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Back Exercises that Help Postural Kyphosis

author image Kyle Arsenault
Kyle Arsenault is a performance coach, author and former intern of the renown Cressey Performance. Now working with Momentum PT, he specializes in combining principles of physical therapy with strength and conditioning to enhance overall performance for his competitive athletes as well as his general population athletes.
Back Exercises that Help Postural Kyphosis
Neck pain is one undesirable result of kyphosis. Photo Credit: AndreyPopov/iStock/Getty Images

If you enjoy looking confident and healthy, and you're not a fan of back pain, neck pain, headaches and other physical detriments, preventing or correcting a kyphotic posture, or excessive rounding of the upper back and spine, a priority.

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Computers, phones and other personnel devices are used daily. Your job or schooling requires that you sit for a majority of the day. Along with that, commonly performed exercises such as crunches, Russian twists and bench pressing reinforce a kyphotic posture.

These daily activities and exercises result in lengthened and weakened muscles of the upper back, and the muscles that run along the spine, which is an issue as these are the muscles that combat a kyphotic posture.

To reverse, or at the very least mitigate, the negative results of a kyphotic posture, strengthen these muscles with exercises that target the upper back and shoulder blade region, and do so with proper execution.

1. Wallslide to Liftoff

The wall slide to liftoff helps you extend the upper back and decompress the spine, which combats the kyphotic posture.

Face a wall with your forearms on the wall. Keep your abs engaged as you slide the forearms up the wall. At the top position pinch your shoulder blades together and tip them backwards, lifting your arms off of the wall.

As you do the movement, feel the shoulder blades moving up and around the ribcage with the wall slide, and with the liftoff portion you should feel the muscles of the upper back working to bring the shoulder blades together and tip them backwards.

2. Face Pulls

The Face Pull exercise targets the mid and lower traps as well as the rhomboids. These are the muscles that are largely responsible for providing and maintaining the “shoulder blade” back position, which again helps to prevent the rounded kyphotic posture.

Use a cable with a rope attachment. Grab the rope with a thumbs down grip. Keep your abs engaged as you pull the rope towards your face, using your upper back muscles to pinch the shoulder blades together.

3. Rowing Variations

When executed while keeping the chest up and upper back extended, rowing variations will help to also strengthen the upper back muscles responsible for keeping the spine and shoulder blades from rounding forward.

Variations such as single-arm dumbbell rows, suspension trainer rows, cable rows and bench chest supported rows are all highly effective. All follow the basic principle of pulling resistance back so that you engage your middle and upper back muscles.

For the TRX Row makes sure to keep the abs engaged as you use the upper back muscles to bring your shoulder blades together to pull yourself up.

When performing the single-arm dumbbell row, make sure to sit back into an athletic position with one hand on a box or bench. Keep the abs engaged and back flat as you row a dumbbell up. Focus on bringing the shoulder blade of the working arm across the upper back and towards the spine.

Using a bench positioned at a 30- to 45-degree incline, lie down with your chest and stomach on the bench. Holding a pair of dumbbells, keep you abs engaged and row the dumbbells up as you bring your shoulder blades together. Hold the top position for a second.

Key Points to Remember While Performing These Exercises

Ensure that these exercises are working to correct or prevent kyphosis by paying attention to the following:

  • Focus on extending the upper back; imagine lengthening out the upper back and getting tall as you set up for each exercise.
  • Use the upper back muscles to complete the exercises. If you feel the fronts of the shoulders you're likely pulling with the arms and not the shoulder blades.
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