Today, I want to talk to you about upper thoracic extension and a stretch for it that you may not know.
What is “Thoracic Extension”???
That’s a great question, I’m glad you asked.
Thoracic extension is the ability of your thoracic spine to move freely between rounded, flat, and even arched.
The thoracic part of our back is the longest part of our spine including the vertebrae between the neck and the lower back.
The thoracic spine is capable of multiple movements in different planes, as it can help flex and round the body forward, extend, rotate, and laterally flex (side bend). Thoracic Extension is important, not only for proper posture, but also to prevent neck, shoulder, back, and even hip pain.
However, the primary movement of the thoracic spine is rotation. The other movements — flexion, extension, and side bending — are considerably smaller in range in comparison to the movement of the lower neck (cervical) and low back (lumbar) areas.
In dance this mobility within your thoracic spine helps with spotting, épaulement, contractions and spine isolations. In the gym, thoracic extension is important for the health and safety of your overhead lifts.
But, if you sit hunched over at a desk all day, stand with poor posture, or even sit looking at your phone with a hunchback, these are all things affecting your “thoracic extension.” You see, like any muscle or joint, the longer your spine stays in that curved position, the more it wants to stay there.
So how do you ensure that hours editing self-tapes, typing at your side hustle, and days spent looking at your phone train your thoracic extension into extinction?
Simple, you stretch it!
Here is a rundown on how to do a Kneeling Thoracic Extension Stretch.
To do the Kneeling Thoracic Extension and Lat Stretch, kneel in front of a bench or box and place your elbows up on the bench about shoulder-width apart. Kneel far enough from the bench that you have room to sit back and drop your chest through your arms to extend your spine.
With your elbows on the bench, sit your butt back and relax your chest and head over, pressing your chest toward the ground so that you feel a nice stretch down your triceps and lats as well as through your thoracic spine. Try to extend your back as much as possible as you drop your chest toward the ground between your arms.
**Helpful cue: Try to get your biceps by your ears as you extend your spine.**
You can either hold here and breathe, relaxing deeper into the stretch as you hold, or you can perform repetitions. If you take the second option, make sure you try to stretch further each time you repeat the stretch.
**This stretch can also be done standing, but make sure you find a countertop, ledge, or bar thats the proper height for you!**
Want a visual of this stretch? Check out our form video, here.
Trust me, this thoracic extension stretch does more than just help to mobilize your spine. It also feels *incredible.* It’s the perfect stretch for your ten minute break at work, or as a way to wake up in the morning!
What do you think? You willing to give it a try?
We hope you will. And in the meantime, don’t forget to tune into the Dancers Who Lift blog every Tuesday for a new Training Tip!