By Francine Smith
We all know that the hips are the center of the body and carry the most weight, but they are also
designed to. Shoulders are a lot trickier; shoulder joints are really only half-sockets and it’s the muscles,
tendons, and ligaments that hold the arm in place.
Since time is money I’ll give you a run-down of the most important stretches and exercises to counteract
Target areas: Pectoral muscles, Rhomboids, and Neck.
Pectoral Muscles are your chest muscles. This is the large group that brings your arms forward—which
is where most of your day to day work will be conducted. These muscles are shortened from computer
work, carrying young children, bad posture, driving… you get the point. It is also a favorite area to work
at the gym. My suggestion: STRETCH!!! These muscles need to be thoroughly stretched to counteract
your usual positioning and any exercise you do with them. Stand sideways next to a wall, close enough
that you can rest your outstretched hand on it. Plant your feet a comfortable shoulder’s width apart,
anchor your hand on the wall and slowly turn your torso away from the wall. This isolates your
pectorals and stretches them. You can experiment with placing your hands at different heights to
stretch different fibers of the muscle.
Rhomboids are the muscles in between your shoulder blades and your spine. That is a big area where
people complain they feel pain. The pain is very seldom caused by the muscles being too tight. If
anything; they are being stretched and not strong enough to counteract the pull of the pectorals and
lats. These muscles need STRENGTHENING!!! Exercise them by using a rowing machine or any
equipment that makes you pull your elbows back and in. Try and bring those shoulder blades together
behind you! If you don’t go to the gym try standing with your back to the wall about an inch away from
touching it. Then bring your elbows back against the wall and try to push yourself away while stabilizing
yourself with your toes. (Generally your legs will be stronger and prevent you from falling forward, if
not please step and catch yourself.)
Neck muscles are absolutely amazing and complex—but simple in how I want you to address them.
Think of your neck as being divided into the front and back. The front (anterior) muscles very simply
need stretching out, the back (posterior) need strengthening. Stretching can be done by leaning your
head back on a chair if the back is the right height. If not a yoga ball or a roller can be used. If you have
a large yoga ball sit on the floor with your back to the ball, position it so you can rest your upper
shoulders against it comfortably. Then gently stretch your head away from your body as you lean it back
onto the ball. This helps to stretch the neck so you don’t end up with an acute bend anywhere in the
vertebrae. If you let your arms fall out to the sides palm up this helps to stretch both the anterior neck
and Pectorals giving you a 2 for 1 stretch! Hold this position for at least 2 minutes to give your body
time to adjust and relax. If you have a roller a great resting stretch is to place the roller on the floor and
lay your spine along it with the end of it just at the notch where your head and neck meet. Your head
should not be falling backward, the roll should be supporting your neck and head so you look at the
ceiling. Again, you can let your arms go palm up to stretch your Pectorals. To strengthen and straighten
the back of your neck there is a simple and amazing exercise that just requires you and a wall. Stand
with your back to the wall–make sure your heels touch the wall and you stretch your head up so it’s
right along the wall and not pulled forward. From this position simply push your head back and attempt
to pull your shoulders, back, and butt away from the wall. Holding this position for a full minute should
actually adjust your posture and for some people make them feel like they’re standing taller.
Now- for all you gym-goers: if you find that your traps are rock-hard and your rhomboids are sore
PLEASE lay off the push-ups and lat pulls! Work your triceps, work your rhomboids, and remember to
stretch. Your shoulder blades are being pulled and rotated, the lower corners are actually starting to
creep around the sides of the ribcage! Deep massage on your traps may feel good, but if you aren’t
going to rest your pects and lats, you’ll end up right back in pain! Find a knowledgable trainer, LMT, or
PT—work with them, listen to your body, and make your work-outs work with your body, not against it!