Stretching is vital for your health. This is true whether you are an athlete or not- if you start to lose flexibility and strength in your back and shoulders, you will also lose mobility, and be cursed with pain!
This is your body scolding you for not taking care of it. If you feel pain, you are either doing too much physically, like overtraining or training with too heavily, or else you are doing too little. No matter which side you come down on, I know how you can fix it- by stretching. But not just with static stretching, where you stretch and hold for time, although that is good as well. You need weighted stretching.
And, it need not be time consuming, since I am talking about only two simple weighted stretches to “bullet proof” your body, and strengthen and stretch at the same time the two most commonly pain riddled sites of the human body- your back, and your shoulders.
So here goes- for the back, and I mean the entire back musculature that surrounds and supports the spine itself, you need the Jefferson Lift. It is simple, and effective, but must be done carefully, meaning starting with extremely light weights! To start, just use an empty barbell- that will be plenty. You will never go heavy with this, ever!
You can stand on a platform, or box, or just a stack of weight plates so that when you bend all the way over with straight arms holding the barbell at arms length straight down, nothing touches the ground. I work out in my basement, and can just stand on the bottom step of the stairs leading upstairs, but then this won’t work for most.
However you do it, just slowly bend down at the waist, and feel the backbone slowly extend, vertebrae by vertebrae. At the bottom, hold for a complete stretch momentarily, and then come back up, the same slow, deliberate way. 10 reps is ample, and just one set will do it. That one exercise will do more for your back than anything else I can think of, both for useful, protective strength, and flexibility at the same time. Useful flexibility, since you will have strength building in every range of motion in your spine- static stretching does not have the strength component.
Then, for the shoulders, do the scapular dislocation exercise. It sounds painful, but it’s not! Take either a long dowel, rod, or exercise band or rope- hold it at both ends, wider than shoulder width at first, in front of your body. Slowly lift upwards, at arms length, straight up and over the head towards the back, and then down as low as your arms can go behind your back. At the bottom of the motion, your scapula will slowly “dislocate”. Then, go back the other way, until arms are back in front- the scapula will relocate when you are half way up your back.
Kind of hard to describe, but I will put videos of both lifts at www.paleojay.com Easy to understand when viewed visually!
To slowly progress on both lifts, just gradually add weight- light weights! On the shoulder dislocate, don’t add weight for a long time, just work on mobility. When you can, gradually move the hands in closer to shoulder width. Eventually, after long practice, you can use a dowel with a very small weight on it, but this is very advanced. This scapular control is what gymnasts use for straight arm strength, which is very different from the pushing and pulling strength in most forms of training. And it is a very protective form of strength that most people do not have, and they pay the price in injury and pain.
But, now, you will not be one of them!