In the introduction post to this series, we reviewed and answered some common questions regarding stretching, including why, when, how, etc. Click here to review it.
In this post we will be talking about how to stretch out the back of the shoulder. This area is also a big intersection area and includes the rotator cuff muscles, the deltoid, upper tricep and latissimus dorsi muscles.
1) Stretching should NEVER hurt. The goal is to only go until you feel a pull in the muscle. It should not be to go until it hurts in one of those “no pain, no gain” efforts. It should be comfortable and repeatable, allowing you to move a little further with each repetition.2) Perform stretches when the muscles are warmed up. This can be following a workout or following work with the foam roller. Click here to review the self massage post for the back of the shoulder (this includes pictures and video using a foam roller and tennis ball to review 3 self muscle release techniques).
2) Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat 3-4 times. You can hold longer than the 20 seconds, but the reps are key. You will always get more out of stretching frequently versus one killer session a week.
3) If hurt- be sure to stretch out the opposing muscle groups first. For the back of the shoulder, this means the front of the shoulder, the biceps and the neck. If it is too painful to stretch out the back of the shoulder due to injury, focus on these groups first and then work your way up to stretching out the injury itself.
#1 Seated stretch
This is a traditional back of the shoulder stretch. Start by reaching one arm across your chest (at chest level) and then grab on with your other hand. From this position, hold at the elbow and pull that arm further across your chest until a good stretch is felt in the back of the shoulder. Remember- keep the arm that you are stretching completely relaxed. It’s just going for the ride. Hold 20-30 seconds and repeat 4 times. If this area is particularly tight you can change the angle you’re arm is at to hit different spots in the muscles. For example, pull the arm down towards your opposite hip or up and over your opposite shoulder instead of straight across your chest.
#2 Outer Scap/Lat Stretch
For this stretch, you’re going to start on your hands and knees. From here you’re going to put both hands off to one side to start. For example, start by reaching up and off to the left. Then try to sit back on your right heel. This will give you a stretch along the right side of your rib cage. You can increase this stretch by pushing your ribs and arm pit out even further. Ideally we’re looking for a stretch that is along that outside of the ribs and up into the back of the shoulder/armpit. Another way to increase this stretch is to add a little rotation (for example, in the picture above you are stretching the right side. from this position you would twist your upper body so that the right shoulder moved up and the left shoulder down). Hold 20-30 seconds and repeat 4 times to each side.