Upper Body Stretches for Better Flexibility and Posture

Finding yourself hunched over a lot or lacking proper posture? A flexible upper body can make a world of difference in your day to day, especially if you find yourself feeling tight in your neck, shoulders and arms. These stretches promote blood flow and will improve your range of motion in those areas, something that’s critical to a state of well being. On top of that, we’d also suggest how to have proper posture in various situations. Whether you’re looking for a proactive approach to staying flexible, or looking to incorporate a stretch routine on top of your fitness program, these exercises should you help you out.

Tips from our Physio and Kiniseology Team:

  • Remember to hold for 15-30 seconds, depending on your comfort levels. You may feel minor discomfort, but you shouldn’t feel pain.
  • As physios, we always recommend consistency vs. over extending yourself. Try doing a few of these to the level you’re comfortable with whenever you can, especially if you spend a lot of time sitting!
  • Repeat 1-3 times as needed
  • Equipment: Floor mat, foam roller, exercise band

Static Stretches

We’ve covered the difference between static vs active stretches before. While there’s debate on the usefulness of static stretches, most experts agree that it’s worthwhile to incorporate in a balanced routine, after your exercise activity.

Lats Stretch

Body Part/Muscles Targeted:  The primary muscle stretched is the lattsimus dorsi, however secondary muscles in the shoulder and upper back are also stretched in this movement.

  • Use a counter top or a ledge of any kind that is at or near your chest height
  • Place one hand on the ledge, and lower your upper body towards the ground, you should feel a stretch below your shoulder blade
  • Looking for a bit more of a stretch? Try using your  opposite hand to stretch the leg further if necessary, by gently pushing your leg down

Rhomboid Stretch

Body Part/Muscles Targeted: The rhomboids are the main target muscles, however the movement will also stretch out other upper back muscles.

  • Start in a sitting or standing position,
  • Intertwine your hands and pull your arms forward by rounding your upper back 

Arm Across Chest

Body Part/Muscles Targeted: This stretch targets the posterior chain, specifically lengthening the rotator cuff, triceps and rhomboids.

  • Start in a standing or sitting position,
  • Bring one straightened arm across your chest
  • Pull in the straightened arm towards your chest with the opposite arm, 

Lying Pec Stretch

Body Part/Muscles Targeted: The upper body anterior chain is targeted, specifically through chest and shoulder muscles.

  • Lie lengthwise on a foam roller. Don’t have a foam roller that’s long enough? No problem, simply place a towel under your bottom to support yourself throughout the movement.
  • Bring your arms out to the sides at 90 degree angles and let them land towards the ground

Foam roll

The benefits of foam rolling are well documented now, and the way it works is by providing myofascial release. All that really means is the tightness you feel is released, and these trigger points are targeted to help reduce tension. This article is a great resource that explains the benefits and proper technique to keep in mind when foam rolling. Plus, foam rolling the back muscles as well as the shoulder is always a good idea after a hard workout!

Active Dynamic Stretches

These sets of movements are excellent for warm ups and pre exercise movement. They promote blood flow and can help improve performance during the main activity you’re preparing for. There’s also a number of other benefits to active stretching as well.

Bear Crawl

Body Part/Muscles Targeted: This is a great overall exercise to include in your warmup. The movement promotes core control and does an excellent job of getting blood pumping throughout the body.

  • Start on your hands and knees, then pull your ribs in to contract your core
  • Lift your knees a few inches from the ground, in a controlled manner
  • While keeping your hips as level as possible, move the opposite hand and foot one step forward and then do the same with the other side
  • The exercise can be completed moving forwards or backwards!

Arm Circles

Body Part/Muscles Targeted: A classic and stretch we’re all familiar with.  This exercise is a great blood pumper, opening up shoulder and arm range of motion. Plus, you can do it literally anywhere, anytime.

  • Start in a standing position with arms straight out at your sides
  • Move your arms in forward or backward circles and then work up to larger circles

Thoracic Openers

Body Part/Muscles Targeted: This exercise promotes movement through the thoracic spine and the surrounding muscles.

  • Start on your knees while sitting on your feet
  • Place one hand on the floor and the other behind your head
  • Rotate your upper body by having your elbow guide you from the ground towards the ceiling

Banned Shoulder Flexion

Body Part/Muscles Targeted: This exercise promotes core activation while ensuring good postural muscle activation through the upper and middle back

  • Start with your whole back against the wall – you’ll probably need to take a couple steps away from the wall.
  • Hold the band around your wrists. Keep your wrists and elbows in line throughout the movement.
  • Contract your core to ensure your low back is touching the wall.
  • Raise your arms above your head.
  • If at any point you feel your low back coming off the wall, lower your arms.


As physios, we always encourage prevention and there’s no better way than a proactive approach to improving mobility. We always advise that it’s more important to be consistent, so always start with movements that are doable first, then work your way up to more challenging or extensive routines.  If you’re looking for some lower body stretches, be sure to check our last post for a full body stretching routine.

The Physio Shop specializes in evidence-based physiotherapy and massage therapy in a sweet commercial drive clinic, with a friendly barbershop feel. Plus, we do virtual sessions too, because 2020 right? If you’re dealing with nagging aches and pains, schedule a session with our finest Physiotherapists or Massage Therapists today. Or stop by and say hello to Sophie, that works too.