If you’re like many people working from home in the pandemic, making do with your own furniture probably hasn’t been the best for your posture. To add insult to injury, with the temperatures dropping across the country, that hunched-over winter posture could be creeping in, too. Maybe your neck and back feel stiff and your shoulders feel tight.
If the tightness is concentrated in your shoulders, as very well may be the case, I’ve devised this new routine that’s laser-focused on releasing the stiffness in your shoulders. You can do these moves and be done in five minutes. Whether your tight shoulders are the result of too much computer time, stress or cold-weather walks, this routine will bring you relief. The muscles in the shoulders are connected to the spine, head and arm bones, so stretching and moving them in all different directions is key to loosening them up.
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Regularly stretching the muscles around the shoulder has been shown to decrease shoulder and neck pain and improve quality of life, according to research. So you’ll be moving the muscles of the shoulders up, down, forward, back and side to side. These movements improve the circulation in the upper back and neck as well as stretch the muscles that become overly tight over time. You won’t need any equipment for this routine, and can perform it standing or seated.
This exercise can be fun to do, especially in the middle of the workday. It loosens up the trapezius, or the muscles below your shoulder blades and the uppermost back muscles that run into your neck. This move also improves mobility in the area around the shoulder blades in the back of the body.
Facing forward, bring your right shoulder top forward while pulling the left shoulder top back. This step pulls the shoulders in opposite directions. Then dip the right shoulder top down, too.
Then switch and pull the right shoulder top back and bring the left shoulder top forward and dip.
Do this quickly 10 times to each side.
This is another fun exercise; this move looks just like it sounds. The shoulders will reach up to improve range of motion and loosen up the neck and muscles along the spine.
Reach the arms out to the sides as high as your shoulders. Lift up the right shoulder and then as you lower it back down, reach the left shoulder up and then lower it down.
Next, lift up the left shoulder, and as you lower the left shoulder reach the right shoulder up.
This exercise can be done fast or slow. Try to make the worm as big as possible – imagine your arms are like your body doing the worm on the floor. Repeat this 10 times.
This exercise opens up the armpits, the scapulae (or shoulder blades) and the top of the shoulder.
Put your right fingertips on your right shoulder. Reach your elbow forward in front of your face, and then draw a circle with the elbow.
Reach the elbow up, back, and down.
Do 10 circles. Then repeat with the left arm.
Goalpost arm on the wall
This stretch gets into the armpit and internal muscles of the shoulder joint.
Stand facing a wall and bring your right arm up into a goal-post position. Keep your elbow out directly from your shoulder so that your right arm makes a 90-degree angle. Press the hand against the wall.
Slowly turn your body toward the left, away from the right arm and away from the wall. Walk your feet a few inches to the left, too, but keep the feet together and in line. Keep the armpit and right side of the chest pressing against the wall.
When you’ve moved as far as you can to the left, hold the pose. You should feel a stretch in the right armpit.
Hold for about 10 seconds, and then switch sides.
Stretch the outer shoulder for a well-rounded mobility routine. This exercise gets into the deltoid muscles (the large, triangular muscle occupying the upper arm and the shoulder) and will help loosen up the arms as well.
Cross your right arm in front of your body toward the left. Grab your right upper arm with your left elbow crease to pull your right arm across your body.
Hold for 10 seconds, and then switch sides. Repeat this two more times for a total of three.
Perform this routine at least once throughout the workday. Over time, the shoulders will loosen and your range of motion will increase. You can also combine this routine with my five-minute routine that gets you out of your chair, which includes full-body posture exercises. It’s a small time commitment, but you’ll start feeling better every day!
Stephanie Mansour, host of “Step It Up With Steph” on PBS, is a health and wellness journalist and a consultant and weight loss coach for women.