Shoulders Stretches – Open those rounded shoulders!
Do you work at a desk most or all of the day? Are you a breastfeeding mama who is often hunched over your baby? Do you habitually slouch? All three? :-0 Try adding these shoulder stretches, which will help open up your rounded shoulders.
The importance of good posture:
It goes without saying the good posture plays an important role in keeping your shoulders in proper alignment. A good starting point is with your neck- is it pushed forward? When we sit at a desk our neck tends to move forward and out of proper cervical alignment. Put your neck in alignment by pushing back your chin (not tilting your head back!) so that your neck is on top of your spine (not forward or behind it).
Your chest should be lifted, but not so much so that your rib cage is flared out. Pull in your transverse abdominus (deep horizontal ab muscle) slightly to keep your ribs from flaring.
If sitting, sit more forward on your butt…you don’t want to be sitting with your back rounded so that you are on your tailbone. Sit up nice and straight so that you are on the meaty part of your butt. Again, not sitting on the tailbone with your pelvis rounded.
Finally, sit with both feet planted on the floor. This is a tough one, especially for ladies! I always want to cross my legs, but it’s really quite bad for your posture, especially for your pelvic alignment. I had to break the habit because my SI (sacroiliac) joint kept coming out of place. There were a number of other things I had to do as well (such as these three exercises) to stabilize my pelvis, but good posture is essential for maintaining a healthy body.
If standing, keep your weight balance evenly on both feet, in the center (not on toes or heels), and again, keep your neck in good cervical alignment (in line with the spine). Your pelvis should not be overly tucked in (flattening out the lower back) or overarched in “look at my big butt” selfie mode. The notes about your rib cage and engaging the TA (transverse ab.) also apply here.
Now, back to the shoulder stretches!
First, here is the easiest way to open your shoulders for proper alignment. Simple make a “thumbs up” with each hand and then rotate your hands so that your palms are up and the thumbs are away from your body. This automatically opens your shoulders. Or just turn your palms face up.
Often when I’m pushing Massimo in the stroller I grip the stroller underhanded as that opens up the shoulders as well. Just remember, palms up!
Find a doorway (so far so good, right?) and head to it. Place your elbow on the edge of the doorway at shoulder height, and your arm is now forming a 90 degree angle. Gently rotate your torso away from that arm, using the wall as a counter for the stretch. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on other side. Here’s a quick video:
Band Pull Aparts:
For this exercise you’ll need either a red loop band (I have this set of bands) or a red resistance band. (If you have a green resistance band that will probably work, too.) Place your elbows next to your torso and keep them there…don’t let your elbows flare out. Now, rotating from the shoulders, pull the bands apart for 20-30 reps. (Demo in video below.)
For these shoulder stretches you’ll need a moderately thick band (I’m using the gray and purple bands from the set linked above) that you can loop around something high (pull up bar or over a door that closes). Bring your arm through the band, and loop the band over your shoulder. Bend your arm at a 90 degree angle and place behind back (like a bully would do!). Now hinge at the hips and bend forward, allowing the band to gently stretch your shoulder.
The alternate way is to loop the band around something low, such as a table leg, and then place the band over your shoulder, and carefully stand up and allow the band to pull your shoulder back that way. You’ll need a band with less tension if you hook the band low and stand up, and make sure to keep your core engaged so that you don’t end up arching your back. Check it out in the video:
Here’s a video demonstrating the band pull aparts and the bully stretch (two ways):
Are you ready to give these shoulder stretches a try? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!