I tried doing this move for five days to boost my shoulder mobility and relieve upper-body tension—here's what I found

This simple bodyweight exercise could improve your strength and mobility

Woman sat at work desk rubbing tension knot in her shoulder
(Image credit: Getty Images)

I often deal with stiffness in my upper body, especially when I've been sitting at my desk for too long. Even when I wake up, I feel an ache in the same spot in my back, which is probably caused by excessive sitting and hunching my shoulders.

Our bodies aren't designed to sit down all day and doing so can put pressure on our muscles. To combat these aches and pains and reduce the long-term damage of my desk job, I'm trying to incorporate more mobility work into my daily life.

I discovered an Instagram Reel posted by Hilal Leigh where she shares a simple exercise designed to strengthen and mobilize the neck, shoulders and upper back. 

It doesn't require any equipment, so I decided to do it for a few minutes every day for five days to see if it improved the way my body feels.

Watch Hilal Leigh's Instagram Reel

Leigh describes this exercise as "I,Y,T" as the shapes your arms make during the movements look like those letters. 

To do this exercise, lie on your front and lift your head and shoulders off the floor. Keep your tummy and legs in contact with the floor while you squeeze your abs and glutes to engage the core. Lift one arm out to the side into a T shape, then move it forwards slightly so it's in a Y-shape and finish with it directly in line with your shoulders so your body is in an I-shape. Complete on one side before repeating on the other arm.

My results

I haven't come across this specific move before, although I have tried similar exercises designed to strengthen and mobilize the back.

When doing this exercise, I noticed that my core and back muscles were engaged immediately. As well as the upper back, this move also engaged my lower back, particularly when my arms were in the I-shape.

At first, I felt some strain in my neck as I was looking up towards the ceiling. When I lowered my neck slightly so it was in line with the rest of my body, there was no discomfort.

Although this exercise was great for mobilizing my upper body, it didn't immediately alleviate the tension in my shoulder and back, so I still felt as though I needed to stretch to relieve my aches and pains.

But after doing this move every day for five days, it definitely got easier and I noticed that my upper body felt more comfortable when sitting down. I think doing the exercise prompted me to actively engage the muscles throughout my day, which helped support my posture, so I'll definitely be trying to weave it into my regular stretching routines. 

For more ideas on how to keep limber, have a look at this hip mobility yoga flow, or try doing these hip stretches at home. 

You don't really need any equipment to do this move, but having one of the best yoga mats on hand can cushion you from hard floors while you're stretching out

Alice Porter
Freelancer Writer

Alice Porter is a freelance journalist covering lifestyle topics including health, fitness and wellness. She is particularly interested in women's health, strength training and fitness trends and writes for publications including Stylist Magazine, Refinery29, The Independent and Glamour Magazine. Like many other people, Alice's personal interest in combining HIIT training with strength work quickly turned into a CrossFit obsession and she trains at a box in south London. When she's not throwing weights around or attempting handstand push-ups, you can probably find her on long walks in nature, buried in a book or hopping on a flight to just about anywhere it will take her.