If you want your posture game to ascend to new heights, try some wall angels. This upper-bod mobility exercise works your back, neck, and shoulders while promoting proper spinal alignment.
You don’t even need to pass through the pearly gates to do them — just find a wall and you’ll be on your way to a stronger back, better range of motion, and potentially reduced back and neck pain.
Wall angels are basically part stretch, part strengthening exercise. Here’s how to pull ’em off:
- Stand with your head, shoulders, upper back, and butt pressed against the wall. Your feet may need to be 6–12 inches from the wall. Keeping your knees slightly bent will reduce muscle tension.
- With the backs of your hands against the wall, stretch arms straight above your head. Now you’re in the starting position.
- Squeeze your mid-back muscles as you slide arms down toward shoulders. Keep your bod firmly pressed against the wall.
- When elbows are just below shoulders, pause for just a sec, then slide your arms back to the starting position.
- Do 2–3 sets of 15–20 reps.
The wall angel isn’t the only celestial exercise on the block. Here are three tried-and-true variations.
Not much of a wall person? You can do pretty much the same move from the comfort of your floor and reap the same benefits. Simply lie on the floor with your knees bent and your spine straight.
Now, move your arms just like on the wall:
- With the backs of your hands against the floor, stretch arms straight above your head.
- Squeeze your mid-back muscles as you slide elbows just below shoulders.
- Hold for a sec.
- Slide your arms back to the starting position and repeat.
Forward wall angel
Tight shoulders might protest when you first try a traditional wall angel, making it hard to keep them pressed against the wall. No need to push yourself to the point of pain — instead, try a forward wall angel.
Do the move with your arms and elbows just slightly off the wall. As you get stronger and more flexible, you can work your way up to traditional flight.
In the meantime, you’ll still be getting a solid workout.
Narrow your “wings”
If your muscles and flexibility level give you the green light to take things up a notch, work on narrowing the Y shape you make with your arms and bringing your heels closer to the wall.
This way, you’ll def feel more of a stretch and a burn.
Bad form is the biggest sin for this move. Pushing yourself too hard or doing it incorrectly could result in pain, soreness, or even a pulled muscle.
Here are some tips to keep your wall angel from turning into a devil:
- Form over flexibility. Since the move is so simple, it may be tempting to test the limits of your flexibility, but doing so could easily backfire. Just keep practicing and you’ll get there. In the meantime, you’re reaping plenty of benefits.
- Give your arms some slack. If your shoulders feel tight at first, let your arms up from the wall a bit (or floor, if you’re doing the variation).
- Tuck your chin. Tucking your chin slightly can help lengthen your neck and straighten your spine.
- Slow and steady. Keep your reps slow and controlled to enjoy the benefits without overstressing your muscles. Unlike in some other exercises, speeding through wall angels won’t do you any favors.
- Take breaks. If you’re sore, take a day off from wall angels. That way, you can count on them to keep being good to you.
When added to your regular fitness routine, wall angels come with plenty of heavenly pros.
All that time spent hunched over emails and texts can do a number on your neck and spine. Wall angels help train your shoulders to stay back, aligning your spine and strengthening your core.
Turns out, good posture means a lot more than looking like Audrey Hepburn when you walk. Poor posture can negatively impact mood, memory, digestion, breathing, headaches, and potentially sleep, fatigue, and jaw alignment.
Back and neck pain, be gone
Wall angels may help reduce neck and back pain and tension by improving surrounding muscle strength and flexibility.
According to a 2016 study, improving the flexibility of muscle tendons and ligaments in the back boosts range of motion and aids in functional movement.
Retraining your posture, stretching often, and improving flexibility are a few ways to treat chronic back pain.
If you want to keep improving your back, neck, and shoulder mobility and strength, try these additional exercises on for size.
Moooove over right meow — make way for the Cat-Cow
Cat-Cow is a classic yoga pose that improves posture and balance, strengthens and stretches your spine and neck, and stretches your hips, abs, and back. Here’s the play-by-play:
- Start on hands and knees in tabletop position, with spine neutral. Inhale as you move into Cow: hips up, chest forward, belly sunken.
- Lift your head, relax your shoulders away from your ears, and look forward.
- Exhale as you make like a cat: Round your spine upward, tuck in your tailbone, and draw your pubic bone forward.
- Release your head toward the floor and relax.
- Repeat for 10 reps or as desired.
Swap your wings for a cape and do the Superman
Like wall angels, the Superman can strengthen your back and improve your posture. As a bonus, it’ll improve flexibility and tone those glutes. Here’s how to save the day the Superman way:
- Lie facedown on your stomach, with legs extended and neck and spine neutral.
- Keep your arms and legs straight and draw your abs away from the floor. Lift arms and legs off the floor at the same time.
- Hold for a few secs, then lower back down.
- Repeat for 3 sets of 12 reps.
Wall angels are an excellent way to improve spine mobility, posture, and back strength. When incorporated into a healthy fitness routine, they may also help relieve back and neck pain.
To get the most out of every wall angel, take it slow and steady and prioritize form. You can do them daily or as often as is comfy. Aim for 2–3 sets of 15–20 reps.