Do you have an achy/tight neck or back?
The most straightforward solution to relieve such tension is to perform a set of wall angels, a dynamic stretch exercise that primarily targets your back for improved posture.
You’ll also feel its effect on your neck and shoulders too.
Want even better good news?
This exercise can be performed literally anywhere!
Read on to find out more about the wall angel exercise and its benefits.
What Is the Wall Angels Exercise?
The wall angel is the go-to-exercise for strengthening your back and opening up rounded shoulders. In other words, it can help fix your sitting posture.
The exercise functions by tackling shoulder rotation, scapular mobility, upper back activation, as well as chest and shoulder muscle release.
It’s so simple that you can perform it anywhere without worrying about space and wasted time – be it in your backyard gym as you warm up for your workout session, in the bedroom after waking up, in the living room when watching tv or in the office during lunch break.
How to Perform Wall Angels
Here is how to perform wall angels step-by-step:
Sit tall against the wall in the shape of an “L.” Extend your legs in front of you and tightly press your back against the wall.
Level your elbows with your shoulders. Press your arms against the wall.
Rotate your arms upward so that the backs of your hands and forearms are in contact with the wall.
Slowly raise your arms overhead until your elbows and shoulders are fully extended. Make sure that your back is completely pressing into the wall and keep your spine neutral throughout the entire movement.
Lower your arms until your triceps are parallel to the ground.
Repeat the aforementioned steps for the desired number of reps (preferably 10 to 15 times).
This videos shows the steps to do wall angels:
Benefits of Wall Angels
This exercise has many benefits we discuss them below.
Enhance T-Spine Mobility
The first and foremost benefit that you can reap from this postural exercise is improved postural muscles, thoracic spine mobility and better flexed posture. If you manage to quickly master this great exercise, your spine will become super bendy, thus capable of supporting other intense, upper body resistance training exercises – the likes of heavy deadlifts, bench press, or barbell rows.
Help with Posture
Nowadays, many people suffer from poor posture, and addingsuch a workout to their daily activities might just be the missing piece in the process of fixing that problem. T
his excellent exercise can be a particularly helpful for teenage girls and boys alike as it will help them fix poor posture and nail the right form during exercise, very essential especially during youth weight lifting training to avoid injury.
Great Warmup/Stretching Exercise
If your workout routine includes any exercises that require thoracic spine mobility, such as overhead pressing and squats, then this might be a great addition to your warmup/stretching sessions. I personally love fun yet challenging warm up exercises, as I recently did several workout challenges such as 100 jumping jacks per day challenge, the 100 pushups, 100 sit-ups, 100 squats for 30 days challenge, and even did squats every day for 3 months.
These challenges are hard to pull off and you’ll definitely need to measure your fitness level if you want to take them on, and for that wall angels are a welcome addition if you want to warm up and improve posture while at it.
Can Help Relieve Back and Neck Pain
Like I have said before, the main target of this exercise isn’t your neck. However, it can still relieve some of the tension and pain in that area – which does help when you get down to doing neck muscle workouts, which by the way, shouldn’t be as far fetched as it might sound once you learn to use a neck harness. Your back, however, is directly affected by this exercise.
Other exercises that might help you relieve back pain and work back muscles include planks, push ups, wall sits or squats - most of which, by the way, are also great for hitting your core muscles too.
Excellent Stress Reliever
Experiencing stress will more often than not lead to tense muscles. Wall angels counteract this by releasing the tension in key areas such as your upper back muscles, neck, and shoulders. Exercising in general can have the same effect, aside , of course, from other benefits like, increasing metabolism, losing weight, gaining strength, getting a better looking body, etc.
Can Calm Your Mind
Implementing a regular stretching program such as the wall angels can help calm your mind, in addition to its physical benefits (one of which is the long debated possibility that stretching can make people taller.) This can be achieved by focusing on meditation while stretching, which can give you a huge mental boost.
Below we discuss the muscles that this exercise works.
Your shoulders are the most movable joint in your body. This wider range of motion comes at the cost of instability, which means an increase in the likelihood of joint injury.
The wall angels can help to minimize the risk of injury by minimizing the stress on your shoulders.
While most people are biased towards training their legs to build bigger quads and pushing hamstrings to the backstage, hamstrings are more important than you might think. They play a role in anything from walking to running, doing cardio after your workouts, and much, much more.
Weak hamstrings can lead to a knee injury, so if you strengthen these muscles through this workout you can avoid that from ever happening.
Tips to Get the Most Out of Doing Wall Angels
Here are a few tips that you can follow when performing this workout in order to get the most out of it:
Stick to the wall: Make sure to always, and I mean always, keep your knees bent to ensure your upper back, tailbone, heels, and your head are against the wall. Also, keep your hands and elbows on the wall as well and the chin slightly held up the entire time.
Don’t overdo it: Stretching is at its best when you take it nice and slow, and witha good posture - especially if you’re performing something for the first time. Overstretching, especially in an exercise that your body isn’t familiar with, can potentially lead to pain, serious cramps or muscle strains.
Foam roll your back: If you feel a little sore or experiencing any sort of pain after performing this movement, worry not, as it’s completely normal. Rolling on a foam roller for a few moments can help to alleviate this sensation.
Start with single-arm wall angels first: When warming up, I recommend that you start by doing a few single-arm wall angels before moving to regular ones. This allows your spine to slowly mobilize instead of being rushed into an intense exercise.
Common Mistakes to Avoid When Doing Wall Angels
Even for people who regularly stretch, wall angels can be a complex, difficult exercise.
However, if you keep an eye out for certain mistakes when performing wall angels, then you should be good.
These common mistakes include:
Bending the Back
This is perhaps the most common mistake that people commit when doing wall angels. The whole gist of this exercise is to challenge spinal mobility, which doesn’t go hand in hand with core and trunk muscles control.
Naturally so, you’ll find yourself struggling to keep your lower back stuck to the wall for long periods, as your body tries to pull away from the wall. This is your body trying to compensate for your limited spinal mobility.
However, in order to correctly perform wall angels, you need to do your best to resist this reaction.
Conveniently, wall angels maximize spinal mobility, which means by the time you master this exercise, you’ll find that your core control and your shoulders range of motion is significantly better.
Protruding the Neck
By far, this is the second most common mistake that people make during wall angels.
This simply happens because you might strain to reach the overhead position, and as a result, your body will try to compensate in every possible way, including your neck.
So, you should tuck your neck in during the exercise in order to maximize the benefits of the stretch.
Lifting the Hips
There are also instances where you might find yourself shifting or lifting your hip section when doing this exercise. This is yet another form of compensation by your body when it fails to reach the desired position.
In order to fight back this compensation, try to focus on simultaneously pressing your back into the wall and your buttocks into the floor. This often happens to folks who lack hip flexibility, and a few moves like doing the right number of lunges or just something as fun as jumping on a trampoline could be all you need for a quick fix to your clumsy hips.
Rushing Through the Exercise
Last but not least, most stretch exercises including dynamic ones like the wall angels or the superwoman workout, are best done slowly and smoothly.
The slow approach will allow you to pinpoint areas with problems in your spine so that you can target, strengthen and mobilize them properly, getting the most out of your exercise as a result.
Wall Angels Exercise Variations - Great If You Can’t Perform Normal, Standing Wall Angels
If you find the regular wall angel movement too hard or, on the contrary, too easy for you, then here are some variations that you can try:
The Easy Variation: Floor Angel
- To perform floor angels, lay on your back with your hips and knees flexed and your feet flat on the ground. Stretch your arms out to your sides with the elbows bent at a 90 degrees angle.
- Slowly slide your arms over your head while making sure to keep your elbows and wrists flat on the floor.
- Return to the starting position and repeat for the desired number of reps.
Like this video:
The Challenging Variation: Resisted Wall Angel
Use a resistance band to pull your arms forward. The anchor for the band should be on shoulder height.
In this variation of the exercise, bring your hands towards your ears.
Start with a row, then rotate your arms backward in an external way as if you’re trying to make your arms look like a field goal.
Then bring your hands over your head and form a Y shape formation. Ideally, you’d want to try to get your biceps as close as possible to your ears.
Return to the starting position and repeat for the desired number of reps.
PS: This one should be performed in a slow, controlled manner (but you knew that already).
Best for Upper Back; Tilting Wall Angel
- Stand with your back pushed against the wall.
- Keep your knees slightly bent to a 20 degrees angle.
- Make sure to avoid arching – keep your back flat against the wall at all times.
- Rest the back of your head against the wall and hold your chin up to keep your head level to the ground.
- Position yourself the same way you did in the 4 previous steps.
- Use the center of your chest as a turning point.
- While keeping your lower back flat against the wall, tilt your upper back, chest, and arms to the right side, using the point in the center of your chest as a turning point.
- Come back to the initial position and tilt to the left side this time.
- Repeat this full range of movement at least five times per side.
Wall Angels Exercise Alternatives
Here are a few alternatives to the wall angels workout.
- Go down on all fours. Make sure your neck is in a neutral position.
- Position your palms right underneath your shoulders and your knees right underneath your hips.
- While exhaling, round your spine outward, tuckin your pelvis, and drawyour pubic bone forward.
- Next, relax your neck by lowering your head.
- Hold that position for five seconds, then return to the initial position while exhaling.
- Turn your face toward the roof and let your back sink into the ground.
- Hold that position for five seconds.
- Repeat for the desired number of reps.
- Stand with your back pushed against the wall and your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Bring your arms up while pressing your shoulders into the wall. The backs of your hands are to be placed against the wall with your thumbs sitting at head height. The line of your upper arm (elbow to shoulder) should be at a 90-degree angle to the floor.
- Inhale. Slowly slide your back down the wall and bend your knees until they’re at a 45-degree angle. As you bend your knees, make sure to straighten your elbows until your arms are extended straight overhead.
- Hold this position for 5 seconds.
- Exhale while you straighten your knees and slide back to the initial position (step 2).
- Repeat for the desired number of reps (preferably around five reps).
Quadruped Scapular Retraction
- Go down on all fours. Tuck your arms are under your shoulders, and your knees are under your hips.
- Push into the ground while rounding your back slightly. Pull your shoulder blades together.
- Repeat for the desired number of reps and sets(recommendation: 10 reps, two sets).
Like this video:
Lateral Arm Raise
- Stand upright with your arms down at your sides and feet hip-width apart.
- Raise both hands up until they are at shoulder level and parallel to the floor (palms facing down). PS: You can do this step with weights if you want, we have an article about calisthenics vs weight workouts while working out, you should check it out if you want to know when to use each one.
- Hold this position for a second or two, then lower your hands in a slow and controlled manner.
- Repeat for the desired number of reps and sets (recommendation: 10 reps, two sets).
- Stand straight and relax your hands.
- Roll your shoulders (thus the name) backward in a circular motion. Do five rotations, then rotate forward instead.
- Repeat for the desired number of reps and sets (recommendation: at least three times).
Like this video:
Overhead Arm Reach
- Grab a chair and sit on it straight.
- Extend your right arm overhead and reach to your left. Bend your torso until you feel your shoulder stretching.
- Return to the initial position. Repeat this five times, then switch to the other side.
Like this video:
- Start on all fours.
- Spread your knees all while making sure that your big toes are touching. Then lower your butt back onto your feet.
- Sit upright and extend your arms overhead.
- Exhale while hinging at the waist and dropping your upper body forward in between your legs.
- Then, allow your shoulder section to spread, your forehead to touch the ground, and your back to sink back in.
- Hold this position for 15 seconds.
- Repeat for the desired number of sets.
Like this video: