If you sit at a desk all day, chances are good that the muscles in the back of your neck and between your shoulder blades are a little achy by the end of your work day. A lot of the time our inclination is to stretch sore, tired muscles, but that can do more harm than good in this case. Those achy muscles in your back are the 90-pound weaklings of the shoulder girdle, griping about having to hold up your head against the force of gravity. Stretching them will only make them weaker — they’re already barely hanging on! As your shoulders shrug up and in, and your head juts forward and down toward your laptop screen, the strong, silent muscles of the chest and anterior neck shorten and pull on the opposing, weaker back muscles.
The fix: stretch the strong and strengthen the weak! Try this routine a couple of times a week, doing each exercise in order and completing the full series 3 times. Rest for 30 seconds to 1 minute between exercises. Choose weights that are heavy enough that you can JUST finish each set of exercises but not so heavy that your form suffers. Increase your weights when 12 reps become too easy.
30 Superman extensions
30 Airplane extensions
30 second plank (on hands or forearms)
12 skull crusher triceps extensions
12 single-arm bent-over rows
12 dumbbell reverse flys
12 dumbbell lateral raises
12 single-arm external shoulder rotations
This stretch targets the muscle that shrugs your shoulders, the Levator Scapulae. It attaches to the top of your shoulder-blade, and to the sides of the uppermost bones of the neck. To stretch, first side-bend your head away from the side you want to stretch, and hold for a couple of breaths. Secure the arm on the stretching side behind your back to keep your shoulder down. Next, gently rotate and nod your head so that your nose is pointing into your armpit. Increase the stretch if desired by gently pulling your head farther into the stretch with your opposite hand. Hold for 30 seconds or until a release is felt.
The pectorals are the largest chest muscles, and they tend to be tight on almost everyone, especially if you spend long hours at a computer. This stretch can give you relief from upper back & neck pain, which are often sore due to the opposing pull of the pecs. Simply position yourself in an open doorway, with your elbows bent to 90′ and at shoulder height, so that your forearms are resting along the frame with hands pointed toward the ceiling. You can choose to stretch both sides at once, or relax one arm at a time . Step ahead and lean through the door, keeping your arms in place, until you feel a comfortable stretch across the chest. Hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds or until a release is felt.
To enhance the stretch by targeting the slightly different fibre directions of the large pectoral muscles, repeat the stretch with your hands 1) lower, just above shoulder height on the door frame and 2) above your head on the door frame, high enough that your elbows are only slightly bent.
This stretch targets the muscles of the inner thigh, which can get tight if you’re in the habit of crossing your legs, or when there’s weakness of the muscles of the buttock. To stretch them, simply sit with your legs straight in front of you, then open your legs into a V until you feel a stretch along the inner thigh. Bend forward at the waist to bring your torso forward toward the ground between your legs. You may feel a pull along the back of the thigh as well as you bend forward. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds.
An absolute must for runners and lovers of high-heels. Stand with feet at hip width. While the leg you want to stretch stays in place, take a large step forward with the opposite leg, bending the knee so that it is directly above the ankle. Lower the back leg so the knee comes toward the ground, increasing the stretch across the front of the hip and thigh. Keep your torso straight and your tailbone tucked, so that your hands or arms are resting on your forward leg.
Target the front of the thigh to relieve knee and low back pain. Stand with feet just at hip width. Bend the knee of the side you want to stretch so that your heel comes up toward your buttock. Use a towel roll tucked behind the knee to open up the joint. Grasp the foot or ankle with the same-side hand, or use a belt or towel if you can’t reach. If needed, rest your opposite hand on a table or chair to help maintain your balance throughout the stretch.
This stretch is essential if you spend all day on your feet, or suffer from hip pain or sciatica. Start in hook-lying position: on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. On the side you want to stretch, turn your knee out, and cross your ankle across the opposite knee. Reach the arm on the stretch side through the triangle space between your legs and hold behind the knee of the opposite leg with both hands. To increase the stretch, lift the opposite side foot off the ground and bring that knee toward your chest.