Strong Back

7 Exercises for a Strong Back & Great Posture

So in last week’s post about Scoliosis, I promised that my next post would show some of my favourite exercises on back day, training for a strong back and great posture too. I’ve got a mixture of body weight and weighted exercises here, that are great for anyone, as well as those who like me, suffer from a bit of a curvy spine.

*If you can’t see the videos I’d advise re-opening the post in Google Chrome, or Mozilla

1) Scapular/Serratus Push Ups

3 Sets, 20 Reps

Begin either in standard push-up position or with the forearms resting on the floor. The body should be kept in a straight line so it’s important not to let the hips drop

Focusing on the movement of the shoulder blades, lower and raise the body as close, and as far away from the floor as possible.

If you’re doing this in standard push-up position, make sure to keep the arms dead straight by locking out the elbows. This helps to make sure that it’s the muscles around the shoulder girdle that are doing the work, rather than the arms or chest.

Working Muscles: Rhomboids and Serratus

Serratus Push Ups from Roslyn Rachel on Vimeo.

Note: This will seem really easy at first, because your arms and legs are taking your body weight whilst the working (agonist) muscles (in this case the rhomboids and serratus) contract – unlike in regular push ups where it is the agonist muscles (e.g. chest/triceps) that are also taking the body weight during the contraction. Although there’s a really tiny range of motion, and you don’t ‘feel it’ in the same way that you might with a standard push up, doing lots of repetitions can significantly help to strengthen these muscles in isolation.

2) Scapular Retraction Pull Ups

3 Sets, 10 Reps

As if you were about to do a regular, wide grip, overhand pull up, hang from an overhead bar and use the muscles in your back to pull back (retract) the shoulder girdle and raise yourself off the ground, towards the bar.

Again, it’s important to keep the arms straight to make sure the correct muscles are working. Really focus on pulling the shoulder blades back to raise yourself that bit closer to the bar. It’s the muscles that you’re working here that are responsible for the “shoulders back/chest up” mantra for good everyday posture.

Working Muscles: Rhomboids, Serratus, Lower Trapezius Muscles

Note: Just like in the Scapular/Serratus Push Ups, this won’t seem as difficult as a regular pull up because the range of motion is very small.  


Serratus Pull Ups from Roslyn Rachel on Vimeo.

3) Reverse Scapula Rows

3 Sets, 20 Reps

Using an overhand grip, hold onto a bar that is approximately waist height, as if you are lying underneath it (facing upwards) with the rest of your weight on your feet.

Keeping the elbows straight, pull back the shoulder blades in order to raise yourself towards the bar

Gently lower and repeat.

Working Muscles: Rhomboids, Serratus, Lower Trapezius Muscles

Reverse Scapula Rows from Roslyn Rachel on Vimeo.

4) Serratus Weight Plate Presses

3 Sets, 10 Reps

Lie horizontally across a bench with the shoulder blades off one side, and the legs off the other – the feet should be firmly on the floor and the glutes should be engaged to support the lower body.

Hold a plate- I used 5kg for my first set, then 10kg for my subsequent sets- directly above your head with straight arms.

Push the plate towards the ceiling as high as you can by pushing the shoulders forwards (protracting).

Gently lower, allowing the muscles supporting the shoulder blades to take the weight of the plate whilst pulling your shoulders back again.

Working Muscles: Rhomboids, Serratus, Lower Trapezius Muscles

Scapula Plate Presses from Roslyn Rachel on Vimeo.

Note: *The above exercises all aim to target smaller groups of muscles, such as the Rhomboids, Trapezius and Serratus muscle groups – which are often engaged to help with larger, compound movements, such as lat pull downs and bent over rows, but are rarely used in isolation. These muscles are really important and, if strong and exercised regularly, can significantly aid someone’s posture by preventing the shoulders from rounding forwards. They can also aid in the correction of winged scapula, a postural defect (for want of a better word) that gives the appearance of the inner rim of the scapular flaring outward like angel wings – this is particularly common in those with scoliosis, and can cause a lot of pain and discomfort.*

5) Side Lateral Raise

3 Sets, 10 Reps

Find a pillar or some other form of support to hold onto. Stand side on with one arm holding your support and the other (the arm furthest from the pillar) holding a dumbbell.

With your feet close to the base of your supporting pillar, lean the top of your body away from it, to about a 45 degree angle.

Make sure you are in a straight line and engage the core to ensure that the hips don’t drop. Standing at an angle like this will encourage you to use the isolated muscles for a lateral raise without compensating by leaning over to the other side.

From where the dumbbell should be resting by the side of your thigh, raise it outwards as high as possible (aiming for shoulder height) without bending in the arm.

Lower, repeat, and make sure you switch to the other side after your 10 reps.

Working Muscles: This hits the anterior, lateral and posterior deltoids (basically every angle of the shoulder)…so all in all a pretty failsafe way to allow the shoulders to develop and strengthen that posture.

Lateral Dumbbell Raises from Roslyn Rachel on Vimeo.


Note: While you can do lateral raises with two arms at a time, I much prefer single arm. One of the traits of scoliosis is that one side of the body is significantly stronger than the other (more so than usual)- therefore I find that training one side at a time just helps me to identify which side is weaker so that I can really focus on strengthening it. With this in mind, remember that it’s so important to train both sides equally – don’t think that you should overcompensate for a significantly weaker side – this will probably end up doing more harm than good. Both sides need to be equal, and equally trained, for optimum strength and posture.

6) Back Extensions

3 Sets, 10 Reps

Using either a swiss ball or a back extension chair, position yourself face down creating a straight line with the body.

Slowly lower the upper body towards the floor, bending at the hip to try and create a perpendicular angle.

Making sure that the back stays straight (no arching or rounding) raise yourself back up to the starting position.

Working Muscles: Hyperextensions specifically target the Erector Spinae – the two muscles running down either side of your spine.

The Erector Spinae is probably one of the most important set of muscles to build back up following scoliosis surgery because they provide crucial support all the way down the spine.

It’s also the muscle that primarily keeps you upright – so pretty crucial when talking about posture.

7) Side Plank

3 Sets, 1-2 mins each side

Lie on your side with your legs straight and your upper body propped up, resting on the forearm. The aim is to get everything stacked neatly – so hips, legs and feet straight and aligned with one on top of the other. I find that it helps to rest the hand of the non supporting arm on the upper hip – this helps me to make sure i’m keeping to the side and not angling myself too far towards either the ground or the ceiling.

Engage the abs and the glutes (make sure you’re not sticking out your bum or arching your back!)

Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute before switching to the other side (make sure you do the same amount of time for each side!

Side plank is one of my favourite exercises. It is a low impact way of strengthening both sides of the Erector Spinae muscle pair, which is crucial for supporting the spine. Be careful of articles that make grand sweeping statements about side plank “fixing” Scoliosis – unfortunately there is no quick fix for this disorder and certainly not one that will work for every single case.

Nonetheless, side plank allows you to strengthen one side at a time, with the ultimate goal of equal strength on both sides. This is important for Scoliotics, for whom one side of the spinal muscles will most likely be significantly stronger than the other. Side plank allows you to focus on using the weaker muscles (those on the convex side of the curved vertebrae) to pull the spine back to centre…if that makes sense?

If not, then hey – it’s pretty great for core stability, abs and glutes as well, which are all important for a good, strong, upright posture. So give it a go.

Exercises for a Strong Back and Great Posture


Please bear in mind that these are exercises that I do, that I believe help me. Lot’s of I’s and Me’s in there. While you are at perfect liberty to try it out, its completely your own decision. I’m not a medical professional so I’m not going to make any big claims. Please be safe and take responsibility for your own welfare. For more, please see me disclaimer page.


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