Woman at work desk holding her head

5 quick desk stretches for tight shoulders and chest

Ever look at the clock and realize hours have passed without getting out of your chair? You’ve been glued to your computer screen and now your upper body is strained? This little stretching sequence is the perfect antidote.

By Megan Hoskins, founder and registered massage therapist, Slow Medicine Company


1 – Chair arm raises

This is best done on a stool or a chair with no arms. Use the fullness of your inhale to swing your arms forward and up. Use the whole exhale breath to swing your arms wide and down. You can reverse the breath/action for a mind teaser…then rub your belly and pat your head. ;-)

For this and all stretches, only do what’s comfortable. Don’t push your body beyond its limits.

Desk stretch

2 – Standing chest stretch

Use a firm hip-width stance with knees unlocked. Tone your abdominals to keep your low back feeling long and spacious.

Now you want to clasp your hands behind you, but make sure that the fronts of your shoulders have rolled wide first (this action is called external rotation). So, turn your palms forward, sweep your arms backward (giving your shoulder blades a little squeeze) AND THEN clasp your hands.

Now to increase the stretch, lift your chest up and broad while aiming your knuckles down and away.

Desk stretch

3 – Side bending

Use a solid hip-width stance with hands interlaced on head. Press your head upward into hands to maintain a strong core/torso/neck alignment. Press your right elbow upward and ensure you’re staying long though your sides. Hold for a few breaths. Switch sides.

Desk stretch

4 – Standing dancer’s pose

Make sure you’re close to a wall or chair for balance. Bend your left knee, catching your ankle in your hand. Squeeze your knees together and aim your left knee downward, as best you can.

If that’s easy for you, start to angle your left knee back while maintaining an upright torso. And if that’s easy for you, squeeze your bum without letting your knees splay apart. Hold until the intensity of the stretch subsides. Switch sides.

Desk stretch

5 – Seated twist

Sit with your feet firmly planted in a comfortable wide stance. Press your left arm to the inside of your left shin and reach your right arm to the ceiling.

Feel this movement as a rotation in your spine, using leverage within the connection of forearm to shin to go deeper. Try to keep your collarbone broad and spacious. Resist the temptation to collapse your chest/shoulder in an effort to reach higher.

Hold for a few breaths before switching sides.

Desk stretch