How do I do the arm-across-chest stretch exercise?

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The arm-across-chest stretch is designed to increase flexibility and range of motion of the shoulder joint and the posterior deltoid muscle. To perform this exercise, follow these steps:

  • Start by standing straight with feet point straight forward
  • Take your left arm across your chest
  • With the right hand grasp the back part of the left upper arm (just above the elbow)
  • Using your right arm, slightly pull the left arm across the body
  • Keep the left elbow bent as you pull across the body
  • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds.
  • Switch sides and repeat
  • Perform 2 sets on each side
Rick Olderman
Physical Therapy
The arm-across-chest stretch is very effective for eliminating chronic shoulder pain. It is designed to restore range of motion to the muscles running from the shoulder blade to the arm bone. When these muscles are tight, they contribute to abnormal scapular (shoulder blade) mechanics.

To perform the stretch standing:

Turn sideways to the wall and lean your right shoulder against it. In particular, try to rest the back of your shoulder against the wall; this isolates the scapula so that it cannot slide forward while performing the stretch. Next, with your left hand, grasp your right elbow and pull it across your chest, keeping your right arm low. Feel a stretch without pain. The goal is to eventually get your right elbow to cross the midline of your chest. Hold for 30-60 seconds, then relax and repeat. Perform 3-5 repetitions.

To progress the stretch, elevate your right arm to pull it across your chest at a higher point. Once you can stretch in this range without pain, progress until your arm is approximately shoulder height and pull across your chest.

To perform the stretch side-lying:

Lie on your right side with your right elbow slightly in front of your trunk. Try to trap your scapula behind you rather than allow it to slide forward underneath you. If you have really tight shoulders, you may have to begin with your elbow closer to your waist. With your left hand, grasp your right elbow and pull it up off the table, toward the ceiling. Feel the stretch in the back or top of your shoulder. Hold for 30-60 seconds, then relax and repeat. Perform 3-5 repetitions. Progress as above by gradually raising your right arm to stretch it across the top of your chest.
Fixing You: Shoulder & Elbow Pain: Self-treatment for rotator cuff strain, shoulder impingement, tennis elbow, golfer's elbow, and other diagnoses.

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Fixing You: Shoulder & Elbow Pain: Self-treatment for rotator cuff strain, shoulder impingement, tennis elbow, golfer's elbow, and other diagnoses.

The shoulders are a floating system on the trunk, held in place and moved by muscular control. The foundation of shoulder movement is the shoulder blade which has precise resting and moving...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.