In today’s workout I’m sharing four upper back stretches that will make your spine feel divine. All you need is an exercise mat, so come on in and join the fun!
Remember a few weeks ago when I shared three stretches for tight hips? In that post I talked about how our sedentary lifestyle is really doing a number on our muscles and joints. Sitting is the new smoking and it’s wreaking havoc on our bodies.
Another side effect of our habitual postures is tightness in the upper back, neck and shoulders. Here’s why:
Most of our day-to-day tasks keep our arms in front of our torso (hello computer work, texting, driving, ironing, and cooking). This contracts the muscles at the front of the body and weakens the muscles of the back, which are constantly being lengthened.
Yep, lengthened. Your “tight back” might not be a symptom of muscle contraction, but actually of muscle strain.
Rounding the shoulders or low back when sitting or standing (and constantly reaching forward) over-stretches the spinal extensors and weakens the shoulder stabilizers. Rather than being a good thing, this “flexibility” is a sign that your spine isn’t properly supported and your own weight is dragging your body out of alignment.
What happens then?
Our fascia — the connective tissue that wraps around the muscles, bones and organs — gets stiff and inflexible from being stuck in the same position all day. Imagine the fascia as a cobweb that has wrapped around your muscles. Cobwebs that get ignored get more and more dense; fascia that gets ignored also gets more dense (or knotted) creating tension and reducing mobility.
So what can we do about it?
I’m so glad you asked! We need to take a three-pronged approach to tackling these aches and pains:
- Strengthen the spine. A tight back is different from a strong back. Do these three upper body exercises (and pay particular attention to move #1 “Cactus Glides”)
- Strengthen the core. This is going to support your spine from your abdominals, and help you to improve your posture throughout the day. Here is a 10 minute crunch-free core workout.
- Stretch the upper back through a variety of movements. Mobilizing the thoracic spine (upper back) through flexion, extension and rotation will help to take your fascia from sticky to supple. Try adding the four exercises in the video below to your daily routine.
Download Your Stretch Series
I’ve created a nifty one-page PDF for you to download, which includes instructions and photos of the four stretches from today’s video. That way you can keep it on your computer to remind yourself to stretch your spine throughout the day! Click here to download your free PDF.
Now I’d Love To Hear From You
Once you’ve had a chance to do these stretches I’d love to know how they felt in your body. Let me know by leaving a comment below.