus has much to do with the position of your shoulders, as noted above. In this weekend’s challenge, your humerus will be instrumental in performing the move described below.

How:

  1. If you’ll do this exercise while seated on a chair, choose one without arms and sit forward in the seat. If you’re going to be sitting on the floor, we suggest you use an exercise mat.
  2. From a seated position, pick up two objects of a comfortable weight – small dumbbells, water bottles, food cans, etc. will all work. Hold one in each hand.
  3. Bend your elbows about 90 degrees while keeping your upper arms against your body, palms facing up.
  4. Slowly rotate your upper arms and draw your shoulder blades inward to bring the weights out to your sides. Your upper arms should remain close to your body.
  5. Bring your arms back around to the starting position and repeat step #3 above 10 to 15 times.

Tips:

  • Deliberately draw your shoulder blades back and in, as if you’re trying to hold something between them.
  • Feel free to perform this exercise without weights at first in order to get the hang of it.
  • This exercise can be performed several times a day.



The following Weekend Challenges make good follow-ups to the Seated Back Straightener:

Make Postural Exercises Part Of Your Regular Bone-Building Routine

To effectively prevent and correct FHP, a humped back, slumped shoulders, and other postural issues, it’s important to practice posture exercises on a regular basis.

That is one of reasons why the Densercise™ Epidensity Training System includes a warm-up session and stretches; positioning the body before exercising helps prevent injury and maximizes the positive effects of exercise. If you’re looking for ways to incorporate some of the Weekend Challenges in with your Densercise™ routine, try practicing one or more of these posture-related moves at the beginning of your exercise session.

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I encourage the Saver community to engage with one another for support and feedback. So feel free to share your thoughts on this weekend’s challenge by leaving a comment below.

Have a great weekend!

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12 comments. Leave Yours Now →
  1. Marlene October 29, 2017, 2:29 pm

    Hello Vivian,
    I believe this is one of the weekend challenges that
    is simple and easy to remember. I loved it .
    Thank you very much for sharing.

    Have a wonderful day.
    Marlene

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA October 30, 2017, 9:57 am

      You are welcome, Marlene! Sounds like this one will be added to your daily routine. 🙂

  2. Carol Bledsoe October 29, 2017, 12:00 pm

    Will Save Our Bones ever be published in form other than download in email? Would definitely purchase but do not like downloaded versions.

  3. Nancy Yaun October 28, 2017, 11:31 pm

    I read the weekend challengers faithfully and try to do them. However, this week’s had an issue was very appropriate because I have a frozen shoulder and I think it would help it. The Back flattener and the Back straightener and chest expander where not there, instead when I clicked on them it was the same as the seated kyphosis corrector.
    Would you send me those sites please?

  4. shula October 28, 2017, 10:01 pm

    This is an interesting exercise.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA October 30, 2017, 7:41 am

      I think it is, too, Shula – and convenient. 🙂

  5. Ann October 28, 2017, 8:00 pm

    Thank you for providing so many helpful exercises. However, this one that involves external rotation of the shoulder is best done with the resistance applied to the shoulder, such as using resistance bands or lying on the side. In the above exercise the resistance is actually applied to the forearms because the force of gravity is trying to pull the weights down. It is not dangerous to do but it is not targeting the intended areas.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA October 30, 2017, 7:40 am

      Interesting, Ann – have you tried this exercise with resistance bands?

      • Ann October 30, 2017, 1:35 pm

        Shoulder external rotation exercises are usually done with resistance bands or tubing in physical therapy offices or as a fitness exercise. Either hold the band in both hands in the position shown in the above picture and rotate the arms or attach one end of the band to a secure fixture and do with one arm. Make sure there is sufficient tension to fatigue the muscles at the end of the desired number of repetitions.
        Muscles will respond and act against bone no matter what type of resistance used (free weights, machines, body weight, bands, etc.) as long as the movement is applied in opposition to the force, i.e. resisting gravity, pulling or pushing.

  6. Clara October 28, 2017, 2:11 pm

    Great exercise, Vivian! I really love the weekend challenges. Thank you so much.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA October 28, 2017, 7:36 pm

      Good to know, Clara! And you’re welcome. 🙂

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