Stretch, Strengthen, and Stabilize Tight Shoulders With IYT Stretches

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Photo: Getty Images/ vladans
Your shoulders are often the unintended victims of a long day at the office. Hovering over your laptop for hours on end can cause a serious slump in your posture, which leads to all sorts of problems—not the least of which is discomfort.

"Our bodies are in a forward head position and our shoulders are hunched over, which causes our back muscles to get weak and stretched out while our front muscles get very tight and strong," says Phaeleau Cunneen, PT, a New York  City physical therapist. Because of this, it's important to do back-targeting exercises to help balance out your strength.

Enter the IYT stretch series, which targets your middle and lower trapezius and infraspinatus—aka the muscles around your shoulders—to help strengthen and stabilize them. This, in effect, will help un-scrunch your body from all the hours spent hovered over your computer. And the best part? You can pretty much do it anywhere.

How to do the IYT stretch series for your shoulders

Lying flat on your stomach on top either a ball, a bench, or—yup—your bed, position your body so that your head is slightly dangling off to the side. You can do the exercise either with or without weights, depending on the strength of your shoulders. Then, cycle through each movement until your arms or shoulders start to feel fatigued, at which point you'll move on to the next. To get the most out of the series, focus on lifting through your shoulders, bracing your core to protect your low back.

1. "I" stretch: Hold your arms back behind your body, Superman-flying-through-the-air style. Stretch your arms down the back of your body so that you're in a totally straight line (like the letter "I"), and squeeze your shoulder blades together so that your head, neck, and shoulders lift slightly. Hold.

2. "T" stretch: Move your arms out to the side of your body so that they make a letter "T" with your torso. Hold them at shoulder-height, squeezing your shoulders back behind you.

3. "Y" stretch: Transition your arms out in front of you at a 45-degree angle, creating a "Y" shape around your head with your palms facing down. This move is slightly more challenging than the other two, so if you were working with weights you may want to drop them prior to this switch.

Here are some other exercises that can help with rounded shoulders. And uour hips might also be tight from a long week of sitting–try these CARs stretches to loosen them right up. 

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