How to Use a Simple Doorframe to Fix Your Back

Done right, your home's architecture can double as a chiropractor

A man stretching in a doorway threshold in his house.
This guy gets it. Try habit-sticking doorframe stretches with any chance you have to get up and away from the desk.
Getty Images/Westend61

Some of us wellness wackos got real enterprising during the pandemic, finding ways to fit entire workouts in with work benches, milk jugs, spare PVC pipes from the garage, you name it. Then gyms reopened and at-home fitness suddenly felt a bit too claustrophobic. The kitchen chair went back to just being a kitchen chair again.

A sustainable and creative fitness routine, though, might consider employing a mix of both. We don’t have to silo our healthy habits. There are things in your home — there are explicit parts of your home — that can support your round-the-clock needs. Like the humble doorframe, which is one of the most underrated ways to loosen up or stretch a tight back.

It’s a match made in heaven: we all have tight backs (80% of American adults will deal with back tightness and 80% of us now work sedentary jobs…go figure) and we all have doorframes. They’re sturdy, stationary and perfectly vertical, which makes them a prime tool for spinal realignment and a great way to warm up for your actual workout, whenever (or wherever) that may be.

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Doorframe Exercises for a Healthy Back

  1. Upper Back: My favorite. Stand facing your doorframe, feet shoulder-width apart. Place both hands on the doorframe at shoulder height. Lean forward and just your chest drop towards the ground. You’ll feel a stretch in your upper back and between your shoulder blades. Breathe deeply and hold as long as feels right.
  2. Open the Chest: This is the famous one, generally designed to target the pecs and open the chest. Stand in front of an open doorway. Raise your arm to the side and bend your elbow at a 90-degree angle, with your forearm pointing upwards. Place your forearm on the doorframe, with your elbow roughly at shoulder height. Slowly step forward with one foot, allowing your chest and shoulder to gently stretch. Ensure that you’re not overstretching or forcing your body into a position that feels painful. Switch sides to stretch the other arm.
  3. Shoulder Blade Squeeze: Position yourself sideways, right shoulder pointing to the doorframe. Extend your right arm and place your hand on the frame. Now, rotate your upper body to the left while keeping your hand stationary. This action squeezes your shoulder blades together, offering relief from rounded shoulders. Switch sides when you’re ready.
  4. Cat-Cow X Door: This one’s a bit more advanced; it mimics the cat-cow stretch from yoga but uses the doorframe for added stability. Stand an arm’s length away from the frame. Place both hands on the frame, bend forward slightly and round your back, tucking your chin to your chest. Then arch your back, lifting your chin. After going through a few rotations here, I like to try some weight-assisted push-ups against the doorframe.

How to Jumpstart the Habit

At the end of the day, consistency is key. Try incorporating these into your daily routine. You could pay a quick “stretch toll” in order to leave your bedroom each morning upon waking up. Or consider “habit-stacking” whichever stretch you like best with an improved stand hours rate.

That’s to say, each time you get up from the desk, pause to stretch for a few moments in the closest threshold (it’s more fun than answering an email, anyway). Over time, you’ll not only notice a difference in your back health and a surprising appreciation for doorways the world over.

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