When it comes to stretching, there are two distinctive types--static and dynamic. Static stretching is characterized by holding a body part in a fixed position for 20 or more seconds. This type of stretching is generally done at the end of workouts. Dynamic stretching on the other hand, is done in motion and is generally done before activity. The main function of dynamic stretching is to warm up the muscles and ready them for the movement they are about to engage in. When it comes to the upper body specifically, you have multiple stretches to choose from.
Side bends stretch your obliques, lower and upper abs and back muscles. Your obliques are the muscles found on the sides of your stomach. To perform these stretches, you need a broomstick or toning bar. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart while holding the bar behind your neck and across the tops of your shoulders. Keeping your lower body still, alternate bending laterally to your left and right sides as far as possible. Continue going back and forth until you've done 15 to 20 repetitions each direction.
Spinal rotations, or trunk rotations, stretch your abs, upper back and shoulders. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms out to your sides. Your body should be in a "T" shape at this point. Keeping your lower body still, rotate your upper body back and forth from your right to left sides 15 to 20 times. When doing this, always keep your eyes facing the direction you are going.
Arm crossovers stretch your chest and shoulders. 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. Repeat for 20 to 30 seconds.
Arm circles stretch your shoulder muscles. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms at your sides. Keeping your arms straight, move them around in big circles going forward. After you have done 15 to 20 reps, switch directions.
Shoulder Circle Shrugs
Shoulder circle shrugs specifically stretch the trapezius which is the muscle found on the top of the shoulders. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms at your sides. Keeping your arms straight, shrug your shoulders in big forward circles. After you have done 15 to 20 reps, switch directions.
The neck can be stretched through flexion, extension and rotation. To do flexion and extension, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your gaze fixed forward. Steadily tuck your chin in toward your chest, then lift your head up and back as far as possible. To do lateral flexion, look straight ahead and alternate bending your head laterally to the left and right as far as possible. To do rotations, look straight ahead and alternate turning your head back and forth from the left to the right as far as possible. Perform 15 to 20 reps with each stretch.