Regularly moving forward in life can be a sign of progress and productivity, but your shoulders may be better off left behind. That is, a hunched upper back is often the result of tightness in the shoulders and chest. Nesties who spend a large amount of time working on a computer or driving a car, or if you tend to skip stretching after your strength-training workout, can be prone to pain and discomfort due to tightness in your deltoids, or shoulders. Your posture can suffer, which in turn exacerbates the condition by shortening the shoulder and pectoral, or chest, muscles. A regular stretching program can help to loosen and elongate your shoulder and chest muscles.
Warm your body and muscles up before stretching. Perform five to 10 minutes of light cardio, such as walking, jogging or jumping rope. Follow the cardio with five minutes of body-weight moves, such as pushups and rows.
Maintain proper posture when stretching the shoulders. Stand with the spine elongated and your shoulders stacked over your hips. Slightly lift the chest; pull your abdominal muscles in toward your spine and push the shoulder blades down your back.
Stretch the shoulders and chest whenever they have been included in a workout or when they feel tight from activities like extensive computer use. Avoid bouncing while stretching, which can cause an injury to the muscle. Breathe consistently to allow oxygen to flow to the muscles; breathe in and out of your nose for a count of five in each direction.
Stretch your chest and shoulders together in one move. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Lift your chest, pull your abdominal muscles in toward your spine and slide the shoulder blades down your back. Reach behind you and clasp your hands behind your back; place a slight bend in the elbows and the knees. Inhale as you elongate your spine and bend at the waist to bring your torso toward your thighs. Allow your hands, still clasped, to rise toward the ceiling as you press the shoulder blades together. Hold for 10 breaths. Release the stretch by slowly reversing the movements until you are back at starting position.
Perform the behind-the-back stretch to loosen the anterior, or front, deltoids and pectorals. Stand tall and engage your abdominal muscles as you push the shoulder blades down your back. Reach behind you with your left hand and place the left hand on the small of your back. Reach back with the right arm and take hold of the left hand. Pull the left hand toward the right, slowly, until you feel a stretch in the left shoulder. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds. Complete two to three times and then repeat on the other side.
- Stretching Anatomy; Arnold G. Nelson, et al
- Yoga Journal: The Anti-Chaturanga Dandasana
- Fitness Magazine: How Can I Stretch My Super-Tight Shoulders?
- University of California, Riverside: Stretching Exercises for the Upper Body
- Consult with a physician before beginning an exercise program for the first time, if you have not worked out for a while or if you have any chronic health issues.
Beth Rifkin has been writing health- and fitness-related articles since 2005. Her bylines include "Tennis Life," "Ms. Fitness," "Triathlon Magazine," "Inside Tennis" and others. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Temple University.