Weekend Challenge: Thoracic Back Press - Save Our Bones

I’m always looking for ways to help you build your bones, especially in areas most prone to fracture. So I’m really excited to bring you this weekend’s challenge: the Thoracic Back Press.

Today’s exercise prevents vertebral fractures because it works critical muscle groups in your middle back, where your thoracic vertebrae are located. It’s specifically designed to build bone density in your spine, and it also strengthens mid-back muscles that play an important role in deep breathing and posture.

Why: The condition of your vertebrae and by extension, your posture, depend on your back muscles, because they keep your vertebrae aligned and strong.

Let’s take a closer look at the muscles that the Thoracic Back Press is designed to tone and strengthen, in addition to increasing vertebral density.

Superficial muscles are closest to the skin, and they include the following muscles:

  • The Trapezius (sometimes called the “traps”) forms a triangular sheet of muscle that originates at the base of the skull and the 7th cervical vertebrae, then fans out and attaches to the clavicle (collar bone) and scapula (shoulder blades). It then runs down and attaches to the 1st through 12th Thoracicc vertebrae (T1-T12).
  • The Latissimus dorsi (sometimes called the “lats”) are also a roughly triangular sheet of muscle. They originate at the 6th through 12th thoracic vertebrae (T6-T12) and insert at the top of your humerus, or upper arm bone.
    The Thoracic Back Press also works the levator scapulae, rhomboid major, and rhomboid minor.

Looking a bit deeper, we find the intermediate muscles. These are called the respiratory muscles, and for good reason. They all begin at the vertebrae and end at the ribs, playing a key role in your ability to expand your rib cage and take a deep breath. The intermediate muscles include:

  • The Levatores costarum, which begins at the 7th cervical vertebrae (C7) and the first 11 Thoracicc vertebrae (T1-T11), and inserts at all the ribs. Its role is to raise your ribs when you breathe in.
  • The Serratus posterior superior is attached to the top ribs and also raises them when you breathe in; and the Serratus posterior inferior attaches to the few lowest ribs and lowers them when you exhale.

Also included in the deep muscles are the Splenius, Erector Spinae, and Transversospinalis. All of these work to extend your neck and trunk, and help stabilize your core.

There are more groups and sub-groups, but these are the main ones. Clearly, back muscles are a very complex network of living tissue that needs to be nourished and strengthened.

When you work these muscles with proper form, the bone where the muscles attach responds to the force and pressure by increasing density. And your posture will improve as well, especially if you sit still for long periods, which causes the muscles that hold you straight to get weak and misaligned.

So it’s vital to move and exercise these muscles to offset the unhealthy effects of sitting.

How: To perform this exercise, you’ll need a couple of 1-pound weights, or you can use cans of food (or whatever is handy). You’ll also need an exercise mat or carpet.

  1. Kneel down on one knee. The other leg should be bent and your foot in front of you, flat on the floor.
  2. Lean slightly against the forward leg.
  3. With a weight in each hand, extend your arms behind you so your palms are facing upward, and your arms are parallel to your ribs, roughly at a 45 degree angle to the floor. Your hands will extend slightly beyond your bottom.
  4. Using your middle back muscles, slowly lift your arms slightly and press your shoulders back, while pushing your chest out. If you’re doing this move correctly, you will feel your thoracic muscles contracting.
  5. Slowly lower your arms and relax your shoulders to the starting position and repeat.

Do 3 sets of 8 or as many as you comfortably can.


  • Don’t bend your arms. Try to keep them straight throughout the exercise.
  • Your back should be straight – no excessive curve in your lower back, and don’t let your back round out.
  • Push down through your forward foot.
  • Move slowly and deliberately, using your back muscles rather than your arms.

I hope you can practice this exercise on a regular basis, because you will most certainly see (and feel!) the results. And please be sure to share your experience with our community by leaving a comment below.

Till next time,

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Comments on this article are closed.

  1. Anne

    Dear Vivian: I enjoy your weekly challenges, I have a question. I have Severe Osteoporosis. I have 10 Fractured (compressed) Vertebraes. The last one being a month ago from a very bad fall that fractured my T-10. I am slowly recuperating, Can I do any of these excerizes , or will they injure me more ? I am following your Book to the T, with mostly Alkalizing foods, veggies etc. My Medical Doctor wants to put me on Teriparatide, injections every day for 2 yrs to increase my bone density, last year it was Denosumab… I HAVE NOT done any of these Drugs, needless to say my Doctor is very upset with me that I will not go on these Drugs. I sneeze and crack a rib. Do you have any MAGIC in your bag of information to help me. I am a very petite woman, and have been eating healthy for many years. Thank you. Anne

  2. Gloria van Eeden

    Great exercise ! Different I do Pilates but this is a very unusual exercise and I am sure will help my Dowagers Hump which is starting. Will persevere! Thanks for your wonderful exercises and informative articles.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Great attitude, Gloria! Have you looked at all the information on Dowager’s Hump on the Save Our Bones site? Here’s a link to a post on this topic that can help you get started:


      Then you can simply do a search for “Dowager’s Hump” using the Search feature on the site, and find even more information! 🙂

  3. Mary Walsh

    Thanks Vivian for this really useful exercise. I would also love a DVD to work from.it would be good to have classes for your exercises especially aimed at helping our bones. You are so generous with your advice. Thanks again.

  4. maggie

    Vivian, thanks so much. I will start doing this today, I recently carried a heavy himalayan salt lamp into the house when I bought it, it must weigh about 35 or 40 pds, Mistake!
    I ended up with a compressed T-5 or T6 vertebra/ not much can be done about it. I am on chemo and that weakens the bones, so I did great damge to my spine.
    this exercise is just what I need!!! I am so grateful to you for bringing this up.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Maggie, I am so sorry to hear about your fractures! But I am so glad that the timing of this post is right for you. 🙂

  5. Marg

    Will this exercise help sciactica?

  6. Kelsey Fickling

    Vivian I have been unable to access my emails for many,many months. My computer crashed just after I had downloaded a program of exercises from you. However this new exercise for the thoracic area appear to be what I most need. When I lie on my back at an exercise class the pain is almost unbearable, but after a few exercises it recovers. The classes are Feldenkrais and are so good for me. I will certainly do these you reccommend too. I have a new email address kelseyfickling@gmail.com

  7. rhondda

    Sitting lots of the day at my desk ain’t good – so delighted to get this link.
    Immediately dropped into position and completed 2 sets, much to the amusement of my colleagues.
    Thanks, keep ’em coming

  8. L,D.

    Hi Vivian, This one may indeed give me what I need to become upright once again. My ribs are really uncomfortable with weird feelings when I make certain movements. I am definitely suffering from Dowagers position and the additional exercise could be the magic I seek. As with one of the other gals, I’ll need to do this with a chair at least until I can get back up from the floor if I could safely get there. Thanks for the post, it should help a great deal. L.D.

  9. Allie

    Thanks Vivian for the great exercises but like Lacey and all the others I would prefer them on DVD too.

  10. Vivian Wawsczyk

    I am looking for your email that referenced “Nature City” for a capsule that is supposed to slow bone loss plus increase bone density. I am interested in purchasing these capsules. Thank you.

  11. Kathryn

    I have Charcot foot and wear a brace. Can I do this exercise from a chair as I can not get down on one or both knees. Thank you!

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Definitely do what’s comfortable, Kathryn! Feel free to adapt elements of any exercise to fit your particular needs. 🙂

  12. Ann

    I have a whiplash injury that is taking forever to heal and this exercise targets the exact area that is causing me problems. I will be trying it out.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      I am so glad this exercise is just what you need, Ann. 🙂

  13. Faye Murphy

    I have a question instead of a comment. Would this Thoracic Back exercise be safe to do if you have torn rotator cuffs in both shoulders?

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Your best bet is to ask your health practitioner, Faye, so hold off until then.

  14. Sandra

    Do you stay on the same knee the whole time, or do you swap legs at some point?

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      It’s a good idea to swap legs if you do many repetitions or if you’re starting to feel discomfort in that position. Otherwise, you can keep the same knee bent 🙂

  15. shula

    Many thanks for the extra explanations of how each exercise helps the bones.

  16. Lynette

    Great exercise! This can also be done over a ball adding a stability challenge as well.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Good suggestion, Lynette!

  17. LynnCS

    I’m with the others. This looks like exactly what I’ve been looking for. It also helps to get down on the floor and up again, an exercise I was practicing before my ankle break. Now that I’m better, I’m getting back to all those important exercises. Yep, get down on the floor and up again ten times a couple times a day. Just like any daily use exercise…if we don’t use it, we lose it. Thanks, Vivian for this great web site and for the book. I use it daily. Lynn

  18. Carole Johnson

    WOW! I have been searching for an exercise that targets the middle of the back. I tried bent over rows and pulled a muscle. Your way sounds
    like it will really work. I can tell just hearing you describe it that this is the exercise I have been wanting to find. You have some really unique exercises. I want to add my voice to the people who want the densercize DVD. Thanks for all your research and sharing so much. Carole Johnson

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      I’m so glad you like this weekend’s exercise, Carole!

  19. Marjorie Wilcox

    HI: As I have mentioned in my earlier email – I really appreciate your web-site. I have another question – I am developing a curvature in my upper thoracic/cervical area (known as “dowager”s hump, terrible name!) Do you know what I could do to alleviate this condition or stop it from progressing? Thank you. I realize this area is for comments and my two emails have been questions, I hope this is Ok???

    • Sue Airey

      Me too, would be interested in the reply, if possible.

  20. live4ever

    If we don’t have the DVD maybe you could do the drawings on an app for our phones. I think the portability and accessiblity would encourage us to actually do it. For instance, i could follow your exercises while i am at the gym by using my phone app. What do you think?

  21. Ambleton Wray

    I thing this exercise should help in back pains

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Let us know how this exercise works for you, Ambleton! Many times, pain is relieved when muscles and bones are strengthened and aligned. 🙂

  22. Christopher

    As an elderly person, I was wondering if loss of calcium or whatever from your teeth is link to bone loss. Is there any way to prevent this? Is there any way that what is loss from the teeth can be regrown and strengthen?

    The sudden loss seems to be linked to diabetes and other similar ailment. Is it the ailment itself or is it the drugs that one take for the condition?

    • Lacey

      Thanks for the great exercises, but PLEASE very seriously continue working toward the development of an actual DVD of you demonstrating the various moves and developing an actual exercise regimen that could be varied weekly or perhaps daily.

      I would love to own the Densercise program, but find following along in an ebook or even a regular book very difficult as well as boring. An exercise video of this bone building program could be essential to the success of us trying to rebuild or maintain our bones! I know others have echoed my comments as well so I know many of us would purchase this DVD.

      Thank you in advance for your consideration and hopefully the development of such an exercise DVD.

      • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

        Thanks for your feedback, Lacey! I’m afraid there’s not a Densercise DVD in the works, but if that ever changes, I’ll be sure to alert the community! 🙂

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