13 Exercises to Strengthen the Upper Back and Shoulders

woman using weights and a workout bench to lif for her Upper-Back-and-Shoulder-muscles

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Have you been spending a lot of time at your desk lately? Doing homework, playing games, or chatting with pals online? I used to do that too, and noticed my upper back and shoulders starting to feel sore.

But Upper Back and Shoulders Stretches can help with that. The muscles and tissues there need to work as a team, but sometimes they can get out of sync.

Gentle exercises each day can strengthen them gradually so you feel better. It’s not just about looks, you know. Stronger upper back and shoulders from these moves also help protect you from injuries. As long as you’re careful and do them right.

Strengthening the muscles in your back, shoulders, and neck is vital to reduce and prevent pain.

Some of these moves involve dumbbells or resistance bands, and some use just your body weight. Pick a mix of both types, if possible. Choose a handful of the moves below to target them. Wanna give some a try with me? We can start simple and feel better in no time. I promise it is easy. Let me know if you have any other questions about Upper Back and Shoulders Stretches!

13. Shoulder roll

  • Good for: Upper Back and shoulder stretches

Shoulder rolls can help relieve tension in the shoulder muscles and improve circulation, which can potentially help reduce shoulder pain. It is fantastic Upper Back and Shoulders Stretches.

However, if you are experiencing persistent or severe shoulder pain, it is best to consult a doctor or physical therapist.

  1. Stand with your arms down at your sides.
  2. Roll your shoulders backward in a circular motion, completing 5 rotations.
  3. Then, complete 5 rotations forward. Repeat this sequence 2–3 times.

12. Arnold Press

It is not an easy one, but definitely one of the best shoulder exercises for targeting the delts. The Arnold press puts a huge emphasis on the anterior, lateral, and posterior deltoids. It’s one of the more advanced shoulder exercises, but there’s no need to go heavy and once you get the hang of it, you’ll reap the rewards from this one.

11. Arm circles

  • Good for: shoulders

Arm circles can work on toning the muscles in your shoulder and arm—biceps and triceps. They also work on your upper back muscles. If done along with other workouts that target the arm muscles, arm circles can also help reduce the buildup of fat in your arms.

  1. Stand with your arms out to your sides, parallel to the floor, with your palms facing down.
  2. Slowly circle your arms forward, making small circles at first and eventually larger ones. Do this 20 times.
  3. Reverse the movement and do another 20 circles.

10. Overhead arm reach

  • Good for: Upper Back and Shoulders Stretches

The overhead reach strengthens the chest, shoulder, and back muscles. This exercise enables us to reach up for objects that are kept in high places.

  1. Sit in a chair, facing forward, with your feet on the floor.
  2. Extend your right arm above your head and reach to the left. Bend your torso until you feel your right lat and shoulder stretch.
  3. Return to the starting position. Repeat 5 times, then do the same thing with your left arm.

9. Chair rotation

When you do chair exercises daily, you reduce the risk of falls. The movements increase blood flow and keep your joints active and lubricated. They also strengthen your muscles.

  1. Sit sideways in a chair.
  2. Your right side should be resting against the back of the chair.
  3. Keeping your legs stationary, rotate your torso to the right, reaching for the back of the chair with your hands.
  4. Hold your upper body in rotation, using your arms to stretch more deeply as your muscles loosen.
  5. Hold for 10 seconds.
  6. Repeat 3 times on each side.

8. Knee to chest

  • Good for: lower back

The knee-to-chest stretch is a great way to relieve muscle tension in your lower back and hips, often related to activities like going up and down the stairs or sitting for long periods of time. Other benefits include: Improving flexibility and range of motion in the hips, hamstrings, and glutes.

  1. Lie face-up on the floor.
  2. Bend your left leg and bring it to your chest.
  3. Hold for 5 seconds, then release.
  4. Repeat with your right leg.
  5. Complete this sequence 3 times.

7. Thoracic extension

  • Good for: upper and mid-back

A thoracic extension exercise is a correctional exercise that improves the thoracic extensor muscle strength and chest muscle stretch to maintain an optimal postural kinetic chain. It also improves kyphosis, pain, and scapular forward distance.

For best results, you’ll need a foam roller or a chair. If you’re using a foam roller, position it under your thoracic spine. Allow your head and glutes to fall on either side.

  1. Extend your arms above your head to deepen the stretch.
  2. If you’re using a chair, sit facing forward and allow your upper body to fall over the back of the chair.
  3. Extend your arms above your head for a deeper stretch.
  4. Hold either position for 5 seconds, then release.
  5. Repeat 3 times.

6. Row

  • Good for: upper back

With each full stroke, you engage and help strengthen your calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, abs, obliques (waist), pecs (chest), biceps, triceps, deltoids (shoulder), upper back, and latissimus dorsi, or lats (the V-shaped muscles on either side of your spine).

Use a resistance band or a light to medium dumbbell to complete this move.

  1. Affix the resistance band to a stable surface and grab each handle, extending your arms.
  2. Pull the handles straight back by bending your elbows, keeping them close to your body.
  3. You should feel your lats working.
  4. If you’re using a dumbbell, hold it in your right hand and brace yourself on a wall with your left hand, arm extended.
  5. Hinge at the waist to a 45-degree angle, allowing the dumbbell to hang down.
  6. Keeping your neck neutral and your knees soft, pull the dumbbell directly up with a tucked elbow.
  7. Perform 2–3 sets of 8–12 reps.

TRX Row for Upper Back and Shoulders Stretches

It is a variation of the rowing exercise. The TRX Row is a pull exercise specifically made for utilizing this movement to help build all the major groups. It targets the muscles of the back, namely the latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, trapezius, and rear deltoids.

The core muscles are also engaged to keep the body stable and balanced throughout the exercise.

Using your suspension trainer, here’s how to do a TRX Row:

  1. Facing your anchor point, hold the rubber handles with your palms facing each other Lean back, weight in your heels with your tailbone tucked and core engaged
  2. Walk forwards (towards your anchor point) to make your rows heavier, backwards to make them lighter
  3. Pull your chest through your hands and squeeze your shoulder blades together, keep your neck long and shoulders low
  4. Lowering with control to return to the starting position
Bonus Tip: if you’re sliding, plant your feet on the floor and put a soft bend in the knees and hips to maintain the straight line of your torso

5. Face pull

  • Good for: Upper Back and shoulder stretches

The face pull is a great pull exercise to help strengthen the muscles of the shoulders and upper back including lower traps, rear delts, and rotator cuff that will offset the pulling work that you are doing in the rest of your workouts.

  1. Use a resistance band to complete this move. Affix the band to a stable surface above eye level.
  2. Grab each handle with an overhand grip.
  3. Pull directly toward your face, flaring your upper arms out to the sides and squeezing your shoulders together. Pause, then return to the starting position.
  4. Complete 3 sets of 12 reps.

4. Scapular squeeze for Upper Back and Shoulders Stretches

  • Good for: Upper Back and shoulder stretches

  1. Start with your elbows bent at 90 degrees and resting at your sides.
  2. Move your elbows and shoulders backward while squeezing your shoulder blades together.
  3. Relax your shoulders and return to your starting position.
  4. While standing with your arms down by your sides, squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  5. Hold for 5 seconds, then release. Repeat 3–5 times.
  6. Stand with your back flat against a wall.
  7. You may need to step your feet out slightly to allow your back to soften against the wall.
  8. Extend your arms to create a “T” shape against the wall, then bend your elbows to create 90-degree angles.
  9. Slowly move your arms up and down in a “snow angel” motion, ensuring they stay flat against the wall the whole time.
  10. When your fingers touch above your head, return to the starting position.
  11. Complete 3 sets of 10 reps.

Reverse dumbbell fly

  1. Grab 2 light dumbbells and stand, hinged at the waist at a 45-degree angle, with your arms hanging straight down.
  2. Keeping your neck neutral and your gaze down, lift your arms to the sides and up.
  3. Squeeze your shoulders together at the top of the movement.
  4. Complete 3 sets of 8–12 reps.

3. Lat pulldown

  • Good for: Upper Back and shoulder stretches

The lat pulldown is a terrific exercise for older adults that strengthens the back and improves posture.

  1. Sit or stand underneath a resistance band attached to a stable surface overhead.
  2. Pull down on the band until your upper arms parallel the floor.
  3. Pause at the bottom, squeezing your lats, then return to the starting position.
  4. Complete 3 sets of 8–12 reps.

2. Child’s Pose

  • Good for: shoulders; upper, mid, and lower back

Child’s Pose can be calming and relaxing, helping to manage stress. This pose activates the relaxation response (parasympathetic nervous system) and deactivates the stress response (sympathetic nervous system). This may help lower or regulate blood pressure.

  1. Start on the floor on all fours.
  2. With your big toes touching, spread your knees as far apart as they’ll go and sit your glutes back onto your feet.
  3. Sit straight up with your arms extended above your head.
  4. On your next exhale, hinge at the waist and drop your upper body between your legs.
  5. Allow your forehead to touch the floor, your shoulders to spread, and your glutes to sink back.
  6. Hold for at least 15 seconds.

1. Butterfly – Upper Back and Shoulders Stretches

  • Good for: shoulders and upper back

This fantastic exercise trains the shoulders as well as the upper back. Try the butterfly lateral in your routine. The reason why it is the first on my list is because everyone can do it.

  1. Place your palms on opposite shoulders and bring your elbows together to touch.
  2. Hold for 10–20 seconds, then release.
  3. Repeat 3–5 more times.


Sitting at our desks for a long time can make our backs and shoulders feel sore. We might feel this way when doing homework, playing video games, or chatting with friends online. The good news is, that small exercises can help make the pain go away and keep us from getting hurt.

Shoulder rolls, Arnold presses, and arm circles are some easy moves we can do. They don’t just make the tightness go away, they also make the muscles in our shoulders, backs, and necks stronger.

Doing a mix of these exercises with and without weights regularly can really boost how strong we are and improve our posture. It’s important to start slow with the exercises that are easier and slowly do more over time. That way our bodies can get used to it without getting injured.

Listening to our bodies is smart too – if something starts to hurt, take a break. Going step-by-step will help Upper Back and Shoulder Stretches really work well and keep us feeling good.

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