3 Upper-Body Strength and Flexibility Exercises

When are we not using our upper body? (shoulders, arms, chest and upper back)?

Every day, we brush our teeth, comb our hair, type on the computer keyboard, move things, eat, lift up our kids, cook, wash dishes and more.

When one area of the body is weakened or inhibited, we transfer the weight and work to another area of the body, such as our upper arms or shoulders. By continually exerting our muscles in unnatural ways, we create imbalances in our body that can lead to even more pain, as well as restricted motion.

Are You Using the Right Muscles?

For example, while at the gym, men especially, focus on upper-body workouts. There is almost always someone at the gym doing a bicep curl. Frequently, people will be using a swinging motion to lift up the weight, using their back for stability. Such improper form often means that the bicep is not working as it should or the weight is too great for the bicep to handle, so the rest of the body is trying to compensate. The bicep, not the back, should be the muscle lifting the weight.

The upper body is also frequently used in sports, such as in tennis when swinging a racket. A lot of force is created as tennis players rotate their trunk and swing using the muscles of their upper body, including their shoulder. Commonly though, players end up using the most force from their elbow to their wrist. These muscles and joints are not meant to withstand the stress placed on them, and as a result often become sore and/or stiff.

Exercising Your Upper Body

To help properly balance and keep your upper-body muslces strong, try these exercises:

Shoulder Stabilizer

  • Lie flat on your back with your legs and feet together. Keep your arms straight at your sides. Keep your feet in a neutral position.
  • Face the palms of your hands up. While keeping your right arm straight, lift it straight up 45 degrees off of the ground.
  • Now move your arm 45 degrees to the right, away from your body.
  • You should feel the muscle contracting along your rib cage, under your arm.
  • Hold the position for six seconds and repeat six times on each arm, resting for a few seconds in between sets.

Upper-Back Contraction

  • Lie flat on your back with your legs and feet together, arms straight at your sides with palms down, thumbs toward your body. Keep your feet in a neutral position.
  • Keeping your arm on the floor the entire time, bring one arm away from the body in an upward motion (like making a snow angel).
  • Bring your arm up as high up as you can without pain. Note: If you can go past 90 degrees, only go slightly past this mark and stop.
  • Hold the position for six seconds and repeat six times on each arm, resting for a few seconds in between sets.

Scapula Rotation

  • Lie flat on your back with your legs and feet together. Keep your arms straight at your sides. Keep your feet in a neutral position.
  • Bend your right elbow at 90 degrees, so that the hand is straight up in the air.
  • Slightly move your right shoulder down (opposite of bringing your shoulder to your ear).

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