21 shoulder stretches that provide relief anytime

This article was originally posted on airawear.com.

You must be either a young kid or a truly healthy person to have never gotten stiff shoulders in your entire life.

Unfortunately for most of us, we don’t fit the above bill.

That includes me, and probably you too.

Maybe right now your shoulders are stiff.

Tense.

Sore.

Rounded and hunched even.

Or maybe yours are like mine, creaking and clicking every morning. Just like rusted joints that haven’t been greased in a while.

Getting out of bed be like this.

And if you didn’t get those stiff and sore shoulders from injuries or working out… You probably have been hunching horribly while working overtime for 2 weeks straight.

Meanwhile, lazy cats like me get them from lying on the bed sideways, binge watching The Walking Dead on a laptop.

What happens here is that we adopt awkward (sitting) postures… Developing unnatural tension in the upper back.

Barry McDingle has been studying in an awkward position lately.

What truly matters here is getting rid of those aches and pains (if you’ve been reading our blog you know we are big on finding relief).

There’s a gajillion moments where you don’t really have a convenient solution.

You know, when your partner isn’t around to rub your shoulders. When you’ve hit the weights 3 days ago but the ache still lingers. Especially when you just need that dull, jaw-clenching sensation gone… Before your irritability hits the roof and you murder 7 soon-to-be ex-coworkers.

Let’s work on getting rid of the stiffness and aches in the shoulders.

By the end of today, you will

  • Know the most convenient methods to deal with shoulder aches in various scenarios — at work, at home, or simply on the way to the toilet
  • Reduce pain from areas that you’ve never realized were affecting you
  • Find relief as you release muscle tension in your shoulders and upper back
  • Have a legitimate reason to get away from your computer for 5 to 7 minutes

On top of those…

You will find these shoulder stretches from different disciplines are SECRETLY more effective than the usual prescription for shoulder pain relief.

(Well, it’s not a secret anymore now that you’re reading it.)

Ready?

21 Easy-To-Execute Shoulder Stretches

Understand that the following stretches are all meant to be easily doable when you’re taking a break from work. In other words, you can try them on the spot!

To make it really simple to view all the stretches, just click on the name of each exercise below:

Table of Content

Standing Shoulder Stretches (No Support Needed)

Standing Shoulder Stretches (Supported)

Sitting Shoulder Stretches (No Support Needed)

Sitting Shoulder Stretches (Supported)

Standing Shoulder Stretches (No Support Needed)

#1: Thigh Grip and Pull

Steps:

  1. Grip the outside of your thighs with opposite hands, one arm in front of the other (e.g. right arm over left)
  2. Slowly raise your shoulders and upper back as high as you can, away from ground
  3. While raising, RELAX your muscles, keeping everything lax except your gripping fingers
  4. Switch the order of your arms to repeat (e.g. left arm over right)

Recommended activity:

Do 1 pull for about 15 counts, before switching arms.

How good it feels:

You should feel a release of tension in the muscles surrounding your shoulder blades.

Who else recommended this:

Trio Therapy

To explore in-depth check this out:

BabaMail

#2: Back Scratcher

Steps:

  1. Raise one arm above you, placing the hand behind your neck area
  2. Use your other arm to grab your elbow, and gently pull it inward for 15 seconds
  3. Repeat for other arm

Recommended activity:

Hold the stretch for 10 counts on each side.

How good it feels:

Typically seen as a stretch for your triceps… What most don’t realize is that the back scratcher also stretches your deltoids.

Who else recommended this:

Overhead Tricep Stretch by FitnessBlender

Stretches for Tense Shoulders by PsycheTruth

Sports Injury Clinic

#3: Reverse Prayer Pose

Steps:

  1. Are your arms flexible? No? See Step 4. Yes? Try to bring your hands behind your middle back
  2. Slowly clasp your palms together, bringing in from your last finger to your thumbs
  3. As your palms come together, push your chest out a little and squeeze your shoulder blades
  4. You can try the scapular squeeze instead:

Recommended activity:

Hold the position for 5 to 10 counts if you’re barely able to reach the position.

If you’re generally comfortable, hold the position for 20 counts instead.

How good it feels:

While the shoulder blades feel a squeeze, you’re also stretching the entire front part of your shoulders… In addition to your upper chest. Releasing this position also releases your tension.

Who else recommended this:

Yoga for Opening the Shoulders by Ekhart Yoga

Yoga For Healthy Aging

WellbeingMantras.com

To explore in-depth check this out:

Yoga by Candace

Art of Living

#4: Crossover Stretch

Steps:

  1. With one arm parallel to the ground, bring it across your chest
  2. Use your free arm (at the forearm) and bring it as close as possible to body
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 for the other arm

Recommended activity:

Hold for 10 counts on each arm.

How good it feels:

It’s a decent stretch for loosening your deltoids, that’s for sure.

Who else recommended this:

BabaMail

Skimble

To explore in-depth check this out:

Bodybuilding.com

#5: Out And Away Stretch

Steps:

  1. With hands behind your back, interlock your fingers with palms facing away from you
  2. Lock your arms
  3. Raise your arms as high as possible from the ground

Recommended activity:

Repeat 3x, while holding for 10 counts everytime.

How good it feels:

Your biceps and front of the deltoid muscle group will feel the stretch here. At the same time, you’re giving your scapular (shoulder blade) muscles a good squeeze and release. So it’s two different kinds of “ache” feelings you’ll experience.

Who else recommended this:

Niel Asher

Shreyas Retreat

Love to Know

Standing Shoulder Stretches (Supported)

#6: Standing Sleeper Stretch

Steps:

  1. Raise one elbow parallel to the ground and press it against the wall
  2. Use your free arm to gently press down the forearm

Recommended activity:

Press and hold down for 15 counts

How good it feels:

By holding down in the sleeper stretch position, your deltoid should feel a “sweet ache” from the stretch. The nice part? You wouldn’t expect your upper arm/deltoid to have this feeling from a simple stretch like this.

Who else recommended this:

Mike Reinold

Post Capsule Stretch by Exercise Bioenergetics Inc.

The Joint Docs

To explore in-depth check this out:

Athlean-X

#7: Standing Wall Stretch

Steps:

  1. Find a wall and stand at an arm’s length away from it
  2. Press your palms against the wall at shoulder height
  3. Without moving your palms, lean your upper body forward as if you were making it parallel to the ground

Recommended activity:

Try this in a more spacious area at work (e.g. pantry, corridor, your meeting room if no one’s inside). Hold it for 15 counts and carry on with your previous activity!

How good it feels:

This is pretty much a good stretch for your rhomboid and trapezius muscles (it’s around the base of your neck and between your shoulder blades)

Who else recommended this:

WikiHow

Fitbodybuzz

Breaking Muscle

#8: Corridor Stretch

Steps:

  1. Find a wall, corridor, or pole and be at one arm’s length away.
  2. If none are available, proceed to find another person for support (don’t forget to seek permission first).
  3. Grip one arm on the surface
  4. Turn away from the surface and hold the position

Recommended activity:

You can do this literally anywhere with an erect structure. Hold the stretch for 15 counts (or however long you feel you need to).

How good it feels:

This stretch is especially good if you have hunched, rounded shoulders — a side effect from bending over in front of your computer all day. You’ll find yourself standing with a more squared shoulder afterward too.

Who else recommended this:

Muscle and Fitness

Fitbodybuzz

#9: Advanced Crossover Stretch

Steps:

  1. Use one arm to ease yourself against a wall
  2. Straightening the other arm, raise it across your body and sandwich it between your body and the wall
  3. Lean against your arm more by placing more bodyweight on it
  4. Optional: face your body in the opposite direction of where your stretched arm is pointing towards

Recommended activity:

Press and hold against the wall for 15 counts.

How good it feels:

This is a stretch similar to your standard crossover stretch. But using the force from your bodyweight, you get to stretch your deltoids further.

Who else recommended this:

Inspire Studio

#10: Cow Face Pose

Steps:

  1. If you aren’t flexible enough to reach for your hand, grab something elongated (e.g. ruler, towel, stick)
  2. Place both arms behind your back — one from below and one from above shoulder level
  3. As far as you can, reach for both hands to touch each other
  4. If you’re using a stick, use your free arm to grab the other end of the stick
  5. Repeat for the other side by switching your arms

Recommended activity:

Hold for 10 counts (or less, if you’re facing a ton of difficulty getting to the cow face pose)

How good it feels:

You get a full range of stretch across the front and back of your shoulders (that’s good!). And this stretch is effective since you’re covering a larger group of muscles at one go.

Who else recommended this:

Trio Therapy

Yoga Journal

Do You Yoga

#11: Shoulders To The Wall

Oh wait, wrong image.

Hang on…

Steps:

  1. Find a wall and face it
  2. Find a shoulder (preferably your own)
  3. Lift your arm and press it against the wall (palm facing away)
  4. Slowly turn away from the wall, in the direction opposite of your arm

Recommended activity:

Once you feel that sweet spot for the shoulder stretch, hold it for about 20 counts

How good it feels:

It should feel like one of those sweet aches. In this case, you’re stretching part of your shoulder muscles that hasn’t been given attention to… Probably because not many people do this stretch in the first place. Also, you may feel your chest (pecs) being pulled along as well.

Who else recommended this:

Progressive Calisthenics Community

Namastacey

Inspire Studio

To explore in-depth check this out:

Heather Rae Murphy

#12: Doorway Stretch

Steps:

  1. Find a doorway, or a wall corner (dunce hat is optional)
  2. Grip the door frame (be careful not to get your fingers caught). If you found a corner, open your arms as wide as possible before pressing against the walls
  3. Lean as forward as possible
  4. Tuck your chin inwards to your chest

Recommended activity:

Once in the position, hold for 10 to 15 counts, depending on how deep you can enter this stretch.

How good it feels:

You’ll be stretch not just your trapezius (especially at the back of your neck)… Your pectorial muscles — especially the upper half of your chest — are being worked too.

Who else recommended this:

Muscle And Fitness

MSN Lifestyle

Physical Therapy First

To explore in-depth check this out:

T Nation

Sitting Shoulder Stretches (No Support Needed)

#13: Chin Tucks

Steps:

  1. Sit upright, with your spine straightened (you can do this while standing too)
  2. Keeping your chin parallel, retract your neck back as far as you can

Pro-tip: The trick is to fixate your eyes on an object in front of you. Then think of creating more distance between your head and the object, without moving away from your seat.

Recommended activity:

Repeat this motion slowly for 10 repetitions, doing this 3 counts per rep.

How good it feels:

The further you reach, the more the stretch is felt downward (all the way to your trapezius). The muscles that form your neck-shoulder area will feel a stretch…

But you’re also giving your upper spine a good stretch and extension. This stretch is another of those “hidden tension” relievers. So yes, you will feel pretty damn good.

Who else recommended this:

Spine Health

LiveStrong.com

To explore in-depth check this out:

Safe Stretch

#14: Segmented Shoulder Rolls

Steps:

  1. Sit straight, with your spine straight and shoulders relaxed
  2. Raise your shoulders as high as you can, as if your shoulders were to reach your ears
  3. Pull the shoulders back, as if they were trying to touch each other from the back
  4. Pull your shoulders down, as if they were touching the ground
  5. Lastly, pull your shoulders forward, as if they were supposed to be right in front of your eyes

Recommended activity:

Do this for 3 full cycles, holding for 3 counts at each position. You can do it in a full rotating circle (like a regular shoulder roll shown below). But to keep it simple, focus on feeling the stretch at 4 particular points first.

How good it feels:

The whole point of this shoulder roll is to ensure that you get the maximize stretch. In regular shoulder rolls, we can simply end up rotating the joints without giving the muscles a good stretch. Doing that just defeats the purpose of this activity, and we don’t want that.

Who else recommended this:

Michael And David Black Chiropractic Group

Real Simple

Healthnf.com

To explore in-depth check this out:

Antranik.org

#15: Neck Rolls

Steps:

  1. Sit upright
  2. Gently lean your head back
  3. Let your neck travel to the side in an arc (keeping the circle as large as possible)
  4. Eventually you will return to the starting position

Pro-tip: To stretch this right, control the motion of travel by doing this stretch slow

Recommended activity:

Rotate one round at 10 counts, no quicker or slower than that.

How good it feels:

The front half of your rotation is where your shoulder (traps) can feel the rotation. But you might as well stretch your neck muscles too. This is especially useful if you have been hunching and had your eyes glued to the computer screen.

Like this guy.

Who else recommended this:

Yoga Journal

IPC Physical Therapy

#16: Trap Pull Backs

Steps:

  1. Straighten both arms, one hand over the other
  2. Keep the arms straight, raise them above and beyond your head, past your ears
  3. Gently bring the arms back down

Recommended activity:

When raised, hold the position for 5 counts. Repeat 3 times. Oh yeah, be careful not to hit somebody behind you.

Alternatively, try raising one arm at a time

How good it feels:

Your trapezius is a large muscle group stemming from the nape all the way to your middle back. And this stretch is giving it a good squeeze and release. Also, your pecs (chest) may feel like it’s expanding as well.

You may want to also check out:

Shape

5 Chairs For Chair Yoga by Arthur Chan

#17: Sitting Cat and Cow Pose

Steps:

  1. Adopt a upright sitting position
  2. Curve your back inwards as far as possible, with your head looking towards your belly button
  3. Your shoulders will be pulled forward at this position
  4. Arch your back outwards, with your head looking skyward or even behind
  5. Your shoulders will be pulled backward at this position

Recommended activity:

Hold each position for 10 counts

How good it feels:

This is as overall as your shoulder stretches can get. Your whole upper body should feel much more relaxed and at ease after stretching.

Who else recommended this:

Healthline

Spark People

5 Chairs For Chair Yoga by Arthur Chan

Sitting Shoulder Stretches (Supported)

#18: Table Grip And Pull

Steps:

  1. Find a chair with wheels and a table (if your chair doesn’t have wheels then simply sit at 1.5 arms length away from the table)
  2. Sit on the chair
  3. Place one hand on the table and grip it if possible
  4. “Walk away” from the table, while your hand stays on the table
  5. The further you go, the more your body will bend over

Recommended activity:

Once in the stretching position, hold for 15 counts (or as long as you like to stay there). You can try grabbing the table with both arms too.

How good it feels:

Your shoulders will feel as if somebody is trying to tug at your arm (but not enough to pull it off). Specifically, this helps to stretch the rhomboid muscles.

You may want to also check out:

WikiHow

Heather Rae Murphy

#19: Chair Grabber

Steps:

  1. Sit with your full back leaning against a chair
  2. Grab the back of your chair using one arm, keeping it close to your ears
  3. Lean your head forward, as if you were looking at your own stomach
  4. Switch arms and repeat for the other side

Recommended activity:

Hold each side of the stretch for at least 10 counts. It may be tricky to find the sweet spot for this stretch.

How good it feels:

The feeling is similar to you doing the Back Scratcher and the Trap Pull Backs at the same time. So if you’ve got a chair, this stretch might be more effective (and timesaving).

#20: Reverse Table Pose (On A Chair)

Steps:

  1. Find a stable non-wheeled chair (chairs with wheels can make sudden jerky movements… We don’t want you falling now, do we?)
  2. Ensure there’s at least half a body length of space in front of you
  3. Grab the sides of your seat
  4. Extend your legs forward
  5. Push your arms as much as you can away from the ground
  6. Raise your hips as high as you can

Recommended activity:

Hold the position for 15 counts. Of course, this may not be the most convenient stretch to do at work (or in public).

How good it feels:

While this stretch is useful for your shoulders, it’s even more useful for activating your hip flexors again. Your hip flexors are usually inactive when you sit down so this stretch actually kills two birds with one stone.

Who else recommended this:

Get Healthy U

Do You Yoga

To explore in-depth check this out:

Yoga Outlet

#21: Dipping Stretch

Steps:

  1. Grab the back of your chair support (or the edge of the arm support in the demo above)
  2. Bring you butt to the edge of the seat, or as far from the back as possible

Recommended activity:

Hold this for however long you want to. 15 counts would be good.

How good it feels:

The top and front of your shoulder (connecting your chest and upper arms) will feel the bulk of the stretch here.

Who else recommended this:

Niel Asher

Trio Therapy

The Next Steps To Keep Your Shoulders Happy And Well

You just learnt something new and useful today. Give yourself a pat on the back (or, uhh, shoulder).

More importantly, you’ve just taken one HUGE step forward. Not just to adopt healthy shoulders but…

It’s also a step closer to liberating yourself from unaddressed body pain.

If pain is a monster then you’ve just earned yourself a really neat dragon-slaying claymore.

You’ve already got the know-hows at your fingertips (even if you forget, you can do the smart thing and bookmark this post).

Now, all you need to do is apply the knowledge!

Remember. Personal health and personal well-being are personal property. It’s yours to protect and take care of.

Happy stretching!

This article was originally posted on airawear.com.

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