On Day 4 of our home workout series we shall be focusing on stretching the spine as well as the shoulders.
Note: If you suffer from back pain or have a shoulder injury, this workout may not be suitable for you.
I love this routine as it really applies to so many people, including myself. It is a workout that focuses on reversing the postural damage we do to our body by sitting down too much and by slouching forward during the many hours we spend in front of a computer. People who work out with weights a lot also tend to get stiff in their spine and in their shoulders. This routine really helps to loosen up those tight muscles and ligaments in the shoulder area and along the spine. Also, as we get older, we tend to become more stiff in these areas, and our posture may suffer as a result.
Try to perform 2-3 rounds of this circuit, holding each stretch for the indicated time or performing the advised reps.
Here is your video demonstration:
Wall Angels – standing or lying
Standing: Stand upright against a wall. Place your feet about 30cm away from the wall. Press your back, head and shoulders against the wall, and place your hands next to your head. Make an effort to press the back of the hands, your forearms and your elbows against the wall. Your lower back should be curved just enough to be able to slip in one hand. If your arch is bigger, try to press your lower back more against the wall. Now slide your hands up the wall until your arms are straight (elbows locked out), then pull them back down. Repeat for 15-20 reps. The challenge is to keep the back of your hands, forearms and elbows pressed against the wall at all times, without over-arching your lower back.
Lying: Same as the standing version, but performed in a lying position. You can bend both knees to avoid over-arching your lower back. Use two 2-liter water bottles or some dumbbells as additional weight to help keep your hands and forearms pressed against the floor.
Stand upright and hold a broom stick in front of you, grabbing it by its ends, with palms of your hands facing down. Now bring the broomstick over your head and down to your butt, without bending your elbows during the movement. If the movement is easy, narrow your grip slightly on the broom stick and try again. If you cannot manage to bring the broom stick behind your body, you need to take a wider grip or use a longer broom stick. The challenge is narrow your grip as much as possible so that you can just about bring the broom stick behind your body without bending your elbows. Do 15-20 reps.
Spine (thoracic) extension
You can perform this exercise on a foam roller or you can use 2 rolled-up towels, placing them on top of each other. Lie down on the towels, so that the towels are positioned just below your shoulder blades. Bend your knees. Place your hands behind your head, keeping your elbows turned out. Now try to extend your spine backwards, making as big of an arch in your spine as possible. The goal is to arch the middle of your back (the thoracic area) and not your lower back. If you feel the stretch in your lower back. you need to move the towels higher up your back. You should feel this stretch only in your middle or upper back. Perform 15-20 reps. It’s important that you do the exercise very slowly. You may hear some of your vertebrae pop during this exercise. That’s ok, they are just re-aligning themselves.
This exercise is best done using a door frame to hold on to. Stand in front of a door frame and place your hands and elbows against the door frame on either side. It is important that your elbows are positioned at least as high as your shoulders, so your hands need to be higher than your head. Place your right foot one step in front for balance (better open the door first 🙂 ), and push your shoulders as far forward as possible. You should feel the stretch in your chest and the front of your shoulders. If you feel your lower back, it means you are over-arching your back. Straighten out your lower back, and try again. Hold for at least 30 seconds.
Lying Pec stretch
You need a stool, box, crate or gym ball for this exercise (we’ll call it ball). Lie facing up on the ball, and place your arms out to the side. The ideal position of the arms is slightly above 90 degrees to the body, so your hands should be further back than your shoulders. Ideally hold two 1-liter bottles of water or small dumbbells in your hands to increase the stretch. Keep your elbows fairly straight (no need to lock out) and the palms of your hands facing up. Hold this position for at least 1 minute (count till 60). You will see that after some 20-30 seconds, your arms will start to drop lower, as your tissues start to lengthen.
Cat Camel Stretch
Rest on your knees and hands. Round your back as much as you can. Now try to arch your back. Repeat for 15-20 reps.
Rest on your knees and hands. Lift your left hand off the floor and pass it underneath your body, reaching out to the right. Now bring your arm up to the side and raise it as high as possible. Ideally it would be pointing straight up or even somewhat beyond vertical. Lower the arm and repeat. Do 15-20 reps on each side.
Spine Twist – seated
Sit on the floor, legs out in front. Bring your right foot across your left leg and place it outside the left knee. Turn your body to the right and try to turn your chest back as far as possible. Don’t slouch your upper body. Keep it upright, and pop your chest out. Place your right hand behind your body for support. With your left arm, apply pressure to the outside of your right knee to assist the stretch and give you more torque. Hold for 30 seconds, then do the other side.
Spine Twist – lying
Lie on your back, legs straight. Lift your right leg and bend the knee. Grab your right knee with the left hand and bring the leg across the body, pushing it down towards the floor on the left side. It is important to keep your right shoulder down on the floor while doing this. To make this easier, hold a weight in your right hand, or hold on to a heavy object such as the leg of a bed, a table or some heavy furniture. Push the right leg down with your left hand and hold this position for at least 30 seconds. If you manage to touch your knee to the floor, you possess good flexibility. Don’t push abruptly on the knee as this may cause injury! Ease slowly into the stetch. Hold for at least 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
If you have a treadmill, stationery bike, cross trainer or similar equipment at home, use it!
Try to perform at least 30min on any of these machines. In 30min you will likely burn between 200-250kcal at moderate intensity, so the more often you do your cardio training, the more effective it will be to help you maintain weight or lose weight if you’re combining it with a weight-loss eating plan.