Do you look at your mother and grandmother and see that impending humpback forming? Do you stand in front of the mirror worrying when your time is coming? Well don’t fret; you can fix this. That humpback formation or increased thoracic kyphosis occurs as you age and is more common in slender, Caucasian women. There are things you can do now to maintain good spinal health and prevent that increase in kyphosis, as well as firm and tone the muscles of your middle back, giving you those great shoulders and preparing you to bare it all in swimsuit season.
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Rowing activities are some of the best exercises to work on improved strength and tone in your mid back. There are various types of rowing exercises including cardio and weight training, all of which are beneficial. Jumping on a rowing machine and getting a great cardio workout to boot is an excellent way to tone your middle back.
If you belong to a gym, they may have a weight machine that mimics rowing. If they don't have a specific row machine, you can use the butterfly press. Sit the wrong way on the seat so you are facing the handles. Grasp the handles and squeeze your shoulder blades together, pulling the handles back toward you. You will be moving in the opposite direction of the butterfly press. You may get a few weird looks at first, but it works. You may soon see a parade of individuals performing the same exercise.
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There are two rowing exercises that also work well for strengthening your mid back with free weights. The bent-over row is performed with a hand weight and a weight bench. You place one hand and the same knee on the weight bench while you put the other foot on the floor and hold the weight in the free hand dangling in front of you. To perform the exercise, squeeze your shoulder blades together and bend your elbow, pulling it just behind your back. Make sure you keep your lower back flat and belly muscles tight. The second exercise is called an upright row. Stand erect with feet shoulder-width apart holding dumbbells in each hand. Lift your hands toward your chest, flexing your elbows out to the side, like a chicken wing. You should always lift weights to the point of muscle fatigue. Starting with three sets of 10 reps at a comfortable weight is a good idea, and advancing weight on at least one set every session will improve your strength more effectively.
Spinal Stabilization Exercises
Spinal stabilization exercises are also great for your mid back. One of the most effective is to lie on your stomach and work on the following sequence of exercises. Start at the beginning with the easiest and progress through the program. It may take several days to progress to the final exercise, or you may be able to perform it immediately. Always work at your tolerance. To start alternate lifting each arm, next alternate lifting each leg, then lift the right arm and left leg together and finally lift the left arm and right leg together. When this sequence is manageable, try to lift the head and shoulders off the floor, hold the head and shoulders off the floor and do each preceding movement from the first sequence. The hardest exercise in this series is to lift all four limbs off the floor together with the head and shoulders off the floor. When these get easy, and they will get easy, increase your hold time. Hold each exercise five seconds, then 10 seconds and progress to a 30-second hold on each repetition. Do this program two to three days per week to see maximum benefit.
Mary Tolley Rhodes has been a practicing physical therapist since 2000, working in various settings across the southeastern United States. She serves as the chairwoman of the West Virginia Physical Therapy Association's Education Committee. Rhodes holds a master's degree in physical therapy from West Virginia University.