Take a moment to think about the 3 activities you do most often.
If 2 or more of them are sitting at a desk, riding your bike or driving a car, it’s likely that you suffer from a tight chest and limited range of motion in your shoulders.
Your body is an efficiency machine. It has adapted over time to perform the activities you do most frequently with minimal effort. Unfortunately however, it doesn’t take into account whether or not these activities and body positions are healthy for you, with the result that certain muscles atrophy and your joints settle into a limited range.
As everything in the body is connected, a tight chest and inflexibility in the shoulders has a number of knock-on effects that you may have experienced, including:
- a sore neck - pain in between the shoulder blades - loss of shoulder range of motion - increased risk of rotator cuff injury - restricted breathing patterns
In this article, I’m going to show you how to stretch your chest and internal shoulder rotators and strengthen your external shoulder rotators and the muscles that stabilize your shoulder blades.
If you’re consistent with these poses, you should notice that:
- your muscles are noticeably less stiff and sore - your recovery time between rides is reduced - you increase range of motion in your shoulders - you move more efficiently on the bike while expending less energy - your breathing is more comfortable and expansive - you feel calmer and more in control
I’m going to break this down into 3 levels of commitment. Firstly, I’ll demonstrate 3 poses that you can do in front of the TV – the more often and the longer you can hold them the better. Secondly, you can add in a 15-minute yoga routine designed to stretch the tight muscles in the front of your body, strengthen the weak muscles in the back of your body and increase mobility in the thoracic spine and shoulders. You can do this routine 3-5 days a week, first thing in the morning, during the day or before you go to bed. Thirdly, I’ll give you some additional exercises for you to do throughout your day to further correct these issues.
Yin Poses (Long Holds)
Hold each of these poses for 3-5 minutes – more if you can bear it. The support of the cushions will allow you to go deeper into the stretch.
1. Reclining Butterfly
Lie back on several cushions or pillows and let your arms fall out to the sides. Notice how your shoulders roll outwards in their sockets. If you also want to work on opening up your hips, you can bring your feet together in the shape of a diamond, take your knees out wide and support them on cushions.
Stay in the pose for 5-15 minutes, allowing the weight of your arms to gently stretch your chest and the internal shoulder rotators. Breathe in and out though your nose, inhaling for 4 and exhaling for 8.
2. Puppy With Hands In Reverse Prayer
Come to all fours. Bring your elbows down to rest on blocks or a pillow and your palms together behind your back in reverse prayer. Check that your hips are directly above your knees.
Stay in the pose for 3-5 minutes, drawing your hips back to feel a deep stretch in your chest, shoulders and lats.
3. Prone Twisted Scorpion
Lie face down on your belly with your hands underneath your shoulders. Bring your right arm straight out to the side, palm facing down. Bend your left leg and press into your left hand to twist your body open to the left. Bring your left foot flat to the mat behind your right leg. Let your left knee fall open to increase the intensity of the stretch. If your neck is uncomfortable, you can rest your head on a cushion.
Hold the pose for 3-5 minutes. This stretch is super intense so when you’re ready to release the pose, unwind slowly and switch to the other side.
This short routine is designed to take you out of your habitual movement patterns, moving you through all planes of motion, loosening up tight joints, strengthening weak muscles and increasing thoracic and shoulder mobility.
- Child pose releases tension in the upper back and shoulders. - Cat Cow increases mobility in the thoracic spine and shoulders. - Puppy pose stretches the chest, shoulders and lats. - Sphinx pose loosens up tight neck muscles. - Snake pose opens up the chest and the fronts of the shoulders. - Thread the Needle stretches the chest and shoulders and increases thoracic spine mobility. - Downward Dog opens up the shoulders. - Modified Forward Bend + Twist stretches the chest and shoulders from an inverted position. - Kneeling Sidebends stretch the lats and shoulders. - Bridge pose stretches the chest and shoulders and strengthens the upper back muscles that support your shoulders blades. - Reclining Spinal Twist stretches the neck, chest and shoulders. - Body Scan Meditation releases tension throughout the body.
Other Things You Can Do
1. Stand up straight. Try to sit and stand with good posture. When you’re standing, your ears should be over your shoulders, your shoulders over your hips, and your hips over your knees and ankles. 2. Move as much as you can. Walking around helps to reset a healthy posture, so if you’re sitting for a long time, take short movement/stretch breaks every 20 minutes. 3. Stretch your chest. Stand in a doorway and place your right arm at shoulder height with your elbow bent at a right angle. Keep your spine straight and twist your body open to the left to feel a stretch across your stretch. Hold for 30-60 seconds and switch sides. 4. Myofascial release. Work a lacrosse ball into all the muscles in the area that are tight: - from your serratus anterior (side of your rib cage) up your lats to your armpit - across your pecs - into your external rotators (back of the shoulder) - across your traps and rhomboids (upper back)
As always, you can send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.