This 2-in-1 Upper Body Move Stretches and Strengthens Your Postural Muscles at the Same Time

Photo: Getty Images/The Good Brigade
Lately, my back feels as if it’s been pieced together with paper mache: It's stiff, inflexible, and rigid, yet fragile. My uppermost postural muscles ache as if I’ve been handlebar-hunching at a spin class—which, given that I’ve not stepped foot in a studio for over a year, is rather disconcerting. One thing I have done as of late? Swapped my daily walks for a sedentary lifestyle, cemented, at my desk.

As it turns out, you certainly can experience workout-level sore by doing the complete opposite. Moreover, "the biggest cause of back pain is prolonged [periods of being sedentary],” Jeff Brannigan, co-founder of Stretch*d, previously told Well + Good. “When the body is stuck in a seated position the anterior, or front, chain of the body becomes extremely tight while the posterior, or rear, chain becomes increasingly tense and dysfunctional.” Ouch.

Luckily, reintroducing movement and rebuilding strength can help reverse this cycle. Of course, there are plenty of ways to do both—I, for one, am embarking on daily strolls again. I’m also incorporating a simple maneuver called the "table top side opener," which stretches and strengthens postural muscles. A few rounds give my back and shoulders some sweet relief in an instant. With time and daily practice, I’m betting on stronger, healthier posture, too. Check out the step-by-step instructions below, and follow along with this video from Floss, courtesy of East River Pilates.

Experts In This Article

How to do a tabletop side opener

  1. Starting with your right arm, place your right hand on the back of the head, near the bottom of your hairline.
  2. With your left arm, imagine you’re pushing your hand into the floor.
  3. With your right hand still at the base of your head, lift your right elbow to the sky, opening the front of the body for a thoracic stretch.
  4. Hold this opening stretch for a few breaths.
  5. Breathe in and slowly release your right elbow downward.
  6. Continue moving elbow downwards and across your body, all the way until it touches the opposite elbow.
  7. Breathe out and repeat steps 1 to 6 a few times.
  8. Swap sides (left arm on head, right arm on floor) and repeat steps 1 to 7.

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