While improving your posture, your breathing and your strength.
Neck pain? Back cramps? The struggle is real. Thanks to all that time on the computer (hello, anyone with an office job) and your smartphone – which you might has well have surgically attached to your hand – neck, shoulder and upper back issues have become increasingly part of our everyday lives – and brought poor posture along with it.
These neck stretches and strengthening exercises, from Barre Attack founder and Pilates instructor Renee Scott, will help bring awareness and better posture habits to your neck and upper back, and should slowly – but surely – improve your posture and breathing flow.
The best bit? All of these stretches are best performed seated on a chair – so instead of checking Instagram when you catch an elusive break at work, try one of these instead… and thank us later.
1. The seated neck stretch
This exercise is fantastic to do in 30 minute intervals throughout the day – it will stop you from creating more tension through your dominant side that you hold your phone (or mouse… or kids!) on.
Sit on a chair with both feet on the floor.
Place the right hand palm up and under the right buttocks cheek, sitting on your hand will stabilise that side of the shoulder and neck.
Gently tilt the head and ear towards the left shoulder, so it is lengthening over to the left side, breathe and hold for 40 seconds.
You will feel a stretch along the side of the neck, if you wish to increase the stretch bring the left hand on the ear and elongate the neck further – but please, be kind to your neck.
Return to the centre and stretch the other side.
Repeat 2-3 times.
2. The crossed arm, upper back and neck stretch
This exercise is great for relieving the tension built up through the upper back and neck from slouching, studying for long hours or, again, looking at our phones.
Reach the arms out parallel to the floor, palms up towards the ceiling.
Cross the arms in front of the torso so the right arm is above the left, and then bend your elbows stacking the right elbow over the left and bring your palms to touch (or wrists if you can’t quite get there).
Press your palms together and bring the elbows up to shoulder height, gently lengthen the elbows forward opening up the shoulder blades and reaching the fingertips up towards the ceiling.
You should feel the release through the upper back and shoulders; and you can also add a tilt of the neck to the side or forward to increase the neck stretch.
Hold for 40-60 seconds, deepening and lengthening the breathe and relieving the muscles.
Stretch the other side and repeat 2-3 times.
3. The double-chin neck-strengthening exercise
This exercise is perfect for preventing the couch slouch, where we round our shoulders and curve our upper spines over.
Start with the feet flat on the floor and the spine upright and on the back of the chair if possible.
Lengthen through the torso creating the tallest longest spine you can, gently activating the lower abdominals to draw in and up towards the ceiling.
Press the back of the head and neck into the back on the chair (if its tall enough) and imagine you are creating a double chin.
Hold the double chin and the back of the neck lengthened for 30-60 seconds and release.
Repeat 4-5 times.
4. The arm waving posture-strengthening exercise
This exercise strengthens the upper back and allows the shoulders and chest to open and realign, promoting larger lung capacity and increasing postural awareness. This is perfect for creating and sustaining more energy and vitality.
Siting up straight with the back up against the back of the chair and feet firmly planted on the floor.
Reach the arms up towards the ceiling keeping the shoulders down; bend the elbows down towards the waist keeping the shoulders and arms pulling back.
Try and imagine there is a wall behind the body and you are sliding the back of the arms up and down the wall in a waving action.
Keep the abdominals and ribcage connected – not overarching the spine to pull the arms back.
You will feel the chest and shoulders opening as you draw the shoulder blades down and inwards towards the spine.
Upper back and posture will improve when performed regularly.
Repeat 8-10 times.