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Senior Exercises That Help Strengthen Your Upper Back

6 min read

By Clarissa Vanner

When it comes to exercise, the upper back is often overlooked. But it shouldn’t be! Especially for people who spend most of the day sitting. Maintaining a strong upper back can promote better posture, help prevent back pain and injury, and improve your mobility.

Thankfully there are plenty of exercises you can start doing now that will help strengthen your upper back. Better yet, most of these exercises require very little equipment which means you can do them at home. Let’s explore these 10 senior exercises that help strengthen your upper back. Don’t forget to speak with your doctor before starting a new workout regimen.

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Wide Bent-Over Row

This exercise will target your lats, delts, and core. Your lats help protect and stabilize your spine while your delts are responsible for lifting your arms and giving your arms its range of motion. Targeting these muscles will help increase the strength in your upper back.

To get started, stand with your feet hip-width apart and maintain a slight bend in your knees. Next, bend at the hips and lean your chest forward until it is parallel with the ground. It’s important to ensure your core is engaged and maintain a straight back (you don’t want to hunch over).

Next, allow your arms to hang down and keep your palms facing your body. Next, bring your elbows up and out while squeezing your shoulder blades together. Release your arms back down and then try to repeat for 10 repetitions. Start by performing this exercise without weights and then add weights when you feel ready and comfortable.

Dumbbell Reverse Flys

This is a great exercise that targets your upper back. While performing this exercise, make sure you keep your spine in a neutral position and keep your head and eyes looking forward not down. This will help prevent injury.

Begin by sitting on an exercise ball with your feet flat on the floor and the dumbells at your sides with your palms facing inwards. Next, lean over until your chest is just above your knees. Then raise your arms, bringing the dumbells to shoulder height. Do not lock your elbows and try to keep your arms straight. Finally, slowly lower the dumbells back to the starting position and try to repeat for 10 reps.

Note: if you find it hard to balance on the exercise ball you can perform this exercise in a chair that doesn’t have armrests.

Shoulder Rolls

If you want to strengthen your back and maintain flexibility in your shoulders then try performing shoulder rolls. Maintaining motion in your shoulders is important for being able to reach items on high shelves, removing clothing from your upper body, and more.

This exercise can be performed seated. Sit up tall in a comfortable, supportive chair and then raise both shoulders up, back, then down creating a circular motion. Try to repeat this exercise 10 times before resting.

Wall Push-Ups

Push-ups are a great exercise that can help strengthen your upper back and chest. If you can’t perform a traditional push-up, don’t fret! Wall push-ups are a great modification for seniors that still offers plenty of benefits.

Begin by standing about a few feet away from the wall. Place your hands on the wall about shoulder-width apart and at shoulder height. Next, while maintaining a straight and upright core, bend your elbows to lower your chest toward the wall. As you lean into the wall, allow your heels to come slightly off the floor. Finally, pressing through your hands, straighten your elbows to return to the starting position. Try to repeat for 10 reps.

Overhead Reach

An overhead reach is another great exercise that promotes strength in your upper back and helps you maintain range of motion in your shoulders. Exercising these muscles is important for being able to do daily tasks like reaching above your head and in front of you too.

To get started, sit up tall in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Interlock your hands and place them on your lap. Take a deep breath in and as you exhale raise your interlocked hands above your head. Hold this position for a few seconds before lowering back to the starting position. Try to repeat for 10 repetitions.

Upward Plank

An upward plank is an effective exercise that targets the upper back. It’s also a great option if you aren’t able to perform traditional planks that require you to get down and up from the floor. In addition to targeting your upper back, upward planks will also help improve flexibility in the shoulders as well as help strengthen your abdominal muscles.

Begin by sitting on a yoga mat with your legs straight out. Next, place your hands down at your sides with your palms resting on the mat and fingers facing your feet. Press your hands down onto the floor and slowly lift your hips until your torso is parallel to the floor. Hold this position for about 10 seconds before lowering back down. Try to repeat for 10 reps.

Alternating Superman

The alternating superman exercise target your upper back, glutes, and core. Together, this will help strengthen your balance and coordination. Keep in mind this exercise is performed on the floor so make sure you use a cushioned mat.

Get on all fours and ensure your knees are directly under your hips and your hands are under your shoulders. Next, at the same time, lift your right arm to shoulder height and reach out in front of you while also lifting your left leg straight behind you. Keep your core tight and your back flat to create a straight line from your toes to your fingertips. Hold this position for a few seconds before lowering. Repeat with the other side and then try to repeat for about 10 reps per side.

Close Grip Floor Press

This upper body exercise will target your upper body and specifically your triceps, chest, and shoulders. You’ll need to perform the exercise on the floor so grab a cushioned mat before starting.

Lie on the mat with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and bend your elbows to 90-degrees keeping your upper arms on the floor. Take a deep breath in and on the exhale, press the dumbells up toward the ceiling. Then lower the weights and try to repeat for 10 reps.

Seated Dumbell Row

A seated dumbbell row will help strengthen your upper back, biceps, and shoulders. Begin by sitting on the floor on a cushioned mat. Lean slightly back with your knees bent and feet on the ground.

Next, grab a set of dumbells (whatever weight you’re comfortable with) and hold them out in front of your body with your arms straight and palms facing inward. Bring the dumbbells in at chest level and squeeze your elbows behind your back as far as you can comfortably. Return to the starting position and try to repeat for 10 reps.

Note: If you have access to a gym, you can also perform this exercise with cables as seen in the photo below.

Dumbbell Floor Pullover

This exercise targets your chest and your latissimus dorsi, also known as lats. Start by lying flat on your back on a cushioned mat. Keep your feet flat on the floor about hip-width apart.

Next, place your hands on either side of the dumbbell. Take a deep breath in and as you exhale bring the dumbbell straight overhead. Then return to the starting position and try to repeat for 10 reps.

Junior Managing Editor

Clarissa is the Junior Managing Editor of ActiveBeat. She aspires to live a healthy lifestyle by staying active and eating foods that nourish her body, but she isn't afraid to indulge in a little chocolate here and there! Clarissa loves cooking, being outdoors, and spending time with her dog. In her free time, you'll find her relaxing in her hammock or curled up on the couch reading a book.



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