Updated: Dec 14, 2022
Here are some quick tips for loosening up your muscles when you are throwing ceramics. Downloadable PDF available!
Stretches For Potters
Pottery is intensive activity on both the hands and back. Throwing on a commercial mats or while standing may help eliminate back issues. Light stretching is an important way to reduce long term issues associated with this kind of use of your muscles and can be implemented when you are sitting at the wheel in the middle of a throwing session or simply during some down time when away from the wheel. Implementing generalized exercise, such as walking or yoga, into your routine may help in gaining flexibility and strength according to Bob McWilliams.
As a disclaimer, here are a couple of general rules and guidelines to follow to get the most out of your stretches. Mike Lagomarsine, the director of fitness at Boston University, says that stretches should be held for 30 to 90 seconds to help with flexibility and to retain range of motion in the future. Harvard Health Publishing says not to bounce into and out of your stretches in a repeating motion to prevent injury. Remember never to over-do it and as always, talk to your doctor if you feel pain other than just tension from these stretches.
Let’s start off with the hands and arms.
To get started, a good forearm stretch can be achieved by placing the fingers from the arm you want to stretch into the palm of your other hand. Then, after fully extending the target arm, you can pull back slightly with your other hand until the desired amount of tension is felt.
To stretch your upper back, place your hands on the back of your head with your palms facing forward and your fingers interlocked. Stand up straight, clasp your hands behind your back, drop your shoulders and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Your head should be aligned with your neck, not leaning forward
Lift your arms above your head and bend your elbows inward towards the back of your neck. Use one hand to grab your other elbow and gently pull the elbow down. Repeat with your other arm. You can also arch or tilt your back to relieve tension.
To stretch your thumb, make a thumbs up sign and tense your muscles to create resistance and to stop your thumb from moving. Then, using your free hand, gently pull back or push forward on the thumb.
To stretch out your shoulders, press your forearms and hands together in the front of your body with your hands in line with your sternum. Press your arms together until you feel a stretch around your upper back and shoulders.
Then, drop your hands down to your stomach while keeping your hands together. Again, push through your hands until the desired stretch is achieved.
Note: No advice from this PDF, Ataloops, or any other source should override the opinion of medical professionals or other qualified clinicians.
“Wow. stretching keeps me limber”
If you are seated when you throw for long stretches of time, it is good practice to occasionally get up and move your body. Alan Hedge, a professor of ergonomics at Cornell University, recommends the working “20-8-2” pattern in which an individual sits for 20 minutes, stands for 8 minutes, and moves around for at least 2 minutes. This active-workplace pattern helps with productivity and task performance, while also helping to keep your body loose.
These stretches focus on your lower back and groin regions, which contain muscles that are actively used while throwing. Under normal circumstances, these muscles should not be strained while throwing. If you notice lower back pain during or after throwing, it could be caused by your wheel being too low compared to your seated position. This would mean you would need to lean down farther than usual to reach your wheel head. This can easily be fixed by either lowering your seat (if your seat is adjustable), or raising your wheel (this can be done in many ways, just make sure that whatever method you choose is sturdy and safe!).
If you would like to stretch out your lower back while at the wheel, you can try some of these stretches when you are seated. (When you are not seated and are actively moving around, you can do yoga to lengthen the spine and strengthen your muscles.) Hold each of these positions for 20–30 seconds each without bouncing and stop if you feel pain. Consult a doctor if you have any questions or concerns.
Place your hands on your hip with your elbows pointing outwards and straighten your back with your feet soundly placed on the ground. To stretch your shoulders, you can place one of your hands on your thigh and lift your other hand above and over your head, repeating with the other arm. You can also place your hands onto the back of your head to activate your upper back muscles. Push your elbows back for a deeper stretch.
To stretch your lower back, drop each vertebrae one by one. Lower your hands to the ground as far as you can. Once you come back to a sitting position with your back straight, leave one of your feet on the ground and flex your other ankle and leg forward and up respectively. You can also lift your ankle up to your other thigh with your back straight to stretch your pelvic and groin region. Repeat on the other side.
To stretch your obliques, place one hand on your thigh and push your body to one side, twisting your body in that direction. You can extend your other arm behind you. Switch and repeat on your other side.