Stretches for the Upper Body

Stretches are a good way to start a work out session as it prepares the body for movement, increasing flexibility and helps prevent injury. Always remain within the comfortable stretch zone even if you would like to increase your flexibility. It is safer to under stretch than to overstretch. If you feel any pain or discomfort at any stage of the stretch then stop the stretch immediately.

This page explains how to do upper body (including lower back) stretches. To stretch your lower body click here. As with all the stretches, you should aim to hold a stretch for about 20 to 30 seconds before releasing. Remember to breathe.

diagram of neck stretchingNeck Stretch
The neck stretch should be done before exercise but could also be done every day, especially if you work at a desk and computer all day:

  • Gently drop your chin, moving your head forwards in a nod
  • Reverse the movement
  • Then nod the head gently from side to side

diagram of Stretching the shoulder and backShoulder Stretch
It is important to warm up the shoulders if you are lifting, pushing or pulling anything in a workout:

  • Stretch out your right arm and sweep it to the left
  • Use your other arm to pull the right shoulder gently forwards towards the left
  • Do the same with the left arm
  • Now slowly rotate the shoulders backwards, raising your shoulders up towards the ears and then down as far as possible
  • Reverse direction

diagram of stretching to warm up shoulders Shoulder and Tricep Stretch
This stretches two muscles at the same time. It stretches the posterior deltoid muscle (back head of shoulder), and the triceps muscles (back of the arm) together:

  • Lift up your right arm but keep the biceps close to the side of your head
  • Gently bend the right arm until your hand is comfortably touching the back of the neck
  • Using your left hand, hold the elbow of your right arm and gently pull the elbow backwards, towards your head
  • Do the same with the left arm

diagram of Stretching chest warm upChest Stretch
This stretch can help warm up most of the upper body in one. Use this stretch as part of a warm up routine rather than trying to increase flexibility. Start off with the hands closer to the buttocks, as it becomes easier over the weeks you can slowly try to move the hands up a little at a time:

  • Start in a seated or standing position
  • Using both hands reach around to your back until the hands meet in the middle
  • Grasp both hands together by interlocking the fingers, with the elbows unlocked
  • Slowly push the shoulders back and straighten the arms until the elbows lock out

diagram of Stretch stomach muscles with cobraCobra Stretch
This is a stretch for the front of the torso and the stomach. It will also help to loosen up the lower back as well:

  • Start by lying face down flat on the floor with your feet together
  • Position your hands to the sides about shoulder level
  • Gently push your upper body off the floor a few inches at a time
  • Keep the stomach and back muscles relaxed, looking up at all times
  • The legs should remain on the floor, whilst your back should arch slight

diagram of Stretching lat muscles of the backUpper Back Stretch
This helps to loosen the shoulder joint as well as the wrists. It is good when training the back muscles such as a rowing movement. You can stand or sit to do this stretch:

  • Start by interlacing your fingers
  • Then turn the palms upward above your head as you slowly straighten your arms

It may be easier to arch the lower back slightly as the arms become nearly straight.

diagram of stretch spine lower backLower Back Stretch
This is a stretch for the lower back but it helps stretch all the other back muscles and the spine. It helps to prevent strain to the lower back and aids circulation:

  • Sit on a strong, secure chair
  • Lift your arms up in front of you
  • Slowly bend down, curling your back
  • You should reach for your feet

If this is easy you can try positioning the feet further away at the start of the stretch. Take care if you have problems with your back. If in doubt, do not try this stretch.

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