The teacup gets its name from the idea that when you do it you have to imagine that you’re holding a delicate cup and saucer in you palm. The movement provides an internal and external rotation, working the muscles that run through your shoulder elbow and wrist all at the same time.
“Think of your muscles as a soaking wet towel, this movement simulates wringing out that towel by adding flexion, extension and rotation to the joints,” says Mitchell Fischer, ACSM-CPT, a fitness manager at Gold’s Gym. The move is intended to mobilize the muscles that support your shoulder, elbow and wrist stability, he adds: “This is much more effective than massage or foam rolling, which is like taking that same wet towel and trying to get the water out by simply squeezing in between your hands.”
Here’s how to do the teacup, one of the best shoulder stretching exercises
To do the move properly, according to Fischer, start with your palm up at your belly button and imagine you’re balancing a teacup on the top of your palm. Point your fingers toward your torso while rotating your elbow toward the front of your body, and as your hand passes under your armpit. When your arm is fully extended, bend your elbow and sweep the back of your hand over your face. Continue the path until your palm comes back to the starting point—keeping it face-up on a level plane so you don’t spill the tea in your imaginary teacup.
A few other things Fischer wants you to keep in mind: Keep your spine movements to a minimum, and if your muscles start to feel pain (rather than discomfort), cut down on the range of motion and build up to it over time. And if you want to make things slightly more challenging, try holding a small weighted plate—2.5 or 5 pounds—in your palm.
Tea is served.
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