When most runners think about stretching they go straight to the lower body. While it is important to stretch the legs that carry you miles and miles, you shouldn't forget your upper body. Rounded shoulders and tight chest muscles have become the norm in our society as we are constantly hunched over desks and steering wheels and carrying heavy bags or children on one side of our bodies.
The ability to maintain good posture is a key factor in running form and allows you to run more efficiently and comfortably.
Last week we reviewed dynamic stretching for the lower body. When it comes to the upper body, I would recommend dynamic stretches like arm circles, bear hugs and torso twists for your pre-run ritual. After the run is when you want to get into more static stretching with longer holds.
I have five stretches to share with you today that will help stretch your chest and shoulders to improve mobility and posture. Three can be performed from a standing position and two are performed on the floor. The floor stretches are ideal for longer, more restorative holds as you can really relax and breathe into them.
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You will feel this stretch starting down near the elbow, through the bicep and into the shoulder and chest. Facing a wall, place your palm on the wall directly in front of the shoulder. Press firmly into the palm as you turn to rotate your body in the opposite direction. Continue to press into the palm and keep the arm as straight as possible. Hold for 20-30 seconds per side.
You will feel this stretch along the front of your shoulder. Stand next to the wall and extend your arm back behind you. Press your palm and lower arm into the wall as you gently lean away from the wall, keeping the shoulder about a fist distance from the wall. Hold for 20-30 seconds per side.
This stretch is going to be more intense in the chest. Bend the elbow at 90 degrees and press the palm and forearm into the wall. Gently lean away from the wall keeping the shoulder about a fist distance from the wall. Hold 20-30 seconds per side.
This is the floor version of the extended arm stretch above. It's a deep shoulder opener. To get into this shoulder opener begin by lying flat on your stomach. Bring one arm straight out beside you in a T-shape with the palm placed on the floor. Begin to roll your bodyweight towards the extended arm so that your chest is lifted towards the other side of the room. You can gently press into your opposite palm to help you get deeper. The head can either rest on the floor or on a rolled up towel if it's more comfortable for your neck. The most common mistake I see here placing the extended arm up closer to the ear instead of straight out from the shoulder. Make sure there is a straight line from shoulder to wrist. Hold for at least a minute or as long as you’d like to stay in it.
This floor variation of the shoulder opener gets deeper into the chest muscles. Everything is the same as the shoulder opener but the elbow is bent at a 90-degree angle with palm pressing into the floor. Hold for at least a minute or as long as you’d like to stay in it.
Give your upper body a little love with these chest and shoulder stretches! Let me know if you have questions or feedback.
Jen DeCurtins is the content manager for Run Charlotte Run. She is a certified personal trainer, 200-hour registered yoga teacher, CrossFit coach, running enthusiast and food and fitness blogger at Peanut Butter Runner.