The muscles in the upper back include the trapezius, latissimus dorsi and rhomboids. When these muscles become tight, neck and back pain develops as well as stiffness. When you have tight muscles, you are not able to perform tasks with a full range of motion. To increase upper back flexibility, stretch these muscles with yoga poses and conventional exercises.
The basic upper back stretch is performed from a seated or standing position. Extend your arms in front of your chest, interlace your fingers and twist your wrists so you are looking at your fingers. Keeping your torso still, push your palms forward as far as possible and hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
The pullback stretch requires a door. After opening the door, face the edge and grasp both sides of the doorknob. Keeping your feet together, lean backward, bend at the hips and look straight down. Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds.
Arm crossovers dynamically stretch the upper back muscles. Dynamic stretches are done in motion. While standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, extend your arms out to your sides at shoulder level. Steadily swing them in front of your body so your right crosses over your left. Quickly move them back out and repeat with the left crossing over the right. Alternate back and forth in a steady motion.
As the name implies, the hanging stretch is done while hanging. Reach up and grab a pull-up bar with an overhand grip and let your body hang for 20 to 30 seconds. If you do not have access to a pull-up bar, use a beam, deck or any other sturdy horizontal object.
The cat pose is a yoga exercise that stretches the back from an all-fours position. After placing your hands directly under your shoulders and knees directly under your hips, lift the middle of your back in the air to form a curvature. When you do this, keep your arms and shoulders as still as possible and feel the stretch in your upper back. Slowly lower your back to a straight position as you take a big inhale, then raise your back as you exhale. Alternate up and down in a slow and steady motion.
The dolphin pose stretches the upper back, hamstrings and calves all at one time. To do this pose, place your knees on the floor and your forearms shoulder-width apart in front of you on the floor. In a steady motion, lift your hips in the air, push your weight back onto your feet and straighten your legs. Slowly move your head down between your arms and look behind you. Your body should now be at an inverted angle and you should have a straight line from your hips to your elbows. Hold this position for 30 to 45 seconds.
- sporty girl exercising image by Gleb Semenjuk from Fotolia.com
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.