When you run, you know to hold your chest up and proud, keep your spine long and tall, and your shoulders pulled back. But how often do you think about your posture when you’re sitting? The majority of at-home workers—which still holds at about 7 in 10 people with white-collar jobs, according to a Gallup poll—reported hunching over laptops in a study done at the University of Cincinnati.
If you think how you spend the whole day sitting doesn’t affect your posture on the run, think again. “Hunching over for excessive amounts of hours and weeks will eventually cause your pectoral muscles, the suboccipitals muscles in your neck, and your hip flexors to stiffen up,” explains Jess Mena, D.P.T., C.S.C.S.
Your shoulders and pecs may not be the main drivers in running, but here’s how they can affect your running form: Shortened pecs will pull the shoulder girdle forward, which will excessively strain the surrounding tendons as you swing your arms for miles and miles, Mena says. (It also limits how far back your arm can swing, which will inhibit the amount of power you can draw from that.) And the more your chest is compressed, the harder it will be to get the deep, full breaths you need to power faster or longer runs.
“Doing strength exercises that focus on the posterior shoulder and shoulder blade muscles are important in order to avoid any repetitive movement strains you may run into, especially with longer distance running,” says Mena. Stretching and opening up the chest and shoulders after you’ve been curled over your screen for hours is also super important, especially before you start running, as it helps you maintain mobility and efficiency on your feet. “If the chest is too stiff, it will eventually affect the shoulder complex itself and potentially lead to pain down the road,” Mena adds.
How to use this list: “If you sit at a desk all day, you should be stretching daily,” says Mena. And for every hour that you sit, she adds, you should be getting up for seven to eight minutes to open up the chest and take pressure off the back and hips. Make a point to incorporate the first four stretches—demonstrated by Yusuf Jeffers, a NASM-certified personal trainer and USATF-certified running coach—into your daily routine, then add the final four exercises to your strength-training days.
World’s Greatest Stretch
Start standing. Step forward with left foot into a lunge position with back leg straight. Lower chest toward floor and place right hand on floor, in line with left foot. Move left elbow inside left foot, forearm perpendicular to foot. Keep hips square to floor and back as flat as possible. Then, twist toward the left and lift left arm up toward ceiling. Pause, then bring left elbow back inside of left foot. Then step back up to standing. Repeat on opposite side. Continue alternating.
Supine Foam Roller Pec Stretch
Lie faceup on foam roller with neck supported and roller placed vertically down spine, with knees bent and feet flat on floor. Place hands by shoulders, palms facing up and elbows bent. Then let gravity pull your arms down. If you want to add movement, reach the arms straight overhead. Then pull the elbows back down. Repeat.
Supine Y Extension
Lie faceup on the floor, knees bent and feet planted. Place hands by shoulders, palms facing up and elbows bent. Extend arms above head into a Y shape, aiming to keep elbows and wrists as close to the floor as possible. Lower arms to starting position and repeat. Hips, shoulders, and head maintain contact with the ground the entire time.
Side-Lying Open Book
Lie on side with knees bent and in line with hips. Stack knees and hips. Place your hands on top of one another and extend in front of chest. Reach top hand forward as far as you can, then reach it up toward the sky and open the chest, moving the arm back toward the floor behind you, palm facing up. Allow torso and head to follow, but keep the hips and lower body still. Return to start. Repeat.
Standing Row With Band
Step onto a long resistance band with both feet, planting both feet slightly further than shoulder-width apart. Keep arms extended towards the floor, holding the band with palms facing toward you, hands shoulder-width apart. Bend elbows, pulling the band out and up toward the chest, while drawing shoulder blades down and back. Straighten arms to return to the starting position. Repeat.
Shoulder T on Swiss Ball
Lie facedown on a Swiss ball so chest is parallel to ground, toes placed firmly on floor behind you, arms hanging straight down on either side of the ball with palms facing each other. Hold a dumbbell in each hand to make this move more difficult. Brace core and slowly raise arms laterally until they are parallel to the ground. Pause, then slowly lower arms back to the starting position. Repeat.
Swiss Ball Elbow Raise
Lie facedown on a Swiss ball so chest is parallel to ground, toes placed firmly on the floor behind you. Place hands behind head with elbows pointing down towards ground. Squeeze shoulder blades together to lift elbows so they're in line with shoulders. Pause, then lower to starting position. Repeat.
Start standing with feet hip- to shoulder-width apart, microbend in the knees, shoulders back and chest proud. Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand, palms facing you. Slowly send butt back, hinging at the hips while keeping back straight and abs tight. Engage hamstrings and glutes to resist the downward pull of gravity as the weight lowers toward the floor. Lower as far as you can until you feel a pull along the backs of legs. Drive feet into floor to stand back up, squeezing shoulders down and back to maintain strong posture. Repeat.