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8 Upper Body Stretches (Back, Chest, Neck and Shoulder Stretches)

Release tension in your neck, shoulders, back and chest with these 8 Upper Body Stretches! A quick, 10-minute guided stretching routine to do after an upper body workout.



 

Get relief from tension in the neck, shoulders, upper back and chest with this quick, 10-minute upper body stretching routine. 

Your neck and shoulders might feel tight and stiff for a variety of reasons:

  • Sitting for long periods of time (hunched over a computer all day).
  • Sleeping ‘wrong’ or in a position that causes extra stress on your neck.
  • Holding or feeding babies and toddlers.
  • Strength training arms and upper body.
  • General stress, tension and overuse.

Whether you’re unwinding after a long day in front of your computer, looking to release a tight neck and back, or have just finished a tough upper body workout, these 8 Upper Body Stretches are for you! 

woman performing a neck stretch in an upper body stretch routine

Upper Body Stretches FAQs

How Often Should You Incorporate Upper Body Stretches?

It all depends on your personal goals, but ideally you would incorporate active mobility and stretching exercises into your daily routine! I suggest adding these upper body stretches to your fitness routine 2-3 days a week. I personally like to use this 10-minute upper body stretching routine as a mid-day stretch break from my computer or desk work. This is also a great extended cool-down to add onto any upper body workout.

What Are The Benefits Of Upper Body Stretching?

Adding upper body stretches to your workout routine has a ton of benefits such as: increased range of motion, reduced muscle soreness, improved posture, reduced risk of injury, and reduced risk of joint pain. Regular stretching improves the ability to get deeper into your loaded movements so you can press weight overhead pain-free and avoid injury.

woman performing a t-spine stretch as part of an upper body stretch routine

Try these eight upper body stretches after your next arm workout or make them part of your daily stretching routine.

These upper body stretches are designed to: 

  • Release tension in the chest, back, neck and shoulder muscles.
  • Reduce neck pain, shoulder pain, and back pain.
  • Increase upper body mobility (reducing stiffness in the neck and shoulders).
  • Improve posture.

Stretch Routine Equipment:

None, just your bodyweight. 

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woman holding child's pose as part of the best upper body stretches

Stretch Routine Instructions:

Follow along with the guided Upper Body Stretch Routine on YouTubeled by certified personal trainer, Lindsey Bomgren. 

Your Workout Looks Like This:

  • 8 Stretches
  • Timed Intervals (Hold each stretch for 30-60 seconds, until you feel the tension in your muscles relax.)
  • Perform All 8 Stretches x1 Set

*Note: these upper body stretches are not a substitute for seeking medical attention or seeing a physical therapist if you have chronic neck, shoulder or back pain. 

Workout Outline

  1. Half Kneeling Thoracic Spine Reach Under
  2. Kneeling Posterior Neck Stretch
  3. Reverse Table Top Pose
  4. Kneeling Reach Across T-Spine Stretch
  5. Kneeling Scapular Protraction and Shoulder Rollback
  6. Child’s Pose Hand On Hand Sit Backs
  7. Trap and Neck Stretch
  8. Butterfly Stretch with Rounded Back and Flat Back
woman stretching her neck and shoulders as part of the best upper body stretches

Prefer to Watch On YouTube?

youtube icon Stretch Routine

8 Upper Body Stretches

Half Kneeling Thoracic Spine Reach Under

Targets: Neck, shoulders, chest and upper back (while also opening the hips).

woman performing a half kneeling thoracic spine reach under (thread the needle) in an upper body stretch routine at home

How To Do A Half Kneeling Thoracic Spine Reach Under

  1. Start in a table top position on all fours with hips over knees and shoulders over wrists.
  2. Extend your left leg long, toes in line with left hip.
  3. Then reach your left arm overhead towards the ceiling, while also turning your head up towards the ceiling; gaze follows fingertips. Opening the chest and shoulders. Hold for a moment.
  4. Then ‘thread the needle’, reaching your left hand between your right hand and right knee; lowering left shoulder and ear to the mat. Hips stay high.
  5. Hold this position for a moment and repeat this arm extension and reach under.
  6. Repeat this movement on the left side, then switch sides, performing steps 1-5 on the right side.

Kneeling Posterior Neck Stretch

Targets: All the muscles along your neck, traps, upper back and spine.

woman performing a posterior neck stretch as part of neck and shoulder stretches to relieve tension

How To Do A Kneeling Posterior Neck Stretch

  1. Start in an upright kneeling position, seated on your heels.
  2. Place both hands on the back of your head and gently pull down on your head as you lower your head towards the ground.
  3. Feel the stretch along your neck and spine as you gently pull down on your head.

Reverse Table Top 

Targets: The front side of the body, specifically opening up the chest, shoulders, neck and hips.

THE BEST stretch to do after a long day of traveling or driving. Also a great way to counteract sitting at a computer all day. 

woman performing a reverse table top pose, the BEST upper body stretch after sitting at a desk all day

How To Do A Reverse Table Top

  1. Start seated on the ground.
  2. Place your hands behind you on the mat, shoulder-width apart, fingers pointing towards you (fingers facing your butt) and legs bent at 90 degrees in front of you.
  3. Lean back as you lift your hips up towards the ceiling while pressing firmly into your hands and feet. Arms straight.
  4. Hold at the top with knees at a 90-degree angle and thighs and torso parallel to the floor.
  5. Let your neck fall back as you open the front side of your body holding this reverse table top pose.

Kneeling Reach Across T-Spine Stretch

Targets: Chest, shoulders, upper and lower back muscles.

woman performing a kneeling reach across t-spine stretch in an upper body stretch routine

How To Do A Kneeling T-Spine Stretch

  1. Start in an upright kneeling position, toes tucked under, seated on your heels.
  2. Place your right hand on your left thigh (close to your knee) as you extend your left arm overhead towards the ceiling; gaze follows fingertips.
  3. Hold this t-spine stretch on the left. Then switch sides and repeat on the right (placing your left hand on your right thigh as you extend your right hand towards the ceiling).

Kneeling Scapular Protraction And Shoulder Rollback

Targets: Shoulder and scapular mobility; activating the trapezius, rhomboids, and latissimus dorsi muscles.

woman performing a kneeling scapular protraction as active upper body stretching

How To Do A Kneeling Scapular Protraction And Shoulder Rollback

  1. Start in an upright kneeling position, tops of feet flat on the floor, seated on your heels.
  2. Extend both arms long in front of you at shoulder height.
  3. Pull your shoulders up towards your ears, then actively pull your shoulders down away from your ears. Squeezing your shoulder blades together as you pull your traps, shoulders and upper back muscles down and back (scapular prostration).
  4. Roll your shoulders down, creating a long neck, while actively engaging your trapezius, rhomboids, and latissimus dorsi muscles (neck, shoulders and upper back muscles.

Child’s Pose Hand On Hand Sit Backs

Targets: Shoulders, upper and lower back, and hips.

woman performing a child's pose stretch for back pain

How To Do Child’s Pose Reach Across Stretch

  1. Start in an upright kneeling position. Rest your hands on your thighs as you open your knees slightly wider than hip-width and bring your big toes to touch.
  2. Then reach forward, lowering your torso between your knees. Extend your right hand across your body, out in front of your left knee. Place your left hand on top of your right hand (palms facing the mat). Also referred to as the “corner” stretch, as you can think of reaching your hand towards the corner of your mat.
  3. Sit your hips back, resting your butt on your heels as you reach your right hand as far away from your body as possible. Breath and continue to hold this stretch.
  4. Repeat on the opposite side — extending your left hand across your body, out in front of your right knee. Place your right hand on top of your left hand (palms facing the mat).

Trap Neck Stretch

Targets: All the muscles along the sides of your neck, traps and upper shoulders.

woman performing a trap and neck stretch in neck and shoulder upper body stretches

How To Do A Trap Neck Stretch

  1. Start in an upright kneeling position, tops of feet flat on the floor, seated on your heels.
  2. Place your left hand on the top, right side of your head (near your right temple). Gently pull your head down, guiding your left ear toward your left shoulder.
  3. Hold this stretch, then gently release this side. Switch sides, performing this same stretch on the right side. Gently pulling your right ear toward your right shoulder.
  4. Feel the stretch along your neck and shoulders as you create length in your neck.

Butterfly Stretch With Rounded Back And Flat Back

Targets: The upper back, shoulders, chest and neck (as well as the inner thighs and hips).

woman performing a butterfly stretch with rounded back and flat back

How To Do A Butterfly Stretch With Rounded Back And Flat Back

  1. Sit on the floor with the soles of your feet pressing into each other.
  2. Clasp your hands on your feet — criss cross your arms, placing your right hand on your left foot and your left hand on your right foot.
  3. Then tuck your chin towards your chest as you round through your spine and upper back (creating a C-shape with your spine); pulling your shoulder blades apart. Hold here for a moment.
  4. Then return to the starting position with a neutral spine — straighten your spine, sitting up tall on your sit bones.
  5. Then reverse this motion, lifting your chin up towards the ceiling as spread your chest open, pulling your shoulders down and back to open up through the chest and shoulders.
  6. Continue to flow through the rounded back (chin tucked with C-shape spine) to flat back (neutral spine with chin lifted).

Pin these Upper Body Stretches

Upper body neck and shoulder stretches | pin for pinterest

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