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Simply Fit, by Cindy Haskin-Popp, will help you make physical activity a part of everyday life. The health benefits of regular exercise and overall daily physical activity will be discussed. Fun, practical and easy-to-follow tips on an exercise program will be shared, as will the most current research. Fitness tips for families and seniors, on fitness centers and on buying proper and affordable equipment will be regularly given. 

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Build A Stronger Upper Back

A strong upper back will help you to perform your day-to-day tasks with greater ease. The muscles of your upper back, neck, shoulder, and scapular region are recruited when you have to perform home maintenance tasks (e.g., shoveling the snow and mopping the floors), child care activities (e.g., giving your baby or grandchild a bath), and other daily responsibilities (e.g., walking the dog). Even driving a car requires recruitment of these muscle groups.

Pictured below are some simple exercises devoted to strengthening and stretching your upper back muscles. No gym required. These exercises can be performed in your own home. All you need is a resistance band and a backless chair or bench.

Lat Pull-Down: Works upper back, scapular, and shoulder muscles. Strengthens neck stabilizers.
Step One: While holding the resistance band in both hands, extend your arms above your head, shoulder-width apart.
Step Two: Lower your arms behind your head, bringing your elbows toward your sides while you pull your hands apart. Hold for a count of 2. Return to starting position. Repeat. Perform 2-3 sets of 8-10 repetitions.

Lateral Arm Raise: Works shoulder and arm muscles. Strengthens neck and scapula stabilizers.
Step One: Place your left arm behind your back, at hip level, with elbow bent. With the resistance band in both hands, extend your right arm about 6 inches away from your right hip.
Step Two: Raise your right arm to shoulder level, while maintaining the position of your left hand. Hold for a count of two. Return to the starting position. Repeat. Perform 2-3 sets of 8-10 repetitions per side.

Scapular Squeeze Stretch: Stretches upper back muscles.
Step One: Place your hands on your hips, with elbows bent and out to your sides.
Step Two: Pull your shoulders back, bringing your elbows toward each other while pushing your back forward. Hold for a count of 5. Return to the starting position. Repeat 3-4 times.

Lateral Stretch: Stretches neck, shoulder, and upper back (Latissimus Dorsi) muscles.
Technique: Bring your right arm up and behind your head. Hold your right elbow with your left hand. Bend to your left while you pull your right elbow to the left with your left hand. Hold for a count of 5. Relax. Repeat. Perform 3-4 exercises per side.

Another great upper back strengthening exercise is the seated horizontal row pictured in my July 17, 2009 post, "Sculpt your Upper Body in your Own Backyard: Session One." For information on proper lifting technique, refer to my June 3, 2009 post, "Tips for a Healthy Back."

Note: Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.

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