On Wednesday, I presented a fanciful drama about the rotator cuff muscles imagining them to be a cranky group of dysfunctional office workers. Below are some exercises that you might do during your workday – especially if you are an office worker – that will stimulate and soothe your rotator cuff muscles to keep them humming.
Try a few exploratory rounds of Epaulet Circles and the Pranic Bath – interesting movements that sequence through all of the actions of the shoulder joint. Move slowly in order to be precise in your actions and to allow time to notice if (or where) there are “glitches”.
Improve mobility in the shoulder girdle (especially when it is achey) by working indirectly. Explore massaging the muscles of the chest: pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, and subclavius. Tight chest muscles, often the result of holding our arms out in front of us as we type, draw the scapula forward contributing to strain and dysfunction of the shoulder joint. Finding ease in the chest will improve the work environment of the rotator cuff, lightening the overall workload.
(Clear out a spot in a desk drawer where you can stash your Yoga Tune Up Therapy balls and a block.)
Practice movements that recruit and strengthen the support of other nearby muscles. Serratus anterior (who shares a cubicle and a spider plant with subscapularis) is a muscle that can stabilize the shoulder girdle in weight bearing poses such as plank. Indeed, if plank pose is practiced without the support of serratus anterior, the rotator cuff will eventually rebel. (Read more about MegaPlank here). You also can build mobility in the shoulders with Shoulder Flossing, which takes the shoulders through almost every possible range. Keep a strap by your desk and do this often!
Hopefully, with a few simple additions of rotator cuff exercises to your daily routines, you can restore the harmony to your workplace drama and have balanced shoulders instead!
One of my girlfriends was having trouble with some shoulder pain, and knowing that I am a bit of a body nerd, asked for my help. Earlier this year I had introduced her to yoga tune up and shared this article with her. The combination of strength, mobility and myofascial release is the perfect combination to get people out of pain. Which is exactly why I am a HUGE fan of the YTU method.
A great series of that anyone can do anywhere, improving posture and breathing without breaking a sweat. The videos are great, some of these are really hard to explain in words!
Great articles on keeping shoulder muscles healthy. These exercises can be done by anyone in office and does not require much space and equipment except for a band or a belt that can be carried anywhere. Just today I practiced panic bath and shoulder flossing as part of my daily practice and I must say it works wonders. I do have rotator cuff issues and hope these exercises when done regularly will improve my condition.
This article was great. I work in an office and fly frequently for my job, and tightness in my upper back and shoulders is something I struggle with every time I travel. I’ve started doing shoulder flossing and have seen a noticeable improvement in my shoulder mobility. Looking forward to trying out the rest of these exercises!
Always looking for new ways to channel the pec minor. Thank you :).
Thank you for the writing and for also including the videos! This is all very helpful for trying it at home and understanding what is happening and why it’s important.
Thank you Leslie for this wonderful post. These are great exercises to add to my group classes and to give to my private clients as everyone has to sit a lot!
As many people already experience shoulder issues, I’d love to hear your thoughts on how safe this is for someone who does not have optimal shoulder health. For example, if someone has already experienced some strain in one of the rotator cuff muscles, not a tear, but some discomfort or inflammation would you discourage them from any or all of these exercises? Or on a less extreme note, they are just tight and have perpetually protracted shoulder blades and a tight pec minor.
Very interesting article with fascinating 3 videos who give me some daily work to do! My tool box get bigger as a look and study with those blogs! Let’s go to work to find the good balance… Merci
Yes hours at my computer kills my posture and creates a lot of tension in my upper body. This combination is lovely! Thank you 🙂
Thanks to these 3 short and great videos of movement and ball massage targeting the sourrounding of the shoulder that I will introduce in my therapeutic group classe next week! Great addition to my practice!
Great article. Luckily I am finding more clients who are realizing the error of their ways and are trying to make a difference. Some have gotten stand up desks and found some relief only to realize it has not really altered their behavior, as after the novelty wears off they are now standing for too long periods of time as opposed to sitting and standing throughout the day. They get back into the “no break” syndrome and fail to do anything to provide the motion the body is seeking. These exercises are a great addition to their arsenal. Thank you!
All helpful tips and some good reminders too- great post!
Love the video of shoulder flossing especially the alternative of using a theraband since some people would not be able to start with a strap,everyone should have a strap at their desk and all students need this
We have learned in teacher training that rotator cuff injury is one of the most common. Additionally, a yoga teacher showed us the flossing and the pranic bath and I loved them both! This helped reinforce what I have already learned. Thank you!
I am in YTU Level 1 training right now, and have just recently learned the pranic bath breath, shoulder flossing and megaplank exercises. I plan on using these when working with clients who sit at desks, or have rotator cuff issues. Pectoralis minor release is so important, and feels so good. We need this release to improve the shoulder’s mobility. I honestly cannot wait to implement these exercises in my practice. My clients are going to love them.
Awesome! Taking just a few minutes a day to stand up from your desk and work on shoulder alignment will definitely be beneficial in the long term. Internally rotated shoulders create chronic stress for the body.
Shoulder flossing is a really great exercise for nearly everyone, especially for thoese who work in an office or even children who are texting for many hours.
Thank you for taking the time to write the blog! I absolutely love the shoulder flossing #2. I have used the shoulder flossing #1 with a dowel or strap with students, but I feel shoulder flossing #2 will really work on that internal rotation mobility which we often lack from sitting and using the computer. I cant wait to introduce #2 to my students & for myself!
Very informative. Almost everyone I know should do these exercices more often, myself included.
Love these exercises – I’ve been incorporating them in my own practice and teaching them to my students regularly – so beneficial! Thanks for putting them all in one place – I’ll be sending my students to your post so they can watch and learn at home on their own!
OMG. That pec minor release is amazing. This was a spot I never knew was tender until I started doing some pec exploration with the Tune Up® balls. I would just roll them across my chest and by doing so identified this tight spot. This is such a good way to get into that spot, though, without tiring out the other arm. Thank you!
Practiced the Pranic Bath again today! Great reminder to practice more.
Love the shoulder flossing and balls to the wall!
Leslie, thank you for this post. I actually just learned Pranic Bath Stretch and Shoulder Flossing today in my Yoga Tune Up level 1 class today. My pectoralis Minor muscle on my shoulders have shortened due to the dance styles I practice. Just after doing these exercises I have felt a release in these muscles and an opening in my chest. I also enjoy that they can be done anywhere and everywhere!
Thanks for the article! You mentioned some great movements for my students to DIY on their own. And And love the tip to suggest clearing out a space for their balls and block!
Great information. Love the exercises that you shared. I will definitely share these with many people I know who have desk jobs. Also a great reminder for myself.
I wasn’t aware that tight chest muscles could contribute to shoulder pain. That’s great to know so I can focus on massaging those muscles (pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, and subclavius) in addition to my shoulders. This post hits home for me, as I suffer from painfully tight shoulders so I will be trying all of these techniques.
Thank you Leslie! I am constantly needing reminding to work on releasing and working the muscles of my chest to obtain more movement in the shoulder. I tend to want to devote time to the “noisy” body part – the squeaky wheel – and this was a great reminder to work the “quite” parts too.
This was extremely informational and very applicable to real world scenarios that Fitness Professionals can use to effectively help clients.
It’s very important to find ways and our busy lives to become and stay active with our bodies. Most injuries accumulate overtime from a work environment thank you for this read
Awesome information from common workplace discomfort that occurs in so many bodies!
Great video demonstrating how to floss the shoulders. This is one of my favorite exercises for warming up my creaky shoulders in the morning and invigorating them after sitting at the computer for hours. Thanks.
This is such a great combination of exercises for opening the shoulders! I teach Pilates in a large office building and I am always looking for new and fun suggestions for them to relieve their shoulder tightness and improve their posture. I think these exercises would all be wonderful for swimmers as well!
Thank you, Leslie, for this thoughtful and thorough blog post. I appreciate your down-to-earth, yet technical and intelligent, yet creative and poetic approach! All three of the exercises you included are great, especially because I think it’s really important to give our students practical goals of doing little bits of yoga when and where they can because a little is always better than nothing!
The therapy ball release of the pec minor was incredibly helpful, thank you so much! I just tried it up against a wall because I don’t have a block at home. What are the benefits of using a block versus the therapy ball against a wall? Are there any alternatives you’d recommend if we don’t have blocks handy? Thank you!
I’m always interested in types of exercises that can leverage the range of movement. This is great thing to be able to use in office environments. Lot’s of exercises usually require disrobing to some degree, using props, or laying on the floor. The epaulet circles is one of these rare exercises, that can be done by anyone anywhere. This could even be done seated, assuming you have a stool and maintain a proper posture.
So true that shoulder pain can be eased by chest massage. Again and again I’ve found dramatic improvement in the range of movement in shoulder girdle and lessening of pain in subscapularis through rolling subclavius.
Leslie, you’re awesome! Your sequencing of YTU protocol and decisive instruction on ferreting out shoulder issues definitely was inspiring for me as a beginning instructor. “Moving slowly in order to be precise in your actions and to allow time to notice if (and where) there are glitches” was huge in bringing a better realization to me that each movement and assessment requires this special focus and finesse to be effective. I have a genetic predisposition for “not slow” which definitely needs to be tamed; thank you for helping me to better embrace my determination in doing so. I also loved your thoughts on working indirectly into the chest to release tension, while “awakening” and recruiting certain other muscles in surrounding tissues. As you pointed out so brilliantly, “finding ease in the chest will improve the working environment of the Rotator Cuff”…and that is what helping someone with shoulder issues is all about. Great blog!
This was a great follow-up to your creative previous post. I found much relief from the combination of pec minor release and shoulder flossing after spending too many hours at my computer doing homework! Thanks for the great videos that were informative and easy to follow along with.
Pectoralis muscles are a key to shoulder mobility. After YTU Teachers Training class I have been observing people around me, mosttly in the gym and my coworkers and everyone is internally rotated in the shoulders. We need to pay more attention to pectoralis minor, myself included! Pec minor shortens up very easily and I can feel the soreness, when rolling!!
Thank you! My husband and I feel great after following along with the suggested videos. I also feel a bit more energized than when I began.