Shoulder and Upper Back Stretches on the Exercise Ball

Exercises you can do at your desk or as an exercise ball workout

The shoulder stretches and upper back exercises shown here are ideal warm-ups for exercise ball workouts. They are also great exercises to do at your workstation to help ease tension your upper back and shoulders. Sitting on the ball just adds a little extra core stability challenge, but you can put your mind to it and stabilize your core at your desk too.

Our model, Pam, teaches these exercises in Pilates for the Equestrian workshops. You can imagine there are many times might want to pull these exercises out for a little shoulder opening and upper back strengthening.

Arms Out, Curve Forward and Lift Back

exercise ball stretch
(c)2010, Marguerite Ogle

Begin sitting on the ball with your feet flat on the floor, your legs parallel to each other, and your shins straight up and down. Sit tall with a neutral spine, meaning that all 3 natural curves are present. Relax your shoulders and let the top of your head float toward the sky. Stay balanced side by side.

  • Return to this start position after each exercise.

Step 1:

Let your shoulders relax down as you extend your arms to the sides, palms down. Take a deep breath and on the exhale, press down through your sit bones as you get longer and taller through your spine. Let your spine reach up through your shoulders, lengthen your neck, and curve your upper body forward. Your head goes with the movement as an extension of your spine.

Step 2)

exercise ball exercise
Exercise Ball - Back Extension. (c)2010, Marguerite Ogle

Inhale. Press down through your feet and sit bones to support a lengthening up through your spine that will lift your chest. Carry that movement through so that your chest opens and your shoulders rotate back. Your palms will go up and thumbs point to the back. Keep a lot of length on the back of your neck. Lift only as far as you are comfortable.

Step 3)

Exhale to curve forward again. Keep your shoulders relaxed away from your ears.

Repeat the exercise 3 times. Return to start position.

Shoulder Stretch — Arm Across Straight and Bent

(c)2010, Marguerite Ogle

Step 1)

Extend your right arm in front of you. Take your left hand under your right arm and grasp your right arm just above the elbow. Keep your right elbow at shoulder height as you use your left hand to pull your right arm across your body. Keep your shoulders even. Enjoy a light stretch behind your shoulder.

Step 2)

Thanks to our model, Pam Harrington. (c)2010, Marguerite Ogle

Some people find the stretch goes a little deeper if they bend at the elbow and spread the fingers.

Be sure to keep the shoulders even through the exercise and stay stable on your ball.

Repeat on the other side. Then repeat both sides twice more. Return to start position.

Shoulder, Side and Tricep Stretch

exercise ball exercise
(c)2010, Marguerite Ogle

Step 1)

Let your right shoulder blade slide down your back as you lift your right arm overhead.

Bend at the elbow so that your right hand comes behind your head.

Keep your shoulders even as you reach your left hand up to grasp your right elbow.

Use your left hand to pull lightly on your right arm to increase the stretch.

Step 2)

If you are comfortable, lift both sides of your ribs up and pull that right side into a long curve, reaching through the elbow. Stay flat to the front. Don't twist or let your ribs pop.

You can stay here and breathe deeply for a few moments.

Step 3)

Connect down through your sit bones to stack your spine up to a tall, neutral, sitting position.

Repeat to the other side. Repeat each side twice more.