When you’re sitting at a desk for most of the day and not moving around much, you may start to experience some stiffness through your back and shoulders. Humans aren’t built to be overly sedentary and inactive, and recent studies have shown just how bad this can be for our health. Today we’ll have a look at some sure-fire ways to alleviate the stiffness you may be experiencing in your back and shoulders.

Quadruped diamond breathing drill

The first drill you can do at home or in the office is the quadruped diamond breathing drill. Yes, I know it seems weird working on your breathing to help your shoulders and spine but trust me, it works. I’ll save you most of the voodoo science behind it all but allow me a sentence or two! These breathing drills are rooted in helping position our rib cage correctly, which has huge flow on affects to the available range of motion in surrounding joints. Said surrounding joints include our thoracic spine (your mid back) and your scapula (shoulder blades). If we free up some space and allow for greater movement in these joints, we’ll start to feel less ‘tightness’ and ‘stiffness’ and we won’t have to resort to those stretches that may feel satisfying in the moment but don’t really work that well…

Quadruped diamond breathing drill:

Thoracic rotation drill

Once you’ve completed this drill, you’ll now have forced a much more solid base to work off. The next drill is a thoracic rotation drill. As the name suggests, we are going to enforce some movement in the form of rotation to loosen your upper back. This is a great drill for those who have a permanent feeling of stiffness through their neck and upper back. We will perform this in the same position as the quadruped diamond breathing drill, so you can go straight from the first drill into this one.

How to perform the thoracic rotation drill:

  • Assume said quadruped position (put your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips)
  • Proceed to sit your bum onto your heels
  • Place one hand on the back of your head and keep your eyes on the elbow of that same arm throughout the movement
  • Rotate down as far as you can go whilst not lifting your bum from your heels. Try and thread your elbow under your opposing arm.
  • As you come up, bring the elbow as high as it will go whilst keeping your eyeson it and keeping your bum against your heels. Exhale as you bring your arm up.
  • Do this for 10 reps each side, 2-3 sets.

Thoracic Rotation:

External rotation stretch

The last drill requires a broom stick. I can’t guarantee it will be as fun as Harry Potter’s Nimbus 2000, but it will make sure your shoulders feel golden! If you don’t understand the Harry Potter reference, I strongly suggest reading/watching Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s stone. This drill is called the external rotation stretch with a dowel rod or broomstick.

How to perform the external rotation drill:

  • Stand tall and keep your ribs pulled down. The drill will not be effective if your ribs are flared up towards the ceiling.
  • Place the broomstick on the outside of the elbow, the lowest point of your tricep
  • With the same hand, bend your elbow and grab the broomstick with your index and middle finger
  • With your other hand, apply enough resistance to force you into external rotation and stop when the stretch is at a 6-7 out of 10 resistance.
  • Hold this for 30sec and keep taking long and forceful inhalations and exhalations.
  • Switch arms and repeat. Do this for 2-3 sets.

You can perform these exercises as a circuit and it should take no longer than 5 minutes to get through 2-3 sets of each exercise.