Fix achy shoulder pain with these feel-good stretches you can do anywhere.
Sitting at a desk all day, looking down at your computer or phone, lifting heavy things at work, and having an unbalanced exercise program (e.g., doing too many pushups and not enough rows) are just a few of the things that can cause poor posture and tight shoulders. (1)
Over time, tight shoulders and poor posture can lead to more serious conditions, like arthritis and frozen shoulder. To avoid these chronic pains, it’s crucial to incorporate stretching into your daily routine. Holding a static stretch is an effective way to increase range of motion (ROM), while dynamic stretching – moving a limb through its full range of motion – is just as effective. (2)
Use these nine dynamic and static stretches throughout your day or post-workout to alleviate and prevent pain-producing shoulder tightness. You’ll need a yoga block or a pillow, a yoga strap or a belt, and a mat.
Seated Cat Cows | 20 reps
This dynamic stretch helps to gently open up the front and the back of the shoulders.
- Start in a cross-legged seat. You can sit on a yoga block or pillow if your hips feel tight. Bend your elbows and place your hands behind your head, bringing your elbows out wide. Engage your abs.
- Inhale to lift your chest and lean your head back into your palms to come into a seated cow position. You should feel a nice stretch through your chest and shoulders.
- Exhale to round your spine, bringing your chin to your chest and your elbows together to come into a seated cat position. Continue alternating between cow and cat for 10 reps each.
Shoulder Rotations | 8 reps
This dynamic stretch increases mobility in the shoulder joint and reduces tightness in the surrounding muscles.
- Begin kneeling down on a mat with your knees together. Sit your hips back on your heels and lift your chest to an upright position. You can sit on a block if kneeling bothers your knees.
- Hold the ends of the strap wide with both hands in front of your thighs. Keep your arms straight and inhale to bring the strap up above your head.
- Exhale to lower the strap behind your back. Your arms should stay pretty straight the whole time. If you need to bend your elbows to take the strap behind you, then take your hands out wider.
- Inhale to bring the strap back overhead. Then, exhale to lower the strap back in front of you. This is one repetition; continue for seven more.
Wall Down Dog | 30 sec
This static stretch opens up the front of the shoulders and the chest.
- Stand facing a wall. Bend at the hips and place your hands on the wall a little higher than in line with your hips.
- Walk your feet back until your body comes to an L-shape. Press your palms firmly into the wall and slowly lower your chest towards the ground to feel a stretch.
- Hold for 30 seconds and breathe into the chest and shoulders.
Shoulder Pigeon | 30 sec per side
This static stretch relieves tightness in the front of the shoulder and chest.
- Lie down on your belly with your legs straight back behind you. Bring both arms straight out to your sides, palms down, so that your wrists are in line with your shoulders. Rest your right cheek on the mat.
- Press into your left palm and roll onto your right shoulder. Bend your left knee and set your left foot down on the floor behind your right leg. The knee should point up and you should feel the hip and chest opening. Keep the right side of your head relaxing on the ground.
- Hold for 30 seconds and then roll back to your belly. Repeat on the other side.
Straight Jacket | 30 sec per side
This stretch relieves painful tension in the rear delts and upper back.
- Begin lying on your belly and prop yourself up on your forearms.
- Turn your right forearm across your mat to point your fingers to the left side. Then, turn your left forearm across your mat so that your fingers point to the right and so that your left forearm is running parallel to your right forearm. Both forearms should be crossed underneath your chest.
- Then, walk both hands away from your body so that your arms cross completely underneath your chest. Rest your forehead on a yoga block or pillow to relax your neck. Breathe into your rear delts and upper back. Hold for 30 seconds, then lift your head up, slide your forearms back up to support you, and switch sides by crossing your right forearm in front of your left.
Cow Face Arms | 30 sec per side
This static stretch relieves tightness in the front and top of the shoulder and in the triceps.
- Begin in a comfortable seat on a chair or on a yoga block. Hold the end of a yoga strap or towel in your right hand.
- Reach your right arm straight up. Bend the elbow and reach your right hand down towards your upper back. Reach your left arm straight down. Then bend the elbow and reach your left hand up your lower back, grabbing the other end of the strap.
- Walk your hands towards one another and see how close you can get to having your hands touch. Hold for 30 seconds, then release and shake out the arms. Repeat on the other side.
Overhead Shoulder Stretch | 30 sec per side
This static stretch relieves tightness along the top of your shoulder.
- Stand with your right shoulder about a foot away from the wall.
- Reach your right arm over your head and place your hand on the wall. Your arm should be straight.
- Gently lean into the wall with your right shoulder until you feel a stretch through the top of the shoulder.
- Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
Child’s Pose Side Stretch | 30 sec per side
This stretch reverses the effects of poor posture by opening up the hips, lower back, lats, and shoulders.
- Begin in a tabletop position on your hands and knees. Take your knees out wide towards the edges of your yoga mat. Bring your big toes together to touch.
- Slowly walk your hands back and lower your hips onto your heels. Then, walk your hands towards the top right edge of your mat. Lower your chest and forehead down.
- Gently bump your hips to the left and breathe into the left side of your body. Try to feel the little muscles between your ribs and your left shoulder stretch. Hold for 30 seconds, then walk your hands over to the left and repeat.
Bound Bridge | 30 sec
This static stretch combats poor posture and shoulder pain by opening up the front of the shoulders, chest, and hips.
- Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the ground. Place your arms down alongside your body with your palms face down. Keep your feet hip-width distance and walk them close to your body.
- Press your palms into the ground as you exhale and lift your hips up towards the ceiling. Then interlace your fingers underneath your body and try to wiggle your shoulder blades towards one another.
- Stay active through the inner thighs and squeeze your outer hips and lower abs. Hold for 30 seconds, then release your hands and slowly roll back down to your back.
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