*WATCH VIDEO FOR MORE DETAIL! *
If you’ve been sitting at your desk all day, hunched forward, or rounded forward constantly to pick up things (like your children) you probably have a fairly stiff thoracic spine. That’s the part of the spine that’s from the waist up to the low neck area. Another way to think of it is if you’re doing a golf swing, you need that good thoracic rotation to come all the way through so you can get a nice powerful swing. It’s the same thing with tennis! So if you’re somebody who enjoys those sports but you tend to live a fairly sedentary lifestyle in front of a desk, these exercises are going to be super helpful for you. They’re one of my favorites – they feel so good on my spine and back! I’ll be showing you how to execute a couple of those today.
You’re going to want a towel or a block something to potentially put between your knees. Come down onto your side and you can just support your head under your arm. What we’re really paying attention to here is that our hips are stacked. A lot of people tend to have their top hip pull back.
You’re going to bring the top arm out in front and if you’re doing this on the floor that hand will rest on the floor. You’re just going to inhale and reach forward; you get that nice stretch here in the serratus anterior. You’ll feel a little bit of stretch there and then you’re just going to start to reach up and you’re going to follow your gaze back. Now the big thing here is that we’re only going to go as far as we can to keep those hips stacked, so a lot of times people compensate (and they’ll just pull that head or hip back to get that arm back) but we want to be sure to keep those hips stacked so that the twist is happening in the spine. I want you to just hold it and you can extend your arm whatever feels best or keep it bent. Take a deep inhale and if you want you can bring the hand here and put something under your head or just let your head come down. You’re going to take a deep inhale and feel that expansion into the ribs. Exhale and try to see if you can release a little further back. Deep inhale and pay attention to those hips and make sure they are stacked. Exhale and try to release a little more. Deep inhale, then exhale and just kind of continue until you really think you know you’ve reached that point where you feel that nice stretch and your hips are able to maintain a forward position.
Make sure you do both sides and then just kind of hold it and allow that spine and that thoracic spine to find a little twist.
This is an example of a passive stretch which can be really great. Passive stretching has its place but active stretching can be a little more effective. It can help set those muscles in place so i’m going to show you another option of that thoracic rotation in a more active stretch.
So we’re going to come to a quad position and you want to make sure that your head is centered on the spine. Push the back of the head towards the ceiling. Think of it like you’re trying to give yourself a little bit of a double chin. You feel that lengthening in the neck and you’re just going to take one of your hands (you’ll do both sides) and place it behind the head. Now make sure you’re not pushing your head forward with that hand. You’re just going to kind of place the fingertips there and you’re just going to find that rotation here. That thoracic spine should feel the squeezing around the scapula and around those shoulder blades. Then exhale (think elbow to wrist) and inhale. We find that nice opening of that rotation and exhale down and again. We’re focusing on not letting the hips push to the side as we find that rotation. We want to keep those hips squared right over those knees and exhale as we twist. You’re going to find that that’s more difficult but you’re going to feel much more muscle activation in the back which is really great because we’re strengthening those muscles!
Give it a try and notice the difference in how you feel after. Make sure you do both sides and see how you feel with that thoracic rotation afterwards!