We’re wrapping up a “greatest hits” tour of release and mobilization techniques. Our tour was at first inspired by cyclists’ needs, but it is highly appropriate for everybody. We’ve made our way from the feet, through the legs and hips, and up to the upper back. Now it’s time to address more of the upper body.
Cyclists, and indeed anyone who works at a desk, can have a tendency to carry tightness through the front of the shoulders and even up into the neck. With that in mind, let’s find a release for the pectoralis muscles of the chest, and then we’ll finish our tour with a relaxing treat for your neck. Hopefully you still have your pair of Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Balls, some wall space, and some floor space.
Pick a side of your chest to begin on and find the upper fibers of your pectoralis major. Feel for the soft tissue just below the collarbone about halfway between the shoulder and the breast bone that activates when you adduct your shoulder (bring your arm closer to your body, as if to pin it to your side). Hold a ball there, turn to face the wall, and lean in to sandwich the ball between you and the wall. You should no longer need to hold on to the ball. From here, make a cactus arm on the same side of your body as where you placed the ball so that your arm is raised out to the side, elbow bent 90 degrees, fingers pointing to the sky, palm on the wall. Turn your head away from your raised arm to wind up the targeted tissues a bit more. If you can, mobilize your arm, gently reaching up and back down. Keep the forearm and hand in contact with the wall. Hang out and breathe at any tight spots. Switch sides when you’re ready. Also check out this video from YTU teacher Brooke Thomas for a fantastic targeted release of your pectoralis minor.
Next, we want to capitalize on the release we’ve found for the front of the chest with a stretch that will promote the opposite of that hunched posture and internal rotation at the shoulders. Stand with your front body perpendicular to the wall now, about an arm’s distance away so that you can reach out, shoulder in external rotation, and place your palm on the wall at about shoulder height with fingertips pointing back behind you. Keep a slight bend in your elbow. With your hand glued to the wall where it is, begin to slowly rotate your entire body away by stepping with your feet in the direction you want to turn. Turn until you feel a gentle stretch in the front of your shoulder. I feel the stretch all the way down my arm and into my hand. Hold for a few breaths and then switch sides. Here’s Brooke again with a similar stretch you can do on the floor called Open Sesame.
Let’s finish with a treat for your neck. Take your time with this one and really let yourself relax. I think your neck will thank you for giving it a break from holding your head up so you can stare at the computer screen from your desk, or watch the road in front of you from your bike seat (especially if you spend some of your time trying to look forward from an aero position). Here’s Jill to demonstrate the sweet sweet relief.
We’ve covered a lot of ground with our greatest hits tour, and Jill Miller’s book The Roll Model contains even more targeted sequences, but you don’t have to perform all the moves and techniques, all the time. Developing an intelligence and understanding of your own body and which moves are the most appropriate and effective for you is key. Use the balls to help provide feedback to identify what’s tight, sore, or may be the beginning of an injury. Find the main areas that need constant work and give the best return on any time spent rolling them out. Then commit to a regular maintenance routine. Dedicating just a small amount of time can have big payoffs.
Including mobilization work as a regular routine can make you more resilient to injuries and make you more comfortable on the bike – if that’s your thing. But it is also important to keep in mind that many factors can influence your athletic performance. Mobility work should be but one tool in an arsenal that includes intelligent hydration and recovery, appropriate functional strength training, and – for cyclists – proper bike fit. If you’re struggling from long term, persistent, or ride stopping pain, it’s a good idea to check in with a physiotherapist, osteopath, or medical professional. You should also aim to book a bike fit carried out by someone who will look at your own flexibility and weaknesses, as well as riding style and volume.