Extend Your Thoracic Mobility
Pilates Style|March - April 2020
These upper-back bends might look simple, but their benefits are BIG, from reversing slumped-over posture to reducing your risk of injury and relieving back pain.
Meredith Rogers

THORACIC EXTENSION IS SOMETHING I AM PARTICULARLY PASSIONATE ABOUT.

The alignment and flexibility of your thoracic spine— which is your upper back, from the base of your neck to your abdomen—plays a significant role in keeping your shoulders and lumbar spine (lower back) performing optimally and free of discomfort. People who lack mobility through this area tend to have more shoulder injuries and a higher prevalence of lower-back pain.

In this day and age, we’re more likely than ever to develop poor upper-spinal mechanics simply through habitual movement patterns. We spend so much time in our cars, on our computers and rounded over our smartphones, that our bodies start to mimic this forward posture. Needless to say, this can create uneconomical movement patterns and muscular imbalances.

The movements that follow have been curated with the goal of introducing simple yet effective ways of adding more thoracic extension to your clients’ workouts, as well as your own. In my teaching practice, I have found that the midback muscles tend to be particularly difficult for my students to develop awareness around. In fact, the most common feedback I hear when giving these types of movements is something along the lines of, “I didn’t even know those muscles existed.”

I also find that, for my students, a simple movement is always easier to digest than choosing a more choreographically complex one, which is why I’m keeping things uncomplicated here. As teachers, we can creatively use modifications from well-known movement patterns to help generate awareness and much-needed focus in this area of the body.

My hope is that this series will help provide teachers and Pilates practitioners alike with the inspiration to be more proactive when it comes to increasing awareness in the thoracic spine. Your body will thank you!

Kneeling Chest Expansion with Extension

Taken from the BASI Legacy Program

DO THIS TO BUILD…

• Trunk stability.

• Shoulder, elbow and thoracic extensor strength.

START

Kneel on the carriage with your knees against the shoulder rests. Hold onto the ropes with your palms facing inward and arms slightly forward of your trunk.

MOVE

Exhale as you extend your shoulders and bring your arms behind your pelvis; inhale as you reach your arms down and back, lifting your thoracic spine into extension. Exhale as you return to neutral spine, and then inhale as you return to start. Do 6–8 reps.

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