Using a foam roller to increase your range of motion can make shoulder stretches more effective, according to Pilates expert Ellie Herman, author of “Ellie Herman’s Pilates Props Workbook.” Set up for this shoulder opening series by lying lengthwise on a foam roller. Make sure your head is all the way on the roller and place your feet flat, about 5 inches apart.
Begin with your arms extended forward and both hands touching the floor near your hips. Exhale as you lift both arms toward the sky. Inhale as you lower your arms down to the floor. Keep your shoulder blades level, do not wrap them around or lift them off the roller. Visualize your collarbone rotating as your arms move. This visualization can turn on efficient muscle patterns, allowing overworked muscle fibers to relax and repair, according to kinesiologist Eric Franklin, author of “Relax Your Neck Liberate Your Shoulders.” Repeat this movement up to 10 times.
Shoulder Blade Reach
The exercise stretches the muscles and connective tissue around your shoulder blades. Extend your arms toward the sky, keeping your ribcage on the roller. Inhale as you drop your shoulder blades around the roller, exhale as you peel them off the roller. Try reaching one arm up and down on its own, and then move the second arm within its own range of motion. Repeat this pattern up to 10 times on each arm.
Single Arm Reach
Begin with your hands resting on the floor by your hips. Raise your right arm up toward the sky and then back toward your head. Only move in a range that allows you to keep your ribcage on the roller. If you hear or feel popping or crackling in your shoulder joint, move smaller. Hold this extended position for a breath or two. Lower your arm down to the floor and try this movement with your left arm. Use the visualization technique from the floating arms exercise. As your collarbone rotates, your shoulder may move more easily. Repeat this stretch up to 10 times on each arm.
This exercise can help you move your shoulders in a greater range of motion by releasing your chest muscles. Keep your ribcage on the roller as you extend your arms toward the sky, palms facing each other. Reach your arms wide into a letter “T” position. Try to touch the backs of your hands to the floor without arching your ribcage off the roller. If this is difficult, work with one arm at a time or place a thin pillow on the floor to elevate your hand and arm while you stretch. Hold the open position for several breaths, and then repeat the stretch with your palms facing the floor.
- Ellie Herman’s Pilates Props Workbook; Ellie Herman
- Relax Your Neck Liberate Your Shoulders; Eric Franklin
Based in Portland, Ore., Christine Binnendyk has written about health topics since 2001. She is the author of the book "Ageless Pilates" and her work has appeared in "SELF" magazine and "Pilates Pro." Binnendyk holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Connecticut and certifications from YogaFit, ACE, IDEA, Oregon School of Massage and the Pilates Studio of New York.