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Last Updated on December 16, 2020

7 Killer Upper Back Stretches to Reduce Pain and Boost Endurance

7 Killer Upper Back Stretches to Reduce Pain and Boost Endurance
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Building and maintaining a strong upper back depends not only on strength-training, but stretching and nutrition as well. Stretching the upper back muscles, along with a healthy diet can help alleviate pain while improving endurance.

Did you know that stretching your upper back builds endurance for sports, your job – which may require heavy lifting – and simple, everyday activities? Many people who exercise don’t recognize the importance of having a strong upper back, and often neglect this part of the body, focusing more on the lower back where injuries are more prone to occur.

Upper back endurance is necessary for runners, hikers, golfers, tennis players, bowlers, cyclists; the list goes on and on. If saving time is important to you, you want to reduce chronic back pain, boost your energy levels, or you simply need ways to get through a day at the office while confined to a computer, you’ll begin to understand why the following upper back stretches and exercises are necessary.

Here are seven stretches, combined with exercises, to help you maintain a strong upper back:

1. Lat Pull-Downs

By contracting and lengthening your latissimus dorsi muscles, trapezius, deltoids, rhomboids, teres major, along with the other muscles groups in and around your upper back, you are building muscle endurance and increasing mobility.

Seated at a lat pull-down machine, select a weight stack that is comfortable. Remember, you’re not preparing for a bodybuilding competition, you just want to exercise the back, so heavy weight is unnecessary.

Grab the wide bar above your head, palms down, and using a wide grip, pull the bar down to your chest and contract your upper back muscles.

Keep your head up, looking at the bar. This also helps keep your spine straight and provides a clearance so that the bar doesn’t hit your face. Slowly return the bar to the top and repeat for 15 reps. Do three to four sets.

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Here’s the correct technique by Denice Moberg:

2. Indoor Rowing

If upright exercises like walking on the treadmill or running outdoors bore you, you can strengthen your core using a rowing machine. Not only will you chisel your back, but the elongation of the upper back during the stroke motion creates a good stretch.

First, select a tension that is challenging but not a struggle. Make sure that your feet are securely placed in the machine’s foot straps, nice and tight to prevent the feet from moving while rowing.

Next, slide yourself in the rowing saddle forward toward the row bar and pull the bar toward the mid-section of your trunk area, which is the finish. Pulling the bar, bring your elbows beyond your back while contracting your upper muscles and rear shoulders.

Your back should be straight with a slight angle of around 100 degrees. Do not hunch.

During the catch, your legs should be at a 90 degree angle while locking out your arms completely. As a stretching exercise, repeat this motion for five minutes.

Here’s how you can do it:

3. Side Plank Rotation

If you’re short on time, floor exercises such as planks strengthen your core and can be done at home or during your lunch break at work. They can be done in 30 to 60 second increments.

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There are a few plank variations:

The low-position forearm plank in which your body weight is supported by your elbows; the straight-arm plank, which is a high-position plank; side plank in which your body is turned to one side and supported by one straightened arm; the stability-ball plank which is more challenging for your trunk; and the plank that gives you a good stretch is the side plank rotation.

To begin the side plank rotation, begin in the high plank position. Slowly turn your body to one side while stacking one foot on top of the other. Extend the opposite arm toward the ceiling and as you lower your arm, reaching underneath your body and rotating your trunk.

Done properly, you will feel the stretch along your rhomboids and shoulders. Repeat the rotation – reaching and tucking – 10 times. Switch sides.

Here’s a Side Plank Rotation demonstrated by Train Aggressive:

4. Yoga Stretches

A good way to incorporate breathing with stretching and gain flexibility in your core is Kundalini yoga – an intense yoga practice – gets your blood flowing and works wonders for the spine and posture.

The “Cat-Cow” pose is a great upper back warm-up, and when combined with the “Breath Of Fire”[1] or “fast breathing,” energy is sent through the entire body which stimulates the flow of cell activity and increases lung capacity.

On all fours, arms straight and directly below your shoulders, and knees directly below your hips, hunch your back, inhaling as you tuck your head into your chest, then exhale while arching your back and raise your head toward to sky.

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The rapid inhaling and exhaling in this exercise is known as the “Breath Of Fire,” as mentioned above. Increase the pace of both the “Cat-Cow” and “Breath Of Fire” and repeat this movement for up to five minutes.

This is how to do a Cat-Cow pose for energy:

5. Side Bends

This is a simple stretch to elongate the space between your ribs and increase range of motion, which helps achieve flexibility in the abdominals, spine, and lateral core.

Seated or standing with your back straight, raise your arms above your head and firmly hold your wrist. Gently pull your trunk to one side and hold for 20 to 30 seconds. When finished, repeat on opposite side.

Note: If standing, keep your feet shoulder width apart, if seated keep your feet flat on the floor.

Let’s take a look at how to do a standing side bend:

6. Pole Stretch

By creating opposing force and pulling on a stationary object, you are stretching your lats. The upper sides of your back. Here, you are performing a static stretch which is a stretch held beyond its normal range.

Find a pole, mounted gym apparatus, or other floor-affixed object and, while standing, pull on the object with slightly bent knees and back flat at a 45-degree angle.

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Continue to pull while extending your arms, feeling the stretch in your lats and rhomboid muscles. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat if needed.

7. Shoulder Blade Stretch

The shoulder blades are connected to the rhomboid muscles in the upper back. Sudden, quick movements like pulling a heavy object or even tossing a near-weightless object overhead, like a tennis ball during a serve, can strain the unstretched muscles between your shoulder blades, causing spasms.

Here’s how to avoid muscle strain:

Standing tall with feet shoulder width apart, gently pull your elbow across your chest, just beneath your chin, and hold for 15 seconds. If you do not feel immediate relief, try lowering or raising the elbow and perform the stretch again. Different angles can make a big difference.

There you have it – Seven upper back stretches and exercises to reduce pain and improve endurance. But while upper back stretches are important, a diet rich in antioxidants is equally key.

Bonus Tip: Getting a Diet Rich in Antioxidants

Antioxidants, also known as “Super Foods,” prevent the build up of free radicals in your body and control oxidative stress. These free radicals are toxins that get in the way of endurance, flexibility, and cause inflammation, among other fitness obstacles.

How do you incorporate antioxidants into your diet? Here are some common foods and beverages rich in antioxidants:

A good combination of quick and easy targeted cardiovascular exercises, static stretches, range-of-motion stretches, and yoga poses can increase upper back endurance and boost your energy levels, making your activities – both sedentary and active – manageable and fun.

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Once you begin to incorporate these methods of relief into your routine, you will begin to walk taller, run farther, and hike longer!

Editors’ Picks on Stretching Exercises

Featured photo credit: Geert Pieters via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Yogapedia: Breath of Fire

More by this author

Terri West

Certified Fitness Trainer & Nutrition Specialist

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Published on July 30, 2021

7 Best Resistance Bands to Work Out at Home

7 Best Resistance Bands to Work Out at Home
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Looking for the ideal way to build up strength at home can be challenging, especially if you don’t have that much space to get workout equipment or build your own home gym. Besides using your own body weight, you can make use of a resistance band, a simple tool to help with your workout at home. These bands provide enough challenges where you can build your strength from various exercises. One of their main benefits is that they allow you to strengthen your natural body movement patterns.[1] They are also very small and won’t take up much space in your home.

Resistance bands are designed to simulate weight lifting. While these bands are very light, the various movements you’ll be doing will be met with resistance depending on the band that you got. For this list, I’ve picked out some of the best ones that you can use to build up your strength at home.

How We Picked the Best Resistance Bands

Before diving into the list, here are the criteria that we used to determine the best resistance bands available on the market:

  • Type – Each type of band here is based on the popular options of bands. Things like loop bands, tube bands, circle bands, and figure-eight bands are popular options. Each type has its own perks depending on the exercise that you are doing or want to do.
  • Weight range – Since you’re not using free weights, you’ll want the weight range to go from simple to challenging over time. Each of these packs will allow you to easily do this.
  • Material – Because these products are bands, you’ll find most of them to be made of rubber or latex. These bands provide either one or the other material. For more elasticity in the bands, latex is the better option.

1. Best Overall: Fit Simplify Resistance Bands

    For those looking for classic resistance band sets, this set has got you covered. It comes with five rubber resistance loops that are thick, durable, and won’t harm your skin. Each loop offers a resistance level between two and 30 pounds, making them ideal to scale up intensity levels during workouts.

    These are the best overall because you can work from really low levels before building up in intensity. You also don’t have to worry about mixing up your loops either as they’re all color-coded and have their intensity levels marked.

    Pick up Fit Simplify’s Resistance Bands here.

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    2. Best Budget Resistance Bands: Insonder Bands Set

      While resistance bands are generally cheap when compared to other workout equipment, some products can offer more value for the price you pay. Out of the many we looked at, the best budget-friendly ones are the bands from Insonder.

      They offer a resistance level of 15 and going up to 40 pounds. They’re also made of latex so, unlike other brands, they’re stretchier and will last longer and provide additional comfort when you use them.

      While the starting weight is ideal for those who are familiar with bands already, these are also great if you’ve got some experience with bands or you’re looking to challenge yourself.

      Purchase Insonder’s Resistance Bands here.

      3. Best Set: Kootek 18-Pack Resistance Bands Set

        Most resistance band sets are very straightforward with what you get—five (or possibly more) of a certain style of resistance bands with varying degrees of intensity. However, some resistance band sets offer incredible value that extends beyond that.

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        Consider the one from Kootek, which offers 18 bands. What’s amazing about this set is that they provide different combinations of bands. Through this set you’ll get:

        • Five latex resistance loops (that offer between five and 40 pounds of resistance)
        • Five resistance tubes (offering ten and 50 pounds of resistance)
        • Two handles
        • Two ankle straps
        • A door anchor

        It’s incredible value for the price if you don’t mind having all this equipment at home.

        Purchase Kootek’s 18-Pack Resistance Bands here.

        4. Best for Glutes: Peach Bands Resistance Bands Set

          Another classic resistance band brand is Peach Bands. This brand has always focused on lower-body workouts, and their bands haven’t changed since then. That said, these bands are made of latex, which promises to be lightweight, durable, and stretchy.

          These bands are also very beginner-friendly, starting with 10-pound options and going up to 35 pounds.

          Buy Peach Bands Resistance Bands here.

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          5. Best for Flexibility: TheraBand Resistance Band Set

            Traditional loop bands are ideal if you’re looking to build up strength as they tend to offer great resistance. That said, all that weight doesn’t necessarily make you use your full range of motion. This is a big problem if your goal is to improve your flexibility. Traditional bands can’t help in that area at all, but resistance straps can.

            TheraBand is one of the best brands we found that offer resistance straps to help with flexibility. Each strap is five feet long and five inches wide, allowing you to perform all kinds of exercises.

            Naturally, the weight range for these is limited to 4.3 and 6.7 pounds, but the focus is on stretching your muscles rather than building strength.

            Purchase TheraBand Resistance Bands here.

            6. Best Non-Slip: RenoJ Bands Set

              RenoJ’s Booty Band Resistance set offers three resistance loops ranging from two to seven pounds. While these bands are fewer in number and offer less weight range, the key selling point for these bands is that they’re not going to be slipping at all when you’re performing exercises.

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              The reason these won’t be slipping is that their material is made of fabric. The fabric allows you to grip easier, provides you further comfort, and is even more durable than latex. This is a big deal as people’s skin can get irritated by latex or have to deal with latex-type bands slipping and sliding while doing exercises. With these, you can have peace of mind that they’ll not be slipping off.

              Buy RenoJ Resistance Bands here.

              7. Most Durable: SPRI Braided Xertube Bands

                The final of the best resistance bands we’re offering is the SPRI Braided Xertube resistance bands. Their main selling point is the fact that these bands are the most durable out of all the options here.

                Tube bands are already quite durable on their own, but these bands are braided to provide further durability. They also offer great levels of resistance ranging between 12.5 and 62.5 pounds so you can easily find bands to suit your needs. The only catch is that each of the bands offered is sold separately.

                Buy SPRI Braided Xertube Resistance Bands here.

                Final Thoughts

                Depending on your exercising needs, you can find all kinds of resistance bands to fit your needs. If you’re new to resistance bands, try out some of the lower weighted bands and work your way upwards until you want to go for higher intensity. For those who are more experienced, dive into some of the higher-level ones and work through some quality bands that were built to last.

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                You can check out this guide for some resistance band exercises:

                Featured photo credit: Geert Pieters via unsplash.com

                Reference

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