We often take our joints, muscles, and bones for granted when we’re healthy. One of the body parts that we neglect the most are shoulders. We need them for just about every upper body movement, yet we pay little attention to their strength and flexibility. When it comes to shoulders, poor muscle care can not only limit everyday movement and start to hurt but also lead to long-term injury.
But why are shoulders so important?
The shoulder is not the largest joint in the body but the most mobile one. Our shoulders support an incredibly wide range of motions, from simple gestures like a shrug to complex athletic maneuvers. They provide stability to the upper body and maintain a natural balance. By affecting the spine and posture, the shoulders affect the quality of movement, as well as every person’s quality of life.
We don’t say we “carry the weight of the world on our shoulders” without reason.
Keeping the shoulders flexible and maintaining a full range of motion is beyond important. If you are already experiencing back tightness or shoulder pain, you should improve shoulder mobility as soon as possible. The following five stretches are quick and easy to incorporate into any schedule. As with any other physical exercise, start slowly and don’t forget to be gentle with your body.
1. Shoulder Roll
The shoulder roll is a simple stretch you can do anytime and anywhere. It helps relax your shoulders, neck, and upper back, providing instant relief. A long-term shoulder roll routine can open your chest and improve your posture. It is especially helpful if you sit for long hours at work or at home for long hours.
You don’t need any equipment for shoulder rolls, not even special sportswear.
How to do a shoulder roll:
- Stand straight and open your chest.
- Make your arms floppy and relaxed.
- Move your shoulders up, like when you’re shrugging.
- Pull your shoulders back, down, front, and up again to make a full circle.
Repeat this 10 times and rest for a while before doing a set in the opposite direction.
2. Cross-Arm Stretch
An unavoidable part of every gym routine, the cross-arm stretch is an effective exercise for tension relief and shoulder mobility. Don’t forget to keep the arm across your body as straight as an arrow. That is crucial for stretching the muscles and reducing the risk of a shoulder injury.
This stretch doesn’t require any equipment.
How to do a cross-arm stretch:
- Stand tall and place your right arm across your chest.
- Grab your right elbow with your left arm and pull gently.
A single cross-arm stretch should last for 30 seconds. Then, switch your arms.
3. Doorway Stretch
If you have rounded or slumped back from a bad sitting posture, your shoulders are probably very tense. Perhaps you’re already experiencing upper back or neck pain, too. A doorway stretch will be able to help you fix that by gradually moving your shoulders back into their natural position.
For this exercise, any kind of narrow doorway will do.
How to do a doorway stretch:
- Place your elbows and hands in line with a door frame.
- Move through the door with your arms locked in place.
Stay in the stretching position for at least 15 seconds and repeat 3 times.
4. Reverse Stretch
Reverse stretch is another excellent exercise for a slumped back. Because it is gentler than the doorway stretch, it is highly recommended for moms who spend long hours breastfeeding or hunched over their babies. It’s a simple stretch you can repeat every time the tension comes crawling back.
You don’t need any equipment to do a reverse stretch.
How to do a reverse stretch:
- Stand with your back straight and your shoulders even.
- Place your arms behind your back and clasp your hands.
- Slowly lift your chest and pull your shoulders back.
Stay in this position for at least 10 seconds and repeat 3 times.
5. Thread the Needle
Thread the needle is a popular yoga position that uses the floor as support and keeps you focused on stretching and breathing. It is a bit advanced compared to other stretches on this list, but it works like a charm. In addition to bringing immediate relief, it also helps control chronic pain.
To “thread the needle,” you need a yoga mat.
How to do thread the needle:
- Get down to an all-fours position on the floor.
- Lift your right arm up and follow it with your eyes.
- Lower it down towards the floor and under your chest.
- Slide your right arm all the way through, with your shoulder on the floor.
- Extend your left arm over your head.
Hold for 30 seconds, and then switch arms.
They say it takes an average of 66 days to form a habit, so don’t give up. Shoulder stretches are crucial for our overall health in many ways. In addition to increasing the strength, mobility, and functionality of the upper body, they also improve posture and blood flow. Healthy shoulders are pain-free but also strong and attractive. Don’t take them for granted when a stretch is all it takes.