Strengthening your upper back will improve your posture for more efficient running.
Written by: Sage Rountree
In my last piece, I described a relaxing backbend that will start to open the front of the chest, an area that grows tight as we sit with our hands on keyboards, notebooks, and steering wheels. Stretching the chest begins to correct this hunch; strengthening the upper back is the second step.
There are many exercises you can do to target this area. Here are some ways to work the upper back progressively.
Take your arms off your shoulders into one of the positions listed below. Retract your shoulder blades, using your rhomboids to pull the scapulae toward each other and toward the spine. Keep your shoulders low throughout the motion and focus on the muscles between the shoulder blades. After ten to fifteen squeezes, rest and repeat for two or three sets. When you feel pleasant fatigue, call it done. You can cycle through each of the positions listed below, or stay with the one that provides a good challenge for you.
*An inverted “V” position, hands off your hips
*A “T” position, arms straight off the shoulders
*A “W” position, elbows bent like cactus arms
*A “V” position, arms overhead
As you begin, start these shoulder squeezes from a standing position. (You can even do them in a chair, at your desk.) As they get more comfortable, challenge yourself by doing them against gravity’s pull, either by squatting and folding from the hips or by resting on your belly on a balance ball or on the floor and lifting your arms toward the ceiling. Wherever your home base is, use your core muscles to support you as you focus on the space between your shoulder blades.
As you progress, you can add resistance by holding light dumbbells, by using the rowing machine at the gym, or simply by wrapping resistance tubing around an anchor and pulling its two ends toward you.
A few weeks of concerted effort will make a big difference. Happily, these exercises need no warmup at all, nor will they induce a sweat, so you can slot them in a few times each day. Complement this strength-building work with daily relaxation over a bolster, and you’ll see great progress in your posture both during your runs and throughout the day.
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Sage Rountree is author of The Athlete’s Guide to Yoga and The Athlete’s Pocket Guide to Yoga. In addition to teaching yoga workshops nationwide, she is an active coach with certifications from USA Triathlon and the RRCA.