Shoulder Tension Exercises

Shoulder tension is a problem for many people. It’s easy for the shoulder muscles to become tight and sore when you spend hours hunching over your desk or computer—not to mention the daily stress that tends to accumulate in the shoulder region. The best way to relieve shoulder tension is to perform dynamic exercises and stretches that will loosen and relax the muscles of your neck and shoulders.

Shoulder Shrugs

Shoulder shrugs engage the shoulder muscles and facilitate blood flow to the region. Stand or sit tall with your arms by your sides. Inhale and raise your shoulders toward your ears. As you exhale, relax your shoulders back down. Repeat this exercise eight to 10 times. At the end of each repetition try to relax your shoulders to a greater extent than you did in the previous one.

Shoulder Circles

Shoulder circles work the muscles of the shoulders. This exercise helps relax and loosen your tight shoulder muscles. Stand or sit tall with your arms at your sides. Lift your shoulders toward your ears then circle them back, down, forward and up. Complete four rotations and then switch directions. Use slow, controlled movements to rotate your shoulders through their full range of motion.

Lateral Neck Tilt

The lateral neck tilt targets the innermost muscles of the shoulders that attach to the neck vertebrae. Sit with your torso erect and your arms relaxed at your sides. Take a deep breath in. As you exhale, gently tilt your head toward your right shoulder until you feel a stretch in the left side of your neck. Hold the position for 10 to 15 seconds and then return to the starting position. Repeat the exercise to the left. Complete this exercise five times to each side.

Upper Back and Shoulder Stretch

The upper back and shoulder stretch helps release tension in your shoulders and back by gently lengthening your muscles. Stand or sit tall and clasp your hands together. Take a deep breath in. As you exhale, straighten your arms, round your upper back and push your hands away from your chest. You should feel a stretch across your upper back and shoulders. Hold here for 20 to 30 seconds and then release the stretch. Repeat it once more.

Shoulder Stretch

The shoulder stretch is ideal for relieving muscle tension in your shoulders. Stand or sit with your torso erect. With your elbow bent, take your right arm across your body. Grasp your right elbow with your left hand. Take a deep breath in. As you exhale, gently pull your right elbow toward your left shoulder until you feel a stretch in your right shoulder. To deepen the stretch, turn your head as if you were looking over yor right shoulder. Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds and then perform the stretch on your left shoulder. Perform the stretch twice on each shoulder.

Arm Stretch

The arm stretch helps release the tension buildup in your shoulder muscles. Stand or sit with your shoulders back and your back straight. Extend your arms straight out in front of your chest with your palms facing down. Take a deep breath in. As you exhale, rotate your arms so that the backs of your hands are touching. Hold here for 10 seconds and then rotate your arms even more so that your palms are facing the ceiling. Hold this position for 10 seconds and then relax. Repeat the exercise two times. To fully activate your shoulder muscles, it is important that you keep your shoulders down and prevent them from shrugging upward toward your ears.

Neck Stretch

The neck stretch lengthens and relaxes the neck and shoulder muscles closest to the neck. Sit with your back straight and your arms relaxed at your sides. Take a deep breath in. As you exhale, slowly tuck your chin toward your right collar bone until you feel a stretch in the left side of the back of your neck. Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds and then return to the starting position. Repeat the stretch toward your left collar bone.

About this Author

Jen Weir has been writing health and fitness articles since 2010, with her work appearing on the websites LIVESTRONG and FRS. Weir holds a personal trainer certification from the American College of Sports Medicine and a Bachelor of Science in exercise science from Montana State University.