Working from home comes with its perks, sure, but there are also some drawbacks. A less-than-optimal workstation setup may be one of them — hello, bed or couch — and this could be the culprit behind those aches and pains you’ve started to experience.
Work-from-home posture — meaning a rounded and compressed spine, hunched or rounded shoulders, plus a forward neck and head — can cause back pain, among other ailments.
In fact, research has shown that forward head posture can decrease mid-spine mobility, which in turn decreases respiratory function and is even associated with higher death rates among older adults (
Strengthening your postural and core muscles can help address this. A recent study of college-aged males found that an exercise program for posture correction relieved shoulder pain, mid back pain, and low back pain (3).
So, where should you start?
Good posture requires muscles from head to toe, but the core and back play a crucial role.
Focus on strengthening the lats, traps, and rhomboids, as well as the core muscles that support the low back, including the obliques, erector spinae, multifidus, and quadratus lumborum.
The short and sweet answer? Yes!
Your muscles grow from two factors: tension and progressive overload, or the amount of resistance, and continuously increasing the resistance over time.
Bands can help you with both of these, and they provide a different type of resistance than free weights or machines. As you pull the band farther away or apart, resistance increases, which will cause you to use your muscle fibers differently.
Resistance bands are also easily portable, affordable, and versatile — three more benefits.
Types of resistance bands
Resistance bands come in three main variations:
- bands with handles, which are rubber tubing with a handle on each end
- superbands, which are large, looped bands made of thick, heavy-duty rubber
- mini bands, which are smaller, thinner looped bands
Each comes in varying resistances: usually light, medium, and heavy. You can easily adjust the resistance of a lighter band by choking up on it or doubling it up.
An exercise that’s accessible for all fitness levels, a bent-over row is best performed by using a band with handles. You will focus on the lats and traps during this move, plus several of the other smaller muscles like the rhomboids.
- Hold the handles of your resistance band, step on the band with two feet, then cross the handles.
- Hinge at the hips 45 degrees, keeping your arms extended and allowing your knees to bend slightly.
- Keeping your spine neutral, pull your elbows up and back toward the wall behind you, using your lats to drive the movement.
- Pause at the top, taking care not to open your chest, then release back to start.
Target your rhomboids with a reverse fly using your band with handles. Because you can easily adjust your resistance, this move is beginner-friendly and can be scaled as you progress.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold the handles of your resistance band, extending your arms out and in front of you.
- Engage the core and pull the band apart, keeping your arms extended and using your upper-mid back muscles to lead the movement.
- When your arms reach directly out to your sides, return to start.
So aptly named, this movement is led by your lat muscles. For this move, the resistance band should be secured overhead with the handles dangling down. Again, you can easily adjust the resistance here, so it’s accessible for any fitness level. Complete using the band with handles.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold the band about 6 inches from each handle with your arms extended.
- Bring your arms above your head, keep a neutral pelvis, and engage your core.
- Pull the band straight down to your chest, bringing your arms directly down to your sides as you go and stopping when they’re parallel to the ground. Feel the lats directing this movement.
- Release back to start.
Pick up a superband to complete a face pull. This exercise will target the traps and rhomboids.
- Loop your superband around a pole (or similar) at about eye level. Hold the free end with both hands in an overhand grip and lift your arms in front of you, positioning yourself so the band is taut. Stagger your stance or stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Keeping your elbows parallel to the ground, pull the band toward your face, using your upper back muscles to do so.
- Pause at the top, then release and repeat.
Using a miniband to enhance your superman, a classic back exercise, will give the advanced exerciser even more of a challenge.
- Lie on your stomach with your arms and legs extended. The miniband should be positioned around your ankles.
- Engage your core, then lift your arms and legs off the ground at the same time, keeping your neck neutral. Lift as high as you can.
- Pause briefly at the top, then lower back to start in a slow, controlled manner.
Using a superband to deadlift is not for beginners, but it makes for an interesting variation on the move.
The traps and lower back muscles will get a workout, but take care that your hamstrings are leading the movement so you don’t place unnecessary strain on your lower back.
- Lay a superband on the ground and step on it with both feet about shoulder-width apart.
- Keeping a straight back, hinge at the hips and bend the knees, grabbing the band with each hand and stand up straight. At standing, roll your shoulders down and back.
- Lower down again, hinging at the hips with a slight bend in the knee while keeping the spine neutral and upper body stationary.
- Stand up back to start and repeat.
There are several ways to execute a single-arm row with bands, but using your foot as an anchor makes it simple and easy for any fitness level. Grab your band with handles and get it done.
- Step on your band with both feet and hold one handle with your right hand, letting the other fall to the ground. Step your left foot back.
- Hinge at the hips and let your extended right arm hang down.
- Pull your working arm into a row, using your lat to take your bent elbow up and back.
- Extend your arm down, then repeat. After the desired number of reps, switch arms.
Target those muscles of the upper back with this miniband exercise, which any level of exerciser can complete.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and place the miniband around both hands, extending your arms overhead.
- Engage the core and pull the miniband apart, working against its resistance with your upper back muscles.
- Release, then repeat.
Work the lats and core with a superband pullover, an effective movement for exercisers of all levels.
- Loop the band around a pole (or the like) at the bottom.
- Lay the band out and position yourself so you are on your back, arms extended, and can reach the end of the band with your hands in an overhand grip. Bend your knees and put your feet flat on the ground.
- Engage your core and pull the band over your head toward your knees, keeping your arms straight throughout the movement.
- Release, returning to start in a controlled motion.
Pullups are a foolproof way to build back strength, but they’re tough for most. Using a superband to assist can help you maintain good form and complete full reps.
- Station a step stool in front of a pullup bar and stand on it to loop a superband around the bar, allowing the band to hang down.
- Place one foot in the loop, grabbing the bar slightly wider than shoulder-width apart with your palms facing forward and allowing your other foot to wrap around your banded leg.
- Pull up, getting your chin up and over the bar, then slowly return to start.
As you work on strengthening your back muscles, keep these things in mind:
- Focus on the muscle-mind connection — thinking about the specific muscle moving your body during each exercise — to get the most out of each movement.
- Aim to complete 3 of these exercises twice per week to see improvement in 1–2 months. Start with 2 sets of 10 reps, then work your way up to 3 sets of 12–15 reps.
- Do a posture check throughout the day. If you find yourself in that head-forward position, reset — neck straight, shoulders back, back straight, feet flat on the floor.
Resistance bands are a versatile way to strengthen your back muscles and combat work-from-home posture. These exercises, in combination with posture readjustments throughout the day, will make a difference in the way you look, but most importantly, in the way you feel.