Upper Back Exercise for Better Posture

If you're like many people, your upper back sags and hurts after a few hours at the computer. One reason for this is that as we scrunch in front of the screen, our chest muscles get tight and the upper back muscles become overstretched and weak. Gone is the support for our upper body posture. To help reverse this habit, try this upper back posture awareness exercise.

A woman putting her hands behind her head
RUNSTUDIO / Digital Vision / Getty Images

A Posture Exercise for Your Upper Back

  1. Sit on a firm chair or stool. (You can stand, too, but sitting will likely help you concentrate better.) Wrap your arms around your ribs as though you were giving yourself a hug. Using your fingers, try to touch your shoulder blades. Your shoulder blades are the fairly large, flat, triangular bones located at your upper back. While in the hug position, you'll likely only be able to touch the outside border of your shoulder blades, on the bottom. That's okay. Walk your fingers in the area and try to find the bottom tip. Release your arms.
  2. Lift your elbows and place your hands behind your head. Squeeze your shoulder blades together. This will work your rhomboid muscles. The rhomboids are diagonally-oriented muscles that connect between the inside border of your shoulder blade and the spine in your upper back area. They tend to get weak when we slump forward for extended periods of time. If you sit at the computer a lot, you're a mom who lifts her children in front, and/or you spend a lot of time in front of the wheel, you likely have weak rhomboids and tight pecs. Hold for the count of 5 and slowly release.
  3. Repeat the shoulder blade squeeze. This time, try to hold an imaginary quarter between your two shoulder blades. If the imaginary quarter image doesn't work for you, think about bringing the tips of the shoulder blades you touched in Step 1 toward one another. Hold for the count of 5 and slowly release.
  4. To make this more challenging, have a friend gently push the bottom tip of your shoulder blades out as you try to pull them in together.


Check to see that the tops of your shoulders stay down — don’t let them rise.

Try Another Posture Exercise for Your Upper Back

Here's another one for your posture. Learn how to stretch your pec muscle to improve your posture.

You might also consider this tutorial on how to sit with good posture.

By Anne Asher, CPT
Anne Asher, ACE-certified personal trainer, health coach, and orthopedic exercise specialist, is a back and neck pain expert.