Weekend Challenge: Upper Back Strength Booster

This Weekend Challenge targets the thoracic vertebrae in the upper back to improve your posture. And you can do it right on your bed. All it takes is a little positioning and a bed edge that’s away from the wall.

So let’s get to it!

Why:

Savers know that the upper back is where kyphosis, or Dowager’s Hump, first manifests. The upper back also reveals postural errors such as Forward Head Posture (FHP), rounded shoulders, and slouching. The latter, milder manifestations can progress into kyphosis if steps are not taken to counteract the slumped position of the thoracic vertebrae.

Additionally, the bone density of the thoracic vertebrae needs to be preserved and increased through targeted exercise in order to prevent compression fractures, which drop the upper spine into even more of a forward arch. Working the upper back muscles stimulates bone density increase of the thoracic vertebrae, a concept that traces its origins to Julius Wolff, a German anatomist who lived in the latter part of the 19th century.

According to Wolff’s Law, healthful stress on bones from muscle pressure and gravity stimulates the bone to build in response to the pressure. This is why astronauts lose bone density in space – there is too little gravity to give their bones the weight-bearing pressure they need.

It is therefore vital to keep the upper backbone strong and functional to prevent slumping and a hunchbacked appearance. However, misaligned thoracic vertebrae affect more than just your appearance.

You see, kyphosis and its cousin, FHP, have tremendously far-reaching health effects that go beyond bone health. From internal organ function to arthritis to your ability to take a deep breath, whether or not the thoracic vertebrae are aligned can have a significant impact on your health.

For more on the health effects of FHP, kyphosis, and poor posture, please read this article:

In our modern world, with ever-increasing use of computer screens, keyboards, desk jobs, and smartphones, it’s all too easy to succumb to a little slouch here, a small slump there, and before you know it, your posture is terrible, and your health is in decline.

The good news is that you can counter this “war” on your posture and come out victorious!

How:

All you need is your bed to do the Upper Back Strength Booster. If you are more comfortable using a bench or even a table, that’s fine too.

  1. Lie on your stomach across your bed. Your chin should be off the edge of the bed, and your arms should be hanging down in front of you.
  2. Make your hands into loose fists and bring your elbows up toward your mid back. Your fists should be knuckles-down.
  3. Hold for a second or two, and then rotate your lower arms upward so that your knuckles are facing forward (as if you are going to punch something in front of you). Your elbows should stay at about the same level.
  4. Straighten your elbows and push your fists forward (think “Superman” position).
  5. Bring your fists back by bending your elbows, and then rotate them downward again as in step 2. Let your fists drop down to the starting position.
  6. Repeat steps 2 through 5 for eight to 10 repetitions.

We suggest you continue your bone-building workout with these previous Weekend Challenges that also target the upper back:

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With these and other exercises for your bones, you can counteract the daily assault on your posture from lifestyle factors that promote FHP and other postural compromises.

Stand tall and have a great weekend!

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12 comments. Leave Yours Now →
  1. Kelsey Fickling June 11, 2018, 12:25 am

    Hello Vivian, I’ve been part of your Community for more than 10 years; and have been saved from Fosamax and the like. I’ve lost more than 2 inches in height and was told I have Scoliosis; I recently had a CTScan for another purpose and in that report it says I have Spondylitis. I’ve googled it and it appears they are different but similar. I see an Osteopath and my “tired” back feels better – I know I need more exercise. I go weekly to a Feldenkrais class and I feel it is wonderful exercise too; I can still get onto the floor and get up unaided. I will be 87 in November. My doctor who oversees my supplements has suggested I have a Prolia injection 6 monthly to arrest my spine moving further – I have great health – but the CTScan shows calcification of my coronary arteries and my aorta in my belly. I know you have written about Prolia before – also the doctor had suggested Strontium a couple of years ago. My last bone density scan showed an improvement in my femur but not in my spine. Looking forward to hearing from you. Blessings Kelsey.(Australia)

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA June 11, 2018, 11:55 am

      If you have scoliosis, Kelsey, and need to do more exercise, you might check with your doctor about this Weekend Challenge and some of the other seated exercises that directly address the spine. Your Feldenkrais class sounds amazing!

      You’re right that I have written about Prolia – try typing “Prolia” into the search bar at the top of the page so you can read up on this drug. 🙂

      • Kelsey Fickling June 15, 2018, 1:57 am

        Thanks Vivian, I’ll read that now (about Prolia). Bless you for your attention to continually update the research. Kelsey.

  2. LW June 9, 2018, 7:50 pm

    I recently learned I have a compression fracture (either mid or lower thoracic) with 70% loss of height in that vertebrae anteriorly. I’m not sure when this happened; probably about 13 months ago when I twisted while removing something from the refrigerator. I’ve had mid-back pain since. A chest x-ray recently (for something else) identified the compression fracture and vertebral loss of height. This is the second compression fracture; the other is L-1 and is old and healed, I’m told. My DEXA a month ago says osteoporosis (T-score -2.6). I’m not on any medications. I’m new to this site and this material, so perhaps you’ve answered this question elsewhere, but I’m wondering if this material and particularly these exercises are appropriate for me, with the fractures already? How important is it to identify specifically which vertebrae has the fracture and loss of height? And what test does this, MRI? Something else? Thank you for any input.

  3. lynette mayo June 9, 2018, 6:55 pm

    There is a lot of confusion about Calcium & Magnesium. I keep seeing articles that we are way to high in calcium & to low in Magnesium. Do we need to take a magnesium each time we eat yogurt or other dairy that is high in calcium.

    • Save Institute Customer Support June 11, 2018, 10:40 am

      Hi Lynette,

      Please check your e-mail for a message from Customer Support. 🙂

  4. Dorothy Jenson June 9, 2018, 5:22 pm

    I see in your list of alkaline foods you list apple cider vinegar. Is this the
    ordinary apple cider vinegar in gallon jugs that can be used for pickling
    or is it Dr Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar? I use a lot of vinegar on my salads.

    • Save Institute Customer Support June 11, 2018, 10:40 am

      Hi Dorothy,

      Please check your e-mail for a message from Customer Support. 🙂

  5. Theda June 9, 2018, 10:04 am

    Now I find out I have scoliosis and a bad Dowagers Hump. I wish my Dr. had found this 5 years ago. I am trying to do some exercises, but not sure what kind. My Dr. says to do chair exercises
    I’m now in my 80’s. Do you have any suggestions?

  6. Carla June 9, 2018, 8:28 am

    This hurts my neck. Is there a modification?

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA June 9, 2018, 9:14 am

      Carla, if this exercise hurts your neck, you should definitely stop. Rather than trying to find a modification of this move, you might benefit from clicking on some of the links to other Weekend Challenges that address the thoracic vertebrae through different movements. Be careful! 🙂

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