What Exercise Should I Do If I Can't Put My Arms Behind My Back?

Flexibility exercises will help your arms reach behind your back.
Image Credit: Jacob Ammentorp Lund/iStock/Getty Images

Spending day after day typing on a computer or doing other activities that require your arms to remain in front of your body could lead to tight muscles. This can ultimately make it difficult for you to put your arms behind your back.


Muscles on your chest and the front of your shoulders tighten when your arms are continuously in front of your body, and the muscles that help you sit up straight can become weak.

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This can increase your risk of injury, according to the American Chiropractic Association. This muscular imbalance can be repaired through flexibility exercises and stretching.


Stretches that target your chest and muscles at the front of your shoulders can improve your ability to reach your arms behind your back.

Read more: 8 Surprising Ways Your Posture Affects Your Whole Body

1. Doorway Stretch

A simple stretch that you can perform at work or at home is a doorway chest stretch, as demonstrated by ExRx.net. This stretch opens your chest and shoulders.

  1. Stand in the middle of an open doorway, as if you were walking through, and place your bent right arm on the wall.
  2. Position your arm so that your elbow is in a straight line from your shoulder. If you feel the stretch in this position, remain here and hold.
  3. If you need a deeper stretch, slightly turn your body to the left until you feel the stretch in your chest.
  4. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Repeat the stretch on your left arm. You can repeat the sequence two or three times a day, every day.


2. Supported Back Bend

Yoga exercise includes poses, such as a supported back bend, that can increase the range of motion in your chest.

  1. Begin by lying on your back with a rolled up yoga mat or towel placed across your middle back and perpendicular to your spine.
  2. Place a small pillow underneath your head to maintain alignment in your neck.
  3. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor.
  4. Open your arms to the sides of your body and rest your arms on the floor with your palms facing up.


3. Side Twist

A torso twist will improve the range of motion around your ribcage.

  1. Lie on your right side with your knees bent to form a 90-degree angle in your hips.
  2. Look up toward the ceiling, raise your left arm toward the ceiling and then reach across your chest toward the opposite shoulder.
  3. Place a support under your left arm — such as a stack of pillows —or rest your arm on a couch. Do not let your arm dangle without support.
  4. Maintain this position for two or three minutes before repeating on your other side.


Read more: 6 Exercises to Help You Stand Taller

4. Towel Stretch

The towel stretch, as demonstrated by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, increases internal rotation — a key shoulder movement needed to reach behind your back.

  1. Roll up a bath towel and hold one end in each hand.
  2. Reach the unaffected arm up overhead and dangle the towel behind your back.
  3. Reach behind you for the opposite end of the towel, using the affected arm.
  4. Slowly pull upward on the top end of the towel to stretch the bottom arm further behind your back.
  5. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat three times.