My Favorite Upper Body Stretches

Since we are well underway with the April Arms Challenge, I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite upper body stretches.  First off, there are two main types of stretching to consider.  There is, and always has been, a lot of controversy surround what type of stretching to do and when, but I stick to how I was trained by the American College of Sports Medicine.

  • Dynamic Stretching:  Stretches that are done while in motion to increase joint flexibility, raise core temperature, and increase circulation.  Dynamic stretches are typically done before a workout to get the body ready for bigger and more intense movement to follow.
  • Static:  Stretches that are held in a fixed place for a minimum of 20 seconds to the point of mild discomfort, but never pain.  Static stretching is typically done at the end of a workout.  You never want to go coldly into static stretches without doing some type of dynamic movement first!

Favorite Dynamic Upper Body Stretches

Warning:  Taking pictures of dynamic movements is nearly impossible.  Please forgive my laughing in every pic, Tim and I got a good kick out of these!  They probably don’t help at all to explain the movement, but they are awk and funny to laugh at.  🙂

Spinal Rotations
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and your arms out to the side so your body forms a T.  Keeping your lower body still, rotate your upper body back and forth from right to left.  Make sure your eyes follow so you are always facing the direction you are moving in.

Spinal Rotations

Arm Crossovers
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and lift your arms straight out to your sides so they parallel the ground.  In a steady motion, move your arms across the center of your chest and let them criss-cross each other.  Steadily move them back out and repeat; but this time cross them with the opposite arm on top.

Arm Crossovers

Arm Circles
Stand tall, holding your arms straight out to your sides so they are parallel to the floor.  Start by making small circles with your arm progressing to bigger circles.  Do 10 reps forward, then 10 reps backward.
Arm Circles

Shoulder Circles
Stand tall with your feet placed shoulder-width apart.  Without moving any other part of your body, roll your shoulder backward in a circular motion 10 times.  Pause, then roll forward 10 times.

Shoulder Circles

Bent Over Reach to Sky
Keeping your lower back naturally arched, bend at your hips and knees and lower your torso until it’s almost parallel to the floor.  Let your arms hang straight down from your shoulders, palms facing each other.  Brace your core, then rotate your torso to the right as you reach as high as you can with your right arm.  Pause, then return and reverse the movement on your left.

Ben Over Reach to Sky

Jumping Jacks
Stand with your feet together and your hands at your sides.  Simultaneously raise your arms above your head and jump up just enough to spread your feet out wide.  Without pausing, quickly reverse the movement and repeat.

Jumping Jacks

Favorite Static Upper Body Stretches

Remember these are ideal for the end of your workout!

Neck Stretch
Take the ear down to the shoulder, breathe and relax into it.  Come center, then repeat on the other side.  For a deeper stretch, you can flex the opposite hand while letting your arm hang down at your side.

Neck Stretch

Biceps Bar Stretch
With your right arm straight, reach behind you toward a bar (or something you can grab onto) that’s below shoulder level and grasp the bar with and underhand grip, your palm facing up.  Shift your weight forward until you feel a comfortable stretch in your biceps.  Hold, then repeat with your left arm.

Biceps Bar Stretch

Biceps Palm Pulldown Stretch
Take one arm and raise it in front of your body.  Flip your arm so your palm faces up, then gently pull down on your fingers until you feel the stretch.  Repeat on the other side.

Biceps Palm Pulldown Stretch

Overhead Triceps Stretch
Bring one arm up and overhead, drop the forearm back, gently grab the elbow, and pull through the back of the arm nice and slow.  You never want to pull on your elbow.  Try to get the palm flat against the back if you can.  Repeat on the other side.

Overhead Triceps Stretch

Chest Doorway Stretch
Bend your arm at 90 degrees while placing your forearm against a door frame.  Step through the doorway with your foot until you feel a comfortable stretch in your chest and the front of your shoulder.  Switch arms and legs and repeat for your other side.

Chest Doorway Stretch

Chest and Shoulder Stretch
Clasp your hands behind your back, and squeeze your shoulder blades together.  Breathe from the chest.

Chest and Shoulder Stretch

Across the Body Shoulder Stretch
Raise one arm directly in front of your body, grab above the elbow with the opposite hand, and then pull across the body from the shoulder.  Hold, looking the opposite way.  Repeat on the other side.

Across the Body Shoulder Stretch

Cat/Cow Stretch for Back
Begin with your hands and knees on the floor, making sure your hands are directly underneath your shoulders and your knees are underneath your hips.  As you inhale, arch your back and lift your head and tailbone.  With an exhale, round your spine up to the ceiling and simultaneously tuck your tailbone in while pulling your chin to your chest.  Continue going back and forth between the two!  I guess this could also be considered dynamic, since you are moving through both positions, but it’s static when you hold in each.

Cat Cow Stretch

Child’s Pose
After completing cat/cow stretch, I like to go immediately into child’s pose.  Kneel on the floor with your big toes touching.  Sit back on your heels, keeping your knees hip width apart.  Lean forward and drape your body over your thighs so that your forehead rests on the floor.  Reach your arms out in front of you, and breathe.

Child's Pose

Kneeling Stability Ball Lat Stretch
Kneel on the floor and place a stability ball about two feet in front of you.  Place your hands on the ball, about six inches apart.  Lean forward at your hips and press your shoulders toward the floor.

Kneeling Stability Ball Stretch

Obliques & Lats Stretch
Take one arm and reach over the body so you feel the stretch all the way down your side.  Then reverse and stretch through the other side.

Standing Oblique Stretch

It’s important to stretch as part of a total body workout program throughout the week.  For best results, it’s recommended that if not every day, you do flexibility training 2-3 times a week at minimum!

Let’s chat! 

  • What are your thoughts on dynamic versus static stretching? 
  • Do you stretch enough per the recommended amounts? 
  • What is your favorite upper body stretch? 
  • Any that I’m missing here that you want to share?

Do You Get Enough Exercise?

Morning everyone!

This weekend I attended the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) workshop at Salem State University.

For those of you who don’t know, I am planning on taking the CPT exam in a couple of months because I am looking to expand my current fitness credentials.  I wasn’t required to take this workshop before the test, but I wanted the optional hands on experience because I felt it would help me while studying.  I learned SO much in exercise prescription, program design, pre-screening assessments, anatomy & kinesiology, nutrition, and much more.  I actually didn’t want the workshop to end because I wanted to keep learning more.

Is this what college was supposed to feel like?!

Anyways, during the workshop there were so many times I kept thinking, “I can’t wait to blog about this” or “This would make a great blog post!”  I am excited to (hopefully) soon have another certification under my belt to back my blogging.  I’m excited to maybe even do some personal training along with my group exercise classes on the side.  So don’t be surprised if you start seeing a lot more informational posts regarding the things I learned!

Plus, blogging about them will just help me study and reinforce the material because that’s the kind of learner I am.

The first thing I’d like to share are ACSM’s guidelines for getting enough exercise and what the standard recommendations are for cardiovascular, muscular strength/endurance, and flexibility per week.

[Cartoon Source]

Take a second before you continue reading.  What do you think are the recommended norms for each of these fitness areas?  Do you think you already get enough exercise?

ACSM has a principle called the F.I.T.T.E Principle to assist personal trainers with health fitness programming.  The components of F.I.T.T.E make up any standard exercise program for a client and include the following aspects:

  • Frequency – the number of sessions per day and week, how often you are exercising
  • Intensity – how challenging the exercise is, or the amount of effort/work invested in a particular exercise
  • Time or Duration – the length of the exercise session, varies based on intensity and type
  • Type or Mode – how are you exercising, what exercises will be performed?
  • Enjoyment – the principle that it needs to be made fun in order to be a success

Cardiovascular Fitness

  • Frequency:  3 – 5 days a week
  • Intensity:  57(64) – 94% of your maximum heart rate (HRmax) OR 30(40) – 85% of your heart rate reserve (HRreserve).
  • Time or Duration:  20 – 90 minutes
  • Type or Mode:  Running, cycling, swimming, etc.  Anything that targets large muscle groups.
  • Enjoyment!

More to come on the intensity calculations later!


  • Frequency:  2 – 3 days a week
  • Intensity:  2 – 4 sets, 8 – 12 reps, 8 – 10 different exercises, with 2 – 3 minutes of rest in between sets
  • Time or Duration:  An appropriate time as to not deter adherence (less than an hour)
  • Type or Mode:  Total body (using free weights, machines, bands, balls, kettlebells, etc.)
  • Enjoyment!


  • Frequency:  2 – 3 days a week minimum, but every day is recommended
  • Intensity:  The stretch should push to mild discomfort but should not generate pain
  • Time or Duration:  This depends on the type of stretching.  For static stretches, 15-60 second holds.  For PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation) stretching, the isometric stretch should be held for 6 seconds, followed by a 10-30 second static stretch, and repeated 4 times.
  • Type or Mode:  Pre-Exercise requires dynamic stretching with optional static stretches that are held for less than 10 seconds.  Post-Exercise requires static stretching or PNF stretching for the recommended times above.
  • Enjoyment!

More to come on the different types of stretching later!

Question of the Day:  What do you guys think?  Do you get the recommended amount of cardiovascular, strength, and flexibility exercise in each week? 

If not, DanceFIT Studio would be a great place to start!  Click here to see how you can win a FREE class – my drawing ends at midnight tonight!