This Equipment-Free Mobility Exercise Stretches and Strengthens ‘Frozen Shoulders’ in 30 Seconds Flat

Photo: Getty Images/ agrobacter
This whole "work from home" situation has had a negative impact on my mood, my productivity, and my dating life. Le sigh. But all existential crises aside, the biggest place I've felt its effects has been in my shoulders. Working from a less-than-ideal setup has been horrible for my upper body, and apparently, I'm not the only one who's been powering through the pain.

According to Shelby Smith, a personal trainer based in Rhode Island, many people are dealing with "frozen shoulders," thanks to the fact that we're slumped over our laptops all day long. And the best way to deal, she says, is by breaking up your sitting hours with a simple shoulder mobility exercise that will stretch and strengthen your shoulders in 30 seconds flat.

Experts In This Article
  • Shelby Smith, integrative nutrition health coach and certified exercise physiologist.

When you're sitting with imperfect posture (aka when you don't hold your shoulders back and engage your spine all day long), it causes your head, neck and shoulders to slump over into something called "upper cross syndrome." And when this happens, it messes with your shoulder mobility and makes it difficult to move your shoulder blades, which is where the term "frozen shoulders" comes in. This all comes as a result of shoulder weakness and tightness, which is why you'll want to use a move that targets both issues to combat discomfort in your upper body.

"If you're tight in your thoracic spine, it probably means you're weak in that area too," says Smith. "So you'll want to pair stretching moves with strengthening moves." And her go-to shoulder mobility exercise—a child's pose arm lift—gives you everything you need to get the best of both worlds at the same time. "Child's pose, in general, is an awesome move because it stretches and opens up your upper thoracic spine," she says. "And then raising and lowering your arms one at a time turns on and strengthens all of the muscles around your scapula."

The move requires nothing more than your own body and a little bit of floor space, and is perfect for sinking into throughout the day whenever your shoulders start to scream. Start in a traditional child's pose with your knees out wide, your hips sunk back in between them, and your arms extended over your head on the floor. Turn your palms to face each other so that your thumbs are pointed up to the sky, then slowly raise and lower one arm at a time. If you're dealing with major mobility issues, you may not be able to lift your arms at all, which is all the more reason to keep practicing. Treat your body to 30- or 60-second cycles of the exercise, and over time you'll start to see changes in the way your upper body is able to move. (If you're having trouble with child's pose, try these child's pose modifications that provide the same benefits.)

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