I tried this trainer's one move to improve my shoulder mobility, posture and upper back strength

This one move helped me to work out the stubborn knot between my shoulder blades with gentle stretching and strengthening

Woman checks phone while resting
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Anyone who works a desk job knows that your postural muscles can suffer, especially without proper seating support (and sometimes even with it). I have a habit of moving around the house throughout the day and working in spots that aren’t friendly to my back and shoulders. While I enjoy the change of scenery, I find that this can leave me with a sore neck, upper back and tight shoulders at the end of the day.

I came across this quick, weighted movement in an Instagram reel shared by personal trainer Stephanie Ridgeway, and decided to give it a try after reading the caption:

"If you’re having any upper back or shoulder pain and you’ve tried stretching and massage, but it didn’t help, you may need to try working on strengthening those muscles," suggests Ridgeway in her reel. "Strengthening your upper back and shoulder muscles will help improve your posture, reduce your pain, and improve your function."

I was sold—time to give it a go.

How to do the move

A post shared by Stephanie Ridgway

A photo posted by stephanieridgwaydpt on

My results

I did one round of twelve reps unweighted and then two rounds with light dumbbells to increase the resistance. I usually work out by lifting heavy weights or doing straight cardio, so a controlled movement designed to challenge my mobility was new to me.

1. I found myself feeling more relaxed

I tend to carry tension between my shoulders and in my upper back, so it was nice to target this area specifically. While it wasn’t quite a massage, I felt looser and more relaxed after a couple of rounds. I paid attention to my breathing throughout the exercise, ensuring that I was inhaling through one-half of the movement (lifting the arms above my head) and exhaling through the second half (returning my arms to the starting position). This focus on my breath and on maintaining good form helped me to take a mindful moment in the middle of my day.

2. Adding weight made it more challenging

I did the first round without dumbbells to get the hang of the movement and make sure my form was correct. Once I added the weights, I could feel the exercise more in my upper back, between my shoulder blades, and the supporting muscles in my mid and lower back. I also found myself bracing my core in the final few reps to maintain good form.

3. I had to move some furniture

You don’t realize how small your house is until you have to do an exercise with lateral movement! After trying to reposition myself a few times and cracking my hand on something I gave up and moved my coffee table out of the way. If you want to give this move a try, it might be worth giving it a go at the gym or outdoors if you don’t have access to a large, uncluttered space.

I only tried this move once, which didn't manage to instantly boost my shoulder strength. If this is your goal, you should commit to regular shoulder gym workouts and mobility work.

Need some new weights for your home workouts? Our guide to the best adjustable dumbbells can help

Lou Mudge
Fitness Writer

Lou Mudge is a Health Writer at Future Plc, working across Fit&Well and Coach. She previously worked for Live Science, and regularly writes for Space.com and Pet's Radar. Based in Bath, UK, she has a passion for food, nutrition and health and is eager to demystify diet culture in order to make health and fitness accessible to everybody.

Multiple diagnoses in her early twenties sparked an interest in the gut-brain axis and the impact that diet and exercise can have on both physical and mental health. She was put on the FODMAP elimination diet during this time and learned to adapt recipes to fit these parameters, while retaining core flavors and textures, and now enjoys cooking for gut health.