Gyms, running or walking are great for working out our lower bodies, legs or specific muscles, but our upper backs often get forgotten or are under challenged. It’s an important area, not least because of its connection to healthy neck and rib movements. So why not try these exercises in between all that sitting or whilst you watch t.v?
The snake wriggle
Sit with feet flat on the floor, preferably on something with a bit of spring like a mattress or sofa, cross your arms & hold onto your shoulders. Now try to produce a continuous & rhythmic side to side motion through your upper back – so it does a snake-like movement. The bounce in the sofa or mattress will help produce some recoil & spring that helps with the movement. As a variation, try taking in and holding a deep breath whilst doing this.
Freestyle no-arms “air swimming” (like air guitar!)
Sit like before, but this time imagine doing the free style swimming movement with your shoulders. This is similar to the snake wiggle above, but it adds an extra dimension of rotation with each shoulder describing circles in a forwards-backwards direction.
Painting overhead circles with straight arms
This is a good one for those with rather curved and stiff mid backs, and for people who hardly ever use their arms above their heads anymore. Often shoulder tightness with overhead movements and upper back stiffness go hand in hand. Sit down, straighten your arms and link your fingers. Imagine you’re holding a paint brush and you want to paint a large circle on the ceiling above your head. If you have a stiff upper back which curves forward your body might try to compensate for the lack of movement there (and in your shoulders) by making your lower back arch back more. Don’t let it! If it’s a mission getting your arms up there and it feels quite stiff and tight, don’t force it. Work at those circles slowly and see if you can gradually persuade the arms and upper back to move further up and back . Try to widen the circle as you go along. If you get any nasty pinching in the shoulder, stop. This is probably a separate shoulder impingement problem which doesn’t need aggravating. If you have this condition, we can usually help, so do call.
Sideways bending & rotating
Sit on a firm surface with your feet on the floor, and hold onto your elbows. Now simply use the muscles of your back to bend your back to one side as far as you can & hold that position for a few seconds. Try not to use your feet to help – just your back muscles. The rotation part (illustrated) is simple. Instead of bending to one side, you simply twist your shoulders round as far as you can to one side & then the other. Hold the end position for a few seconds. Repeat as much as you like till you feel you’ve got more or easier movement.
Well, if you want a more natural, sociable or fun way of moving your upper back, then swimming, racket sports or any sport involving random twisting, bending and turning of the spine or use of the shoulder will help. Paddle boarding also comes to mind – assuming, of course, that you use the correct technique involving a spinal twist to power your strokes rather than just your arms.