You’re probably hunched over a desk as you read this. We are all in need of some saviour stretches to relieve those tight, working from home induced, muscles. It will come as no surprise to learn that shoulders play a huge role in our health and fitness, so it is imperative to keep them flexible and strong.
An immediate identifier of a “desk jockey” is their rolled-over shoulders and rounded upper back from sitting hunched over a computer. Constant habit creates a permanent position, and the muscles of their chests have shortened, pitching the shoulders forward. This tragic postural change is hurting our ability to perform even the most mundane of physical tasks. (Take a minute to do a bathroom selfie and see if any of these describe you!)
Now for the sciencey bit; just like your hips, your shoulder girdle is a complex system of muscles that allow the ball-and-socket joint to move in dynamic motion across many planes. Your shoulders are connected to muscles in front of and behind the body, and literally bisect the body from front to back. If the muscles of this system are unbalanced, it can throw off how your entire upper body operates.
Proper shoulder strength training aside, some simple stretches can help keep your posture aligned and muscles balanced. These shoulder stretches will have you feeling like a new (more supple) person in no time.
Make friends with that foam roller
Place the foam roller lengthwise down your spine. As you lie flat on the foam roller allow your arms to fall to the floor. Relax and feel the weight of the arms pulling the chest open and the front of the shoulders stretching. If you are someone who sits a lot- aka all of us right now- or is very tall, this is a great stretch to keep the chest and front of the shoulder from collapsing and rounding forward.
Put your desk to good use
Finally a good use for your desk. Though, if you’re still working from the sofa, then you’ll need to find a table that sticks at waist height. Fold forward at your hips, keeping your palms face down on the table. Then pull your hips backward and reach your head down towards your belly button. You should feel the stretch in the back of the shoulder, down the lats and all the way through the arm and biceps. Keeping the back from being too tight can help the shoulders stay mobile.
Do the Bully stretch
This is a Mudder team favourite stretch for the shoulders. Place one hand behind your back as high as it can reach. Keeping your back flat, reach your free hand up and over your head, and then give a gentle pull to the side. This stretch is felt in the front of the shoulder and all the way through the neck. If you are someone who gets chronic stress headaches or sleeps on their side, this will unlock a lot of the problems. Fancy a level-up? Use a resistance band attached to a door or a pull-up bar to help the hand behind your back reach even further.
We’re here for the “Sleeper” stretch
Lie on your side with the bottom elbow pointing away from your body. It’s a good idea to place a towel under the elbow. Keeping the elbow in place, bend the elbow at 90 degrees and rotate the shoulder up and down. Use the top hand to gently assist in pushing the palm towards the ground. A healthy shoulder should have both internal and external range of motion. This stretch is good for rotator cuff health, especially if you are about to put it to use helping your friends on the Tough Mudder course.
Finally, stay active. A good rule of thumb is that if you want to increase flexibility then you have to use the joint. It’s not all about strength training programmes, you can achieve healthy shoulders just by getting outside; maybe climbing a wall, lifting heavy things or throwing stuff. It all is good for you.