Music Teacher's Helper Blog

Upper Body Stretches for the Neck and Shoulders

We all agree that practice makes perfect, but how do you prepare your body for an extensive practice session?  Stretching before practicing is a great way to slow down the mind and focus on the task at hand, as well as getting the muscles ready for the athletic event of practicing.  Here are six stretches that are very helpful in warming the body up and also preventing injury.

1) Shoulder Raises: Lift he shoulders up to the ears and hold.  Gently release and allow to return to a relaxed, lowered position.  Repeat three times.

 

 

2) Shoulder Circles: Lift the shoulders up to the level of the ears.  Slowly and gently rotate the shoulders in a large circle forward.  Watching yourself in the mirror will help you to make a complete circle.  Make three rotations forward.  Now start again with the shoulders elevated.  This time make three rotations backward and around.

3) Arm Circles: Place both arms above your head. Slowly bring them forward and make a large circle, swinging hem backward, up and around to the starting position.  Make three forward circles.  Now start with your arms above your head, but this time go backwards as you make a large circle with your arms.  Rotate three times around to the back.  Next make a swimming motion with one arm in from of you, the other behind you.  Swim forward, then backward.

4) Chin to Chest: Sit with good posture.  Gently lower your chin to your chest, feeling the stretch in the back of your neck.  Gradually raise your head and gently tilt your head backward.  Let your jaw drop open as you tult your head backward.  You will want to stop at the point where you feel and discomfort in your neck. Also, you might want to support your head with your hands as you tilt backward. This is helpful if you have strained your neck and want to gently stretc it out.  Repeat three times.

5) Ear to Shoulder: Gently lower your left ear toward your left shoulder, keeping your face looking straight forward.  Return to upright position.  Now gently lower your right ear toward your right shoulder, keeping your face forward.  Repeat this alternation three times.

 

6) Neck rolls/ head rolls: Sit with erect posture.  Gently lower your left ear toward your left shoulder.  Slowly rotate your head in an arc from your left shoulder to your right shoulder.  Then come back from right to left.  Imagine that your head is very heavy.  This will help you to keep from supporting the weight of your head with a tense neck.  Let you head gently fall forward as you do the rotations.  Repeat the pattern three times in each direction.

Your turn!  What stretches are particularly effective for your instrument?  How do you quickly stretch a student before a lesson, and what muscle groups do you try to focus on?

About the Author

Sarah Luebke
Nebraska native Sarah Luebke completed her MM in vocal performance at the University of Kentucky, and her BM in vocal performance at St. Olaf College. Recently she has been seen performing the female lead, Jane McDowell, in "The Stephen Foster Story" and the ensemble of "Big River" with Stephen Foster Productions. Other performances include the soprano soloist of Bach's St. John Passion, La Fee ... [Read more]

2 Comments

  1. Ian

    Thanks for the stretches. A slightly more intense variation on the chin to chest stretch is to:
    1. Turn your palms upward.
    2. Rotate the hands outward away from the body.

    You can really get a nice stretch in both the traps and lats with this.

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