If you work at a desk all day, chances are you have some tightness in your shoulders and back. Although we know all the common wisdom about having good posture, taking breaks and walking around throughout the day, we don’t always follow through on this good advice. Even worse, we may find ourselves slouching or hunched over and wonder why we’re experiencing soreness or nerve pain. Fortunately, there’s a free solution to some of these programs that only requires us to get up and do some easy exercises.
To keep your back and shoulders in tip-top shape, here are some simple exercises to keep you loose and limber. Each set focuses on a different set of muscles:
General Ab and Back Strengthening
1. Lie gently on your back with both knees bent and angled slightly to one side of your body. Stretch your arms out to your sides and lay your palms flat on the ground. Once you’re in position, gently twist your head in the opposite direction of your knees so that your cheek is on the ground. Rest in this position for 10 minutes and then do the same on the other side. For best results, repeat this four times!
2. Lie on your back with your arms loosely on the ground beside you and your legs straight out, feet pointing up. From this position, bend one of your legs over the other and allow your lower back to twist gently in that direction. At the same time, let your head twist the opposite way. Repeat this the other way and keep your shoulders flat on the ground at all times. Repeat this exercise 20 times.
Ab and Midback Strengthening
1. First get on your hands and knees with your toes tucked on the ground behind you. As you inhale deeply, arch your back upward and gently tuck your neck and head down under your body. Stay in this position for 15 to 30 seconds. Next, reverse this motion as you exhale by curving your back inward and letting your neck and head curve back upwards (for another 15 to 30 seconds). If done correctly, your movements will resemble a cat stretching! Do this exercise twice all the way through.
2. Similar to the above, arch your back and lift one knee up to your chest as if trying to reach your forehead. Then, stretch that same leg outward and up behind you while lifting and stretching the opposite arm out in front of you. Repeat this process at a slow speed 10 times.
Ab and Lower Back Strengthening
1. Lay on your back with your knees bent and your pelvis pushing into the floor. With your hands behind your head, gently exhale and lift your ribs off the ground (similar to a standard stomach crunch). Repeat this process slowly 10 times.
2. Lay on your back with your hands gently behind your head and bend your knees, raising them 90 degrees to the ground with your lower legs straight out (like a bicycle sit-up position). From this position, gently pull one knee in while twisting in your shoulders to meet it with your opposite elbow. Be sure to extend the opposite leg out as you do this and repeat on both sides, gently “bicycling” the air and twisting your elbows to both knees. Repeat this exercise 10 times with fluid motion throughout.
3. From your back with your arms on the ground beside you, gently bend your knees inward one at a time while extending the other one outward and up in front of you. Do this on both sides and repeat the process 10 times.
Obliques and Side Muscles
1. Lie on your side in a straight line, resting on your forearm with your elbow directly under your shoulder. Your other arm can stay pressed to your side. Slightly tighten your abs and lift your hips off the floor, keeping a straight line from head to toe. Hold this position for 20 to 40 seconds before lowering back down. Repeat this two or three times on each side.