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 is an advanced mobility technique that uses an exercise band to increase the intensity of the triceps stretch, and helps release restrictions in the shoulder capsule – a collection of fibrous ligaments, tendons and connective tissues that form the shoulder joint. This stretch is excellent to increase or regain range of motion following a shoulder injury, and can help combat the internal (forward) rotation of the shoulders that often accompanies a rounded upper back (hyperkyphotic) posture.
To stretch the right side: attach one end of a heavyweight exercise band to the door knob of a closed door. Take the other end in your right hand, wrapping the band around your hand/wrist as need to avoid slipping and increase the resistance. Turn your body 180′ COUNTER-clockwise, fully bending your elbow so that it points toward the ceiling. Your wrist should be behind your right ear and your back facing the door, as if you were dragging it behind you. To increase the stretch, take a lunge step forward, allowing the band to pull your arm back a little bit. Keep your elbow pointed straight to the ceiling and tucked as close to your head as possible. To increase the stretch in the shoulder capsule, gently turn your palm up toward the ceiling. Hold for 1 minute before releasing.
To stretch the left side: Wrap the free end of the band around your left hand/wrist, turn your body 180′ CLOCKWISE and repeat as above.
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.