As runners we tend to focus a great deal of our energy and attention on our legs. While our lower half largely drives running, our upper bodies play a key role. Tight chests and shoulders or weak upper backs can cause their own problems.
Sitting at a desk all day or spending too much time hunched over our phones can exacerbate tightness in our shoulders and chest. A slouched posture limits the range of motion in our shoulders and decreases the efficiency of our arms to propel the body forward. Poor posture also compresses the chest cavity, preventing the diaphragm from working properly and inhibits proper breathing.
We have some good news! With a little upper body attention, many of us can shave time from our runs and keep off the injured list. Here are a few ways to help correct poor posture by strengthening and lengthening key muscle groups in our upper back.
As you inhale reach your arms out to the side, bend your elbows with your fingers pointing up and your palms facing forward. On your exhalation move your elbows back, drawing the shoulder blades together. This movement retracts the scapulae (shoulder blades), strengthening the rhomboids. Hold this position for 10-15 seconds.
Inhale and make a fist with both hands, thumbs sticking out. As you exhale rotate your forearms forward, turning your thumbs out and away from your body. As your thumbs point back, drawing your shoulder blades together engages and strengthens the rhomboids. Hold this position for 10-15 seconds.
Cow Face Arms
As you inhale reach your left arm up to the sky. On the exhale, bending at the elbow, reach your palm down to the back of your neck. Inhaling again, reach your right arm out to the side with your palm facing back and your thumb facing down. This time, as you exhale, roll the right shoulder forward as you bring the back of your right hand in between your shoulder blades. Try to hook the fingers of the right and left hand. If this is not possible use a strap to bridge the gap between your hands and gently pull the hands toward one another. This pose stretches the subscapularis (internal rotator) and strengthens the infraspinatus (external rotator); both are muscles of the rotator cuff. Hold this position for 30 seconds and then switch sides.
Start by grabbing your wrists with each hand behind your back. On your inhalation, slide your hands along your forearms to the opposite elbow. When this position feels comfortable, on your inhale, bring your palms together behind your back with your fingers pointing down. On you exhalation begin to turn your fingertips towards your spine and eventually slide the pinkie finger side of your hands up the back into prayer. Only attempt moving into reverse prayer if you can comfortably grab each elbow with the opposite hand. This pose will stretch the shoulders and chest. Hold this position for 30 seconds.