Shoulder and Upper Back Workout | Perfect Form With Ashley Borden

By: LivestrongWoman

Hi, I'm Ashley Borden, and welcome to Perfect Form. I have a question: Are you that girl on the plane who has a problem putting her luggage away in the overhead bin? Now, I know that a strong upper back and shoulders is not the first thing you think of, of your dream physique, but it is so important to the composition and strength of your body. And that's why I created this workout. It will not make you bulky, but it will leave you feeling strong and confident. So, the first thing we want to address is what's called your shoulder harness, which is the chest, the lats and the upper back. Because when this is really tight, it pulls you forward, and that's what limits your range of motion with your arms, to get your arms overhead.

So, you have to make sure you open up your chest first. And I'm gonna go ahead and use, again, same ball, it's a red ball. It has water in it. It's about 2 pounds, so it has a little bit of a give. You can also use a softball, but you have to make sure it has the right density for it. And the way that you find the position: It's gonna be on the top part of your pec, and you're gonna place the ball right at the pec, palm down, and you're gonna reach the arm and bring it down. So, the ball might roll out a little bit, and you can replace it, but you wanna make sure your really pushing down with your chest on the ball, so that way it can release into your pec and open up your chest, which will also help to open up your shoulders.

And you're gonna do both sides of that. So again, you wanna make sure that you really take the time–you can spend about 30 seconds or a little bit longer if it feels really tight. Second thing we're gonna do is using the roller–is your upper back. So important also, you can't just do the front. You need to do the back.

Shoulder and Upper Back Workout | Perfect Form With Ashley Borden

So, you're gonna start with the roller right at about your shoulder blade position. Hands interlaced behind the head. So, my head is resting in my hands. Don't hold your head up from there. And you're gonna roll: Top of the shoulders, all the way to the middle back.

Forward and back. If you need it a little bit deeper, you can bring the elbows in. If you need a little bit more of an angle, you can angle one elbow up. Up and down.

You can do the other side. But this should actually feel really good. And again, if it's not deep enough, you just go with a harder surface, a harder roller or use a PVC pipe. So, now that we've opened up the muscles, now we wanna do a little bit of a stretch. I love using this dowel. This is a weighted body bar, but you can use a broom. You can use, you know, a stick, if it's long enough. But again, this is to help open up your shoulder harness.

And I want you to start with your feet about shoulder width apart. My hands are wide enough that when I reach up and over to the back that I get a nice stretch. Now watch to the side: I'm not shortening my arms to bring it back over. It's like I'm creating a rainbow. So, I'm reaching back, and then I'm reaching back and forward. Nice stretch all the way through and forward.

I would actually suggest that you do this with something that doesn't have a lot of weight to it, because it's not a weighted exercise, but it's a great way of really opening up that thoracic area, opening up your chest and getting more mobility. That way, when you push overhead, you have that proper range. So, now that we've opened up the shoulder harness, I wanna get in there and really also stretch the chest. So, this is called an Active Chest Stretch.

No equipment. You're gonna start with your fingertips really wide. Arms extended all the way out, so your triceps are on, and you're just gonna throw the arms back. 2, 3, 4. If when you're throwing back, you feel tightness in your neck, just lower your hands a little bit. But you wanna really throw them back. Get that active stretch.

You'll feel that stretch through your bicep, front part of your shoulder and all the way into your pec. And I would do about 20 of them. And I actually like to do active chest stuff in between any chest movement that you're doing. If you're doing chest press, or you're doing push-ups, it's just a good way to keep the muscle open, so you don't feel really tight and closed after you're done doing chest. So, now that we opened it up, and we stretched, now let's go through some strength exercises.

First thing I wanna do are called Bent Over T's, because I'm in a T-position. So, you're gonna start with your feet about hipbone-width apart. I'm gonna start flat back forward.

My belly button is still in. My booty's out. You're fingertips are reaching in front, not too far down in front of you. And I'm gonna reach with my thumbs out, straight out to the side, a little bit behind my shoulders. Really important that you keep your palms rotated out as far as you can the whole time. So, I reach straight back. 1, 2.

And notice that when I'm reaching back, my head isn't pushing forward. I always feel like my jaw is pulling back through the top of my head, especially when I reach back. And I'm really holding and connecting to that rear dealt in the back part of my back and my shoulders. And then, we're gonna move to what I call a Y. Same position with the body, but you're gonna go a little bit out into a Y-position. So, this gets more the top back part of your shoulder.

Warms up that shoulder harness. Same position with my thumbs. I'm reaching, hold, pull the belly in, in your Y-position. And the last one I wanna do is called Read the Pages, Show the Book to the Floor, okay. Not technical, but it's a great way to remember the move. And you're gonna start like you're reading a book, okay.

You open up the book, you squeeze back and down with your shoulder blades, you show the pages of the book to the floor, and then read the book again. So, I'm squeezing back and down with my shoulder blades, and forward. So, I'm not up in my neck. Pushing away, squeeze and down. Keeping my belly button pulled in. Keeping that alignment through my spine. Hold and down.

Really important to understand that when you connect to the muscle and you fire it, even if you're not holding weight, that will still create heat through your body, it will still strengthen the muscles, so it's really about --like I always say-- connecting to the muscle that you're trying to connect to, that you're trying to actually activate and feel that blood flow. Okay, so now that we did that warmup, let's move to your overhead press with weights. Now I know you guys see this all the time in the gym. I see it all the time in the gym. A lot times, I just see it completely butchered, so I wanna go through the motion with you, so you have the right form and you feel the right strength with it. I'm using 10 pound weights.

You can use whatever strength you wanna start with. If you're trying to build more muscle, I would go up in your weight, and you would lower your reps a little bit. I'm gonna do it to the side, because I want you to see the form that I want you to keep.

You're gonna start with the weights facing forward. The dumbbells and my elbows are forward. I'm not starting out to the side or kind of half lazy, okay. They're starting from this position. When I push, I base my body. I pull my belly in. And when I push overhead, my arms are right next to my ears.

And then, I bring it back down. I push straight up over my head and back down. Something I want you to look at: What I'm not doing is I'm not doing this: I'm not, like, vaulting my back and opening up my ribcage.

I'm keeping my core super tight. And down. So, when I push up, I feel strong through my feet, strong through my core and my arms. And back down. Another thing I want you to notice is I'm extending full extension through my arms.

My triceps are fired. I'm pushing my knuckles to the ceiling and then bringing it back down again. So, when you do a lazy push, or you don't push all the way up, that's when you're gonna feel it in your neck. Or if you're not pushing behind your ears enough.

I don't wanna see this position. That's gonna do nothing but also jack up your shoulders and give you a little bit of neck pain. So, that is your shoulder and upper back workout. And remember, ladies, I don't want you to be afraid of heavier weight, especially if you're trying to build that shape through your shoulders and your back. Scale up if you're not there yet but maintain that form, maintain your core. Don't be afraid of the weight. And remember, I always want you to connect to your body.

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