How to do the Overhead Side Reach Stretch
We've all had those mornings where we wake up with a tight neck, stiff shoulders, and a sore back. Fortunately, a quick stretching session can eliminate these aches and pains. The overhead lateral reach stretch, in particular, stretches the back and torso, opens the chest and shoulders, and treats the neck with gentle, pain-relieving pressure.
Performing this stretch can have several benefits.
Simple and easy to do anywhere
You can do this stretch while standing or sitting; when you work at your desk or clean your house; in a car, plane or train; and practically in any other environment. You don't need any equipment and you don't need a lot of space. You don't even need to reach the floor for this stretch, making it a great exercise to do anywhere for quick relief from sore muscles.
It can be mild or intense
The beauty of the Overhead Side Reach Stretch is that you can make it as gentle or as intense as you need on any given day. You can feel unusually sore at times, so you can do a gentle version of this stretch. Other times, if you feel exceptionally flexible, you can challenge yourself to achieve a deeper range of motion.
Stretches your back and tight core muscles
When done correctly, the overhead lateral reach will fully stretch your upper and lower back as well as your core. You should feel a deep stretch in your sides, obliques, and latissimus dorsi. Relieves neck tension If you let your neck drop into the stretch, you will feel an almost instantaneous release of tension. Just be careful to drop your neck slowly, as quick or sudden movements can lead to a painful snap at best or injury at worst.
Step by step instructions
Here's how to do the Overhead Side Stretch and enjoy relieving tension on your neck, back, and shoulders.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart or slightly farther away (the wider the stance, the easier the balance will be). Place your left hand at your side with your palm touching your thigh.
- Raise your right hand above your head, fully extending your elbow and shoulder. Point your fingers to the sky.
- Keep your right arm raised and lean to the left. Continue bending and lowering your left hand until you feel a pull on the right side of your torso.
- Let your neck drop and sink into the stretch.
- Stay here for five to 10 seconds before returning to the starting position.
- Repeat on the other side.
- Continue alternating for 10 to 20 repetitions. Complete two to three sets for a stretching session that provides long-lasting stress relief.
Despite its simple nature, the upper-side reach span has some common technical flaws. Watch out for these three common mistakes when attempting this stretch.
Lack of central control
Core control is essential during upside reach. Because you are pushing your spine out of neutral, you must engage your core muscles to protect it and avoid injury.
Dropping the chest
This error is usually the result of poor basic control. If you don't activate your core during this stretch, your chest will likely drop forward and your shoulders will round.
We want to open the chest and squeeze the shoulder blades during this stretch, rather than reinforcing the postural habits that many of us develop while sitting.
Straining the neck
The purpose of the overhead lateral reach is to loosen and relax the neck, not to stretch it further! Pay close attention to the small muscles in your neck during this stretch.
If you feel your neck tense, adjust your position. It may be necessary to reduce the depth of the stretch or simply let the neck drop and relax.
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