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Best Upper-Body Stretches for the Push-Up Challenge

by 
author image Rachel Grice
Rachel Grice is a contributing fitness editor for Livestrong.com and a certified yoga instructor. Previously, she was the science section editor and titling associate for several other sections of Demand Media Studios, including fitness, nutrition and technology. She completed her undergrad education at the University of Southern California and has worked for Men's Health, FitPregnancy and People magazines.
Best Upper-Body Stretches for the Push-Up Challenge
Give your muscles some much needed TLC. Photo Credit: Chloe Millar/LIVESTRONG.COM

Well, you officially past the halfway mark of the LIVESTRONG.COM 30-Day Push-Up Challenge! Are your arms or chest feeling a little sore these days? There’s a good reason for that: You’ve done a total of 221 push-ups thus far, and it’s onward and upward from here.

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So if you need a little bit of relief as you head into the second half of the challenge, here are some of the best stretches you can do to get some relief, along with some additional tips on easing muscle soreness.

5 Best Upper-Body Stretches

While you’ll mostly feel push-ups in your chest (if you’re doing the standard version correctly), depending on the variations you’re doing and your individual physiology, you’ll also feel them in your arms, shoulders and even wrists. Here are the best stretches for those areas.

1. Wrist Stretch

HOW TO DO IT: Grab the fingers of your right hand with your left hand. Extend your right arm straight, palm facing out and fingers pointing down, and gently pull back on your fingers.

Hold for 15 to 30 seconds before flipping your palm to face you. Gently pull and hold in this position for another 15 to 30 seconds. Then do the same thing on the other wrist. You can also do this stretch with your fingers pointing up.

2. Chest Wall Stretch

HOW TO DO IT: Stand about a foot away from a wall, pole or other immovable surface. Place your right hand on the wall (or grab the pole) and twist away, keeping your hand in place. Keep twisting away from the wall until you feel the stretch through your chest and possibly also in your shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds on each side.

3. Chest and Shoulder Stretch

HOW TO DO IT: Grab your hands behind your back and, with straight arms, lift your hands up until you feel a gentle stretch in your chest and shoulders. Be sure you don’t lock your elbows. Play around with the position/height of your hands until you feel the stretch where you feel the soreness. Hold for 30 seconds.

4. Arm Across Stretch

HOW TO DO IT: Pull your right arm across your chest and hold it in place with your left hand. Use your left hand to gently pull it closer to your chest and further to the left. Hold for 30 seconds before switching sides.

5. Triceps Stretch

HOW TO DO IT: Raise your right arm overhead and bend at the elbow so that your right hand touches your back. Use your left hand to pull your elbow further to the left so that you feel a stretch in the back of your right upper arm (triceps). Hold for 30 seconds before switching sides.

Read more: 8 Stretching Mistakes That Are Hurting Your Workout

Top Tips to Ease Muscle Soreness

Stretches are great, but sometimes your muscles need a little bit more TLC. If that’s the case, make sure you’re doing everything you can to prevent and treat a little thing called delayed-onset muscle soreness (aka DOMS).

1. Warm Up

If you’re new to working out or as the push-up count increases, you’ll want to spend at least a few minutes getting your muscles revved up and your heart rate jump-started.

Cardio drills like jumping jacks or jumping rope help elevate your heart rate and raise your body temperature, which preps your body for exercise. And dynamic stretches like swimmer’s hugs and alternating side bends gets your upper-body muscles moving without overstretching.

2. Do Mobility Exercises

Mobility exercises are kind of like stretches, but you’re focusing more on a joint than muscles. But since push-ups can put a lot of stress on your wrists and shoulders, try incorporating these two drills into your warmup.

Wrist Mobility: Hold your hands out in front of you and roll your wrists in circles that move out to the side. Then switch to make circles going inward. Then flex and extend your wrists. Keep moving your wrists around in ways that feel good and put them through their full range of motion.

Shoulder Mobility: Take your arms out to the side and move them in big circles moving forward. Then circle to the back. You can also alternate arms so that you’re “swimming” forward and back. Or try shoulder rolls (isolating just your shoulders) to the front and back.

3. Foam Roll

Though some people may consider the foam roller more of a modern torture device than a recovery tool, as the saying goes, no pain, no gain. And that’s certainly true with the foam roller (up to a point, of course).

Wherever you’re feeling sore — upper back, chest, obliques — put the roller there and roll it out, staying put on any place that feels particularly sore. This can be particularly tricky/awkward with upper-body muscles, which leads us to…

4. Give Yourself a Massage

Either break out the lotion and give your tired muscles a good rubdown, or wait until you’re in the shower and let the water and soap aid in the massage. Much like with the foam roller, wherever you’re feeling particularly sore or tight — your upper arms, for instance — use your hands to massage away the tension.

Move up and down along the length of the muscles with a firm grip, or dig into tight spots with a circular motion.

5. Take a Soak

You’re working hard! Show your muscles and joints some love by taking a nice, long soak in the bath. Some people also add Epsom salts to their baths to facilitate muscle recovery, and while there aren’t many studies to back up the efficacy, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence. (And as long as you don’t have any underlying health concerns, there shouldn’t be any reason not to give it a try.)

More than likely, the benefits of an Epsom salt bath are from the warm water helping to relax and soothe your muscles. So go ahead and relax! You’ve earned it.

6. Fuel Up Properly

Just like the rest of your body, your muscles need fuel to function optimally. Make sure you’re getting a good balance of all macronutrients — carbohydrates, protein and fat — especially protein. Protein contains amino acids, which are essential in the building (and rebuilding) of muscle.

And make sure you’re getting enough magnesium in your diet (from almonds, spinach and tofu). While it won’t make muscle soreness or cramps go away, one 2010 study from The Journal of Physiology found being magnesium-deficient can increase your body’s sensitivity to pain.

Read more: 20 Best Muscle-Building Foods

How to Join the Push-Up Challenge

1. Make Your Push-Ups a Daily Habit

Print out the 30-day push-up calendar below and use it each day to help you stay on track. Do the prescribed number of reps each day, and then check off each day as you complete them. Before you know it, it’ll become habit!

Screenshot this photo to keep on your phone!
Screenshot this photo to keep on your phone! Photo Credit: Gracie Wilson/LIVESTRONG.COM

2. Connect With Us on Facebook

For daily support, motivation and camaraderie with LIVESTRONG.COM team members, join us in our Facebook Group for the 30-Day Push-Up Challenge. We’ll share tips, motivation, pictures and more! Plus, we’ll answer all your questions.

3. Stay Motivated

Throughout the 30 days we’ll provide you with the tools and information you need to stay motivated and reach your weight-loss goals. Sign up for our daily newsletter or visit our homepage to get linked up with the push-up challenge and other great content, including:

  • Daily motivational articles to keep you focused on your goal.
  • Nutrition and fitness advice, including recipes and workouts.
  • Real-time community support from thousands of LIVESTRONG.COM members.
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