Exercises for Upper Back Pain and Posture

Scared you’re sitting too much? Here are 5 postural exercises for upper back pain and posture that target those muscles that feel tight and achy after hours behind a desk. Since these exercises target the upper back, you’ll also get improve mobility and pain relief in the neck and the shoulders. Sometimes, you can’t reduce your time sitting, so go and read our tips on how to sit with less pain.

5 Exercises for Upper Back Pain and Posture

  1. Wide Stance Rotation
  2. Squat and Reach
  3. Thoracic Whips
  4. Bear to Thoracic Bridge
  5. Wall Windmill

#1 Wide stance thoracic rotation

Good for: your upper back and spine rotation

All good posture exercises will include the hips. The wider the legs the better, so really try to spread ’em.

Bending forward helps to isolate the movement to the upper back more than the lower back.

Shoot for 5-10 reps/side, alternating left and right.

#2 Squat and Reach

This exercise forces more of a reaching motion than a rotating motion, so different postural muscles will be included.

You want to be as upright as possible, so most will be better off with their heels elevated. This isn’t a squat mobility exercise, it is a thoracic spine exercise.

for a more upright posture
elevated heels improve this exercise

There’s no wrong way to do this exercise. Sit down, reach up. You can add weight to it too – 5, 10, 25#, whatever, as long as you can press it up.

Shoot for 5-10 reps/side.

#3 Thoracic Whip Mobilization

Good for: can’t get enough of the cracks

Some people just like to crack stuff, so this scratches that itch.

You have to be pretty forceful to actually feel the thoracic spine crack, hence the name “whips.”

Give 2-3 “whips” per side. You still get the benefit if you don’t hear an audible crack, so no need to go wild or get discouraged if it doesn’t “work.”

#4 Bear to Thoracic Bridge

Good for: loading the arms and the thoracic spine in all directions.

Hands on the ground is a great way to improve shoulder stability as well as improve upper back mobility.

It also includes hip extension, which most people can use more of.

Do 5-10 reps per side, try to maintain nasal breathing.

#5 Wall Windmill Flow

Good for: everything

Points of Performance

  • The stationary hand is ALWAYS pushing into the wall
  • Head and eyes ALWAYS following the moving hand
  • Exhale as your hands move away from each other
  • 3-5 reps/side


Five great posture exercises that can be done anytime, anywhere. The perfect way is to take 1-2 exercises and perform 2-3 sets.

Another great way to use them is to take 1 exercise and do a set during rest breaks with strength training.

Managing your Pain

Common complaints I hear all the time from those that have to sit too much are:

  • neck pain
  • shoulder pain
  • lower AND/OR upper back pain

We like to start with a comprehensive FULL body mobility program that targets the problem areas you are complaining about.

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