Weekend Challenge: The Square-Shoulders And Straight Back Press - Save Our Bones

I know that Savers are very interested in improving their posture.

For that reason, today’s exercise is the Square-Shoulders And Straight Back Press, which ties-in nicely with last week’s challenge to correct FHP (Forward Head Posture).

I like to do these exercises in sequence, since neck, back and shoulder positioning is crucial to good posture.

The Square-Shoulders And Straight Back Press builds both your shoulder and back muscles, giving you the “square-shouldered look” and flat back associated with perfect posture. And when you get to the Advanced Version, you’ll also tone your core muscles.

This exercise will give you a more youthful look. After all, rounded shoulders are the classic sign of a developing Dowager’s Hump associated with age, collapsed vertebrae, and extreme bone loss.

There’s no doubt that with a straight back and square shoulders you’ll appear younger and more confident!

Why: Correcting your posture through exercise is about more than just appearance. As you target these key muscles in the shoulders and back, you’re also stimulating your bones to build and strengthen in response to the action of the muscles.

Exercises like The Square-Shoulders And Straight Back Press align your skeleton to carry your body weight more efficiently, resulting in decreased pain and tension.

Today’s exercise stimulates two main muscles groups that work to raise and rotate your shoulder joint: the deltoid and the rotator cuff.

Deltoids are divided into 3 groups: anterior (front), lateral (middle), and posterior (back). Their primary function is to move your arm up and away from your body (abduction).

  • The anterior deltoids work with other muscles in your chest and back to rotate your upper arm (humerus), allowing you to hold your arms out and rotate them so your palms face forward or back.
  • The lateral deltoids help raise your arm out from your body in a basic palms-down position.
  • The anterior deltoids are in the front, and they work with other muscles to rotate your upper arm externally (away from the body).

The rotator cuff is made up of the teres minor, infraspinatus, supraspinatus, and subscapularis muscles. It’s called the rotator cuff because all of these muscles work with the deltoids to rotate the shoulder.

  • The teres minor lies below the deltoid and runs underneath it to connect to the top of the humerus bone.
  • The teres major is just below the teres minor, also connecting to the top of the humerus.
  • The infraspinatus is made up of 3 strips of muscle that lie between the spine and the shoulder. The infraspinatus runs below the deltoid and on top of the teres minor and major.
  • The subscapularis muscles are triangular and, as the name suggests, they lie under the scapulae (shoulder blades). These muscles are crucial for shoulder joint stability, working with the other muscles to rotate the head of the humerus internally and to prevent displacement.

These are the muscles we’re going to work today with The Square-Shoulders And Straight Back Press.

The key to this exercise’s effectiveness is the full range of motion involved. A University of Padova study found that the very motions described in this exercise – with your elbows extended a full 180 degrees – stimulated some of the key muscle groups I just described, particularly the anterior, lateral, and posterior deltoid and the teres minor.1

Now that you know which muscles you’re working, let’s look at how to do it.

How: You’ll need two dumbbells of a comfortable weight (I like to use five pound dumbbells) or two food cans to do this exercise.

Beginner’s Shoulder And Back Straightener

This version is also good if you have lower back problems. You’ll need a bench or chair to sit on.

  1. Sitting down, hold a weight in each hand.
  2. Raise your arms with your arms bent so your elbows are just below shoulder height.
  3. Palms should be facing out.
  4. Press the weights upward until your arms are straight up over your head. Hold for a few seconds.
  5. Slowly lower back to the starting position.
  6. Repeat 10 times for one set, and do 3 sets (you can work up to this of course).

Advanced Version

For the advanced version, you’ll perform the same moves except you’ll be standing up.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Raise your arms with arms bent so your elbows are just below shoulder height.
  3. Palms facing out.
  4. Engage your core muscles and raise the weights above your head and hold for a few seconds.
  5. Slowly lower your arms back to the starting position.
  6. Do 3 sets of 10 reps.

I mentioned earlier that I like to do this posture exercise and last week’s in sequence. That’s because it’s important to combine exercises for maximum benefit, covering as many key muscle groups as possible.

Posture-enhancing exercises are absolutely crucial for bone health, but to keep bones strong and fracture-resistant, you also need weight-bearing and resistance exercises.

In the Densercise™ Epidensity Training System, you’ll find all types of targeted moves, so you can tackle your bone density increase from all angles.

It includes postural, resistance and weight-bearing exercises to do more than building optimal bone density. You’ll notice an improved posture, stronger muscles and increased flexibility.

Densercise takes you through a month’s worth of bone-building exercises in just 15 minutes a day, three days a week.

To add variety and interest, I like to practice the Weekend Challenge exercises on the days I am not Densercising.

So if you haven’t yet, please check out the Densercise™ Epidensity Training System today!

Have a great weekend!

P.S. I’m happy to announce, that by popular demand, printing our articles just got a lot ‘greener'. If you'd like to have your Save Our Bones articles in print format, you can do so and save a lot of paper and ink in the process! To access the new feature, simply click the grey ‘Print’ button below. This is just another way that Save Our Bones continues to serve our growing community of Savers!


1 Paoli A, et al. “Influence of different ranges of motion on selective recruitment of shoulder muscles in the sitting military press: an electromyographic study.” J Strength Cond Res; 2010 Jun;24(6):1578-83.

The Top 14 Things You’re Doing That Are Damaging Your Bones... And More!

  • Stop The Bone Thieves! report
  • Email course on how to prevent and reverse bone loss
  • Free vital osteoporosis news and updates.
Get It Free Now

Comments on this article are closed.

  1. Karen R. Rude

    I have had several back injuries and one involved my neck as well. I also pull 100 foot hoses to water the gardens every day. Recently I fouond out I have TMJ disorder and I attribute it to these three injuries to my back, but especially the one that involved my neck up to my left ear and as well the pulling of the hoses have furthered this injury.
    I also my back disks are now at 66 to 68 degrees. I have osteopenia, but it seems to be staying at the same range. I take Purity Products H.A. Joint & Skin Super Formula (contains 2,000 mg of BioCell Collagen,Chondroitin Sulfae and 6-Loxin, Quercetin, IP-6 and Hidrox, B-12, Super Lignan from Flax), Perfect Multi (contains a full array of B vitamins, E, A,D3, C, Seleniu, Cronium, Znc & Biotin) and ass well Perfect Multi Essentials containing various fruits and vegetable extracts (Bilberry & Flora Glo9 Lutein, & Zeaxanthin, and Dr. Cannell’s Advanced D super formula (2, 500 IU of Vitamin D3 per capsule) and contains Vitamin K2, Fruite X-B, Magnesium Citrate, Taurine.

    My questions concern my hump back and my TMJ from the back injuries. Do you have any articles on TMJ disorder or any advice and also for my back?

  2. Kelsey Fickling

    Thanks Vivian for your exercises; they are simple and effective. I did order the Densercise program (and received it), but my computer”crashed” and I don’t have it now. These weekend challenges are great! Blessings Kelsey

  3. Jan D

    Thanks for the exercises Vivian. Referring to previous comments about lower back pain, I have had lower back pain for many years and have found that the only way to alleviate this is by doing exercise and paying attention to your posture at all times. If you are sitting to do an exercise, then engage your core muscles to bring you up straight first, before doing the exercise. Keep core muscles engaged while doing the exercise. I learned this from doing pilates for people with back problems.
    I am not an expert, I can only say that I had lower back/sciatica problems for 25 years before learning more about the importance of posture & core muscles and it has helped me such a lot.
    For example, while I am sitting typing this my core muscles are engaged, my shoulders down and shoulder blades slightly pulling together and head not bent forward.. It is hard at first and you can’t do it for long but with practise it does get easier. Sorry to go on for so long but I had so many years of pain and now I am so much better as regards lower back pain.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Thanks for sharing what helped you get rid of lower back pain, Jan 🙂

  4. Bo Dela Haye

    I totally agree with Andrea’s comments and maybe it is better for your credibility to consult a good movement therapist to get your info straight?
    By the way, how can one improve on back and shoulder position and ignore the FHP ?
    To put someone with LBP in a sitting position ( disc pressure ) , performing a shoulder press is’nt a very smart way too !
    Advising your crowd with usefull exercises is great but this one does not really qualify !

    kind regards,
    BO de la Haye

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Bo, thanks for your input. The exercises given here are for those who don’t have major back (or other) issues that require special care.

  5. Marlene Villar

    Good afternoon Vivian,
    Thank you very much for this weekend challenge
    exercise: The square-shoulders and straight back press.
    I also would like to thank you for the Bone Appe’tit recipe
    book which includes Blender magic and 30 day meal planner which I received yesterday.
    Have a wonderful day and take care always.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Hi Marlene,

      You’re very welcome! And enjoy the recipes!

  6. Lee

    All of your exercises are to prevent fractures and to build bone. this is great, however, there are some of us who have vertebrae fractures. What can we do to prevent more and grow better bone. Many of the exercises would, in my opinion, cause more damage. Look forward to your answer.

  7. Faye Murphy

    Would this exercise be safe for someone who already has torn rotator cuffs?

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Faye, you should first check with your healthcare provider that knows all the details of your condition 🙂

  8. Betty

    Happy to be receiving your email newsletter again after noticing that I was some how not getting them for a few weeks.in July/August. I notice in this one that there are some previous ones I can click on. Not sure how many of these I missed. Is there anyway a computer search at your end could show when I got disconnected?
    I love the print feature and will use it. Thanks.

  9. Judy

    Thank you for your efforts Vivian but I wholeheartedly agree with Andrea. This is not a great exercise for people with low back pain and the position of the head and spine is critical. Please advise anyone who already has postural dysfunction to check with a physical therapist first to avoid causing more problems with shoulders, neck and low back.

  10. Jaqueline Murdoch

    Neutral spine is a better target than “straight” back as the latter implies losing the natural curves which are essential for support of spine and body. I enjoy reading your posts, thank you!

  11. Andrea

    Hi Vivian
    I want to add a comment about today’s overhead press for shoulders and upper back. you claimed that the infraspinatus lies between the spine and the shoulders this is in accurate. Infraspinatus lies below the “spine of the scapula” the actual spine of the scapula itself and that is why it’s called infraspinatus. It does not lie between the shoulder and the spine it sits right on the scapula itself and is a lateral rotator of the shoulder. This exercise that you suggest would be much more advantageous if you cue the client to sit tall and draw their shoulder blade’s down the back and slightly toward the spine and correcting any internally rotated shoulders before performing an overhead press!!
    with your description your average client is going to stay in FHP with medially rotated shoulders and a kyphotic spine and then do this overhead press resulting in more issues. Yes, The subscapularis does internally rotate the shoulders but this is not what you want in an overhead press. Perhaps consider hiring a physical therapist to review all of your exercises before you post them.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Thank you for your generous information, Andrea! Just to clarify – this weekend’s exercise actually corrects shoulder and back posture, not FHP. 🙂

  12. Olivia

    So glad to read about this exercise as I have used this one in conjunction with a few others using weights for about 3 years. I have improved my fitness but I was also desperately hoping that it was good for my bones too! It seemed to make sense to target the muscles to pull on the bones. I can now carry on with more confidence.
    Many thanks for your continued and valuable instructions.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Keep up with the exercises, Olivia!

  13. Sharon

    Thanks for sticking with us, Vivian. Love the Save Our Bones and Densercise Programs but you are so good to not to leave us after their purchase. That shows your passion for women’s health. Also like the new ‘print’ feature. You go, girl!

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      We all need to encourage each other, Sharon 🙂 And thanks for your kind words!

  14. Fran

    Love the weekend challenges. Thank you for all the articles you post. The encouragement we receive is a great help to all of us! Keep up the GREAT WORK!

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      You’re very welcome, Fran!

  15. Sheila Hind

    Just an small correction the subscapularis muscle lies under the scapular not on top.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Thanks, Sheila! We corrected the typo 🙂

  16. Helen

    Thank you for this weekend challenge – love the new print option!

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      I’m so glad, Helen!

Get Started With Your FREE
Natural Bone Building Kit.

Get a free copy of our ‘Stop The Bone Thieves’ eBook, exclusive content that you can’t find anywhere else, plus vital osteoporosis news and updates.

Get It Free

Get Your Free Bone-Building Kit


‘Stop The Bone Thieves’ guide, exclusive info, plus vital osteoporosis news and updates.