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Paige Waehner

Exercise of the Week - Upper Back/Shoulder Stretch

By February 27, 2007

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Like a lot of people, I spend a little too much time at the computer which often leads to tight, achy shoulders. One of my favorite ways to stretch the upper back and shoulders is with this simple, but effective stretch. This is great to do throughout the day although it's even better to get up and move around as much as possible.

Do it right: Take the hands straight out in front of you and parallel, palms facing each other. Twist the wrists inward so that the palms face out and then cross the right arm over the left, bringing the palms together. If this hurts your shoulders or wrists, simply do the move without the twist. Round the back, reaching the arms away from you as you relax the head. Contract the abs and imagine that your stretching up and over an imaginary ball rather than collapsing in the middle. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat.

seatedshoulderstretch.jpg (97836 bytes)

For more stretches you can do at work, check out my Seated Stretch for the Back, Shoulders and Neck.

February 27, 2007 at 10:48 am
(1) melanie baker says:

This was right on time. I have been experiencing tingling in my fingertips because of all the tension in my neck and shoulders. WOOHOO i can feel a difference already.

February 27, 2007 at 12:57 pm
(2) T.D. crandall says:

i,m 34 and been in the military now i need to get back in shape but i love to eat. i,m 230 now and would love to get to at lease 190 or 195 -where do i start?

February 27, 2007 at 8:17 pm
(3) Vanessa says:

I really seem to feel some relief in muscle tension in my neck and shoulders after doing this stretch. Nothing I do normally works very well. Even massages are sometimes ineffective or just too painful. Over the last couple days, I also have felt tingling in one of my hands but did not realize it was probably due to muscle tightness in my shoulders. I am not feeling the tingling right now! And feeling kind of relaxed!

February 28, 2007 at 8:29 pm
(4) Charlene says:

TD, drink more water, make healthier choices when you do eat and do 30-60 mins. of aerobic exercise 5-6 days a week. You will not only feel better, your stamina and strength will increase. After a few weeks, add 2 days of weight training.
p.s. thank you for serving our country! Bless you!

February 28, 2007 at 9:28 pm
(5) Kath says:

Excellent stretches with clear pictorials and easy instructions. Really helps too. My favorite is the wide back and shoulder stretch; it is so hard to relax between the shoulderblades and this does. Also, I have never seen something to help “mouse arm” tightness – thanks!

March 7, 2007 at 9:56 am
(6) Stephen Holt says:

Actually, the problem most people have with their mid-back muscles is not lack of length, but lack of strength.

Just look at the average person’s posture (especially those of us who spend a lot of time on the computer) and you’ll notice that these muscles are already too long and, therefore, weak (called the Length-Tension Relationship).

This Upper Back/Shoulder Stretch (which is actually more of a lat stretch – which is even more important since lats are typically tight) will help relax your mid-back muscles in the short term (since a forward head/rounded shoulder posture forces them to work all the time), but it’s far more important to strengthen these muscles.

Don’t worry – you don’t need a personal trainer like me or even a gym. All you need is a wall for exercises like the Wall Slide and Scapular Press.

For more information on which muscles tend to need stretching and which ones tend to need more strengthening, this article may help you.

Stephen Holt
2003 American Council on Exercise (ACE) “Personal Trainer of the Year”

May 30, 2007 at 8:22 pm
(7) bast says:

this is good i get abs just for 1 week

August 30, 2010 at 1:42 pm
(8) Nanovor says:

Stephen, I completely agree. I was a NSCA certified strength coach for 3 years and one of the most glaring problems I saw was weakness in the mid/upper back.

One problem was that people only wanted to train what they could see in the mirror. This would lead to a severe imbalance between the anterior and posterior. The other problem, like you said, was most people have desk jobs now, so hunching over a computer keyboard for 8+ hours/day is terrible on the back.

Great post Stephen.

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