Pilates

Reduce Upper-Back Pain and Improve Your Posture With This 10-Minute, Chest-Opening Stretch Routine

Tension in your upper and middle back can be a pain to live with. Lots of things can lead to aches in this area, but often tight chest muscles—either from hunching over a screen all day or even having bigger boobs—can round your shoulders forward, Jessica McManus, PT, physical therapist and owner of Full Circle Wellness PT previously told Well+Good. So chest-opening exercises and stretches like this 10-minute, beginner-friendly, guided routine from East River Pilates instructor Brian Spencer can help you relieve pent-up chest tension. These moves are intended to expand and broaden your chest muscles, in particular your pectoralis major and minor.

They’ll improve mobility in your upper body, blood circulation, and potentially ease neck and back pain,  Spencer says. Chest stretches also help align your shoulder blades, he adds, improving posture and flexibility.

The stretch routine begins with a few rounds of cat-cow, which has a multitude of benefits, such as opening the chest, stretching your back, and getting your spine ready for more range of motion. The cat-cow stretch is done in the table-top position with your knees and palms on the floor. Start by tucking your tailbone under and rounding your back toward the sky, like a scaredy, Halloween cat, before letting your chest sink toward the mat, while lifting your gaze forward and arching your back. The cat-cow position then moves into windmill arm circles, bringing the heat to your back muscles and further opening the chest.

Your range of motion gradually increases throughout the video with twisting stretches. The first one is done by sitting back on your ankles with your palms behind your head, twisting your body back and forth for a deep stretch in your mid-back. Flowing into the second movement—some kneeling rotation to loosen up your thoracic spine (aka mid-back) with the added benefit of stretching your hip flexors, which can get tight from sitting for long periods of time. Finally, you’ll finish with a supported backbend. While on your knees, place your hands on the backs of your ankles, arching your back while lifting your chest to the sky for a deep, heart-opening stretch.

Although no equipment is necessary, feel free to grab a comfortable yoga mat, some yoga blocks or books, your favorite workout clothes, and a water bottle for this restorative and refreshing chest-stretch routine.

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