Supported upper back stretch

What I like about the supported upper back stretch is that you don't have to get down on the floor to do it. It's easy to do at the gym, at home, or outdoors. Just find a sturdy support that is about hip height. Be creative — if you're outdoors, use the back of a park bench or even a tree. If you're at the gym, you probably can find a ballet barre, a ledge, or a railing. And if you're at home, use the kitchen counter or table.

Modify the supported upper back stretch

Try out the following tips to modify the supported upper back stretch (shown in Figure 4-9):

I If you have tight hamstrings and feel pain in the back of your thighs, bend your knees slightly during the stretch. This adaptation helps relieve the tension in the back of your thighs so you can focus on stretching your upper back. After you finish this stretch you may want to read Chapter 7, where I give you many stretches for your unhappy hamstrings.

To make this a more warm-up type stretch, try doing this stretch in a more rhythmic movement of slightly arching and rounding your back, moving with each breath.

I As you hold the stretch, try dropping one shoulder a little lower than the other. This version can help deepen the stretch on the side of your back with the lowered shoulder.

To do this stretch, follow these steps:

1. Stand with your feet about hip-width apart and place your hands on a sturdy surface for support.

2. Move your feet back far enough so you can extend your arms as you move your chest toward the floor (see Figure 4-9).

3. Exhale and get a deep stretch by pressing your chest toward the floor and your hips toward the ceiling so you have a slight arch in your back.

4. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds or four to five slow, deep breaths.

Figure 4-9:

Supported upper back stretch.

Figure 4-9:

Supported upper back stretch.

A few do's and don'ts for this stretch:

i Do keep your neck in line with the rest of your spine. i Do use your breath to relax into the stretch. l Don't drop your chin to your chest. l Don't round your spine.

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