Tutorial #2350

Thoracic Strengthening

10 min - Tutorial


Build strength to maintain your mobility in this tutorial with Sherri Betz. She follows up her Thoracic Mobility Tutorial with extension exercises designed to strengthen your thoracic spine. These movements are sure to help you improve your posture.
What You'll Need: Mat

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Oct 25, 2015
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Hi. Today's tutorial is about thoracic extension strengthening. I did a previous tutorial on thoracic mobility where we used an eight inch ball and all of the barrels, all different sizes and shapes of barrels to target thoracic mobility. One of my rules is that I always follow a mobility type movement or strength, a mobility type exercise with strengthening because I don't want to just mobilize you and then have you walk out the door, right? I want to build strength to maintain that mobility. Otherwise you'll just go back to the where where you were before.

So today we're going to be focused on building that thoracic strength. So we've done already the thoracic mobility with the ball and I use that eight inch ball, fill this full as you can tolerate it. And then we follow with the strengthening. So first I want to take a look at your mobility to see what we look like pre and post. So if you could take your hands behind your head and then inhale to take it back. And then we're going to really look at what is, where is she moving?

So for right now you can see that she's moving mostly in the cervical. So come back up and then take your hands up above your, your um, neck a little bit and now do it again. And do you see that she's mostly kick. Put your elbow forward a little bit. [inaudible] that's it. You see that she's mostly moving in her cervical. So this next exercise would be perfect for getting her to move more through the thoracic and already I can see that I want to target this area right here, this mid to lower thoracic. Thank you. Great. Alright, so lay on your stomach facing this way and we have her place the hands stacked up under your forehead.

Look straight down. That's it. And the first thing is just to get her relaxed into the position and to see how she, she feels in that position. Is there any discomfort there? You okay with that? Okay, first thing, take the shoulders up toward the ears and then down toward the waist. Perfect. All right, so I'm going to just get the wrinkles out so you can really see what she's doing as far as the mobility and the thoracic. So the exercise is going to be targeting the upper thoracic, the mid thoracic, and then the lower thoracic. And we do that by biasing the arm position.

So we're going to take the elbows and press them slightly into the mat, take the armpits and press them slightly into the mat. Perfect. And then take your face as far away from the floor as you can, keeping your eyes on your thumbs. [inaudible] okay. And then keep the idea of connecting the armpit and press into your arms to get even higher. Right? But the, the goal is not to let the elbows move at all so the arms stay glued to the mat. So where she's moving now instead of moving primarily in the neck, she's moving in the upper thoracic area. That's always such a hard area to target in Peloton.

Now I want you to lift your left arm, one inch off the mat, so your hand and your elbow. And I watch to see if she collapses down. Now add the leg. So sometimes adding the leg extension will help the person if they're weak, but you don't have to now take the arm and leg down and try the other side. So I placed the right hand on top and lift the right arm and left leg. And often I'm cuing here to keep that, that upper trap from doing the work.

So the idea about lifting the arm is to get the load to occur in the upper back and get these back extensor muscles to work, not the shoulder so much. So let's lift again and really press that armpit into my hand. So you're not using your upper trap to lift much better. That's it. And so I don't want to see that she drops. All right? And then back down. Keep the lift or the chest. And then keeping both legs down. Lift both arms.

That's it. So you see how she dropped just a little bit there. So let's try it again. I think you can do it. Let me just give you a cue. So I want you to anchor here. That's it. Beautiful. Now lift your arms one inch and try not to drop your chest. That's better. And then coming back down. So you're really watching to see if they dropped.

All right, now take your arms out to a goalpost position. And so what that means is out here like this, and then on the trapeze table, sometimes they can't get all the way to 90 degrees at the elbow. But that's fine. Just keeping the elbows connected here and then rise up as far as you can pressing into your arms. But don't let those elbows move. So now you notice that she's moving more in the mid thoracic area and we're going to lift the right arm and left leg at the same time.

So this one's a tough one. Did you see where she extended her neck there? So we're going to do it again. So coming back down, connecting here, keep the back of your neck long and think of drawing a line between your thumbs and keep your eyes on the line. All right, you're ready. That's better. Much better. She's using her thoracic extensor strength instead of just collapsing into the neck. So lifting the throat a little bit, look down a little bit more, look down a little bit more right there. So you see the length through the neck. Connect that armpit and then lift better. That's it.

There you go. And then other side, left arm, right leg. Yes, that's getting even better. So she's finding those muscles. Now see if you can lift both. This is quite challenging. So there we go. We see that she drops just a little bit, but that was pretty good. So what you want is to ideally to stay perfectly lifted as you lift the arms. So you want to try one more time, take a breath in and then breath out and lift.

That was better. There you go. And then think of a breastbone headlight shining forward and try that again and lift and look down with your eyes. That's it. Keep it in the back of the neck. Lengthen. So definitely need some more strength here. Okay. All right. Now the last one is to take your hands under your shoulders. Bring your elbows slightly towards your feet and keep thinking of opening through the collar bones.

Now this time your goal is to keep your lowest ribs down. So this is the traditional swan preparation. All right, so lifting the eyes. Yeah, and keep the eyes actually on the end of the Mat. There you go. Lift the throat, the breast bone. Draw the shoulders down and back and think a breastbone headlight shining forward. Keep the lowest ribs on the mat. Come back down. That's it. So you're going to press the lowest ribs down to the mat.

That'll keep her from moving in her lumbar and moving more in the lower thoracic. Now elbows towards your feet. Yes, that's it. Now hold that position. Can you stay in that position and lift your hands? One inch off the mat. Beautiful. Breathing in and breathing out. Breathing in. Notice how she's starting to lower a little bit. Her endurance is limited there.

And can I place the hands down and then lower down and turn your head to one side? We'll do one more time like that. Okay. Now take your hands under your collar bones. Look down and then you're gonna take your head up and bring your face into alignment with your chest. So you're just take your head up a little bit higher and look down, right, right below. That's it. You know, look straight down at the ground length in the back of your neck a little bit more right there. Exactly. So I see these shoulder blades pulling down in the back of the neck coming up, and I want to keep that back in the neck long. All right, so here we go.

We're gonna lift the throat, the top of the breastbone, the shoulders go down toward the waist, right? Even more. That's it. Open through the collarbones. Keep pressing the lowest ribs down to the mat. That's it. So you see that she extends more here when she does that. Now lift the hands holding there. That's it. And you want to try to keep that sense of lift. Keep the lift.

Imagine that you have eyes under the collarbones and they're looking forward and they tend to look in the same direction as the eyes of your head and then coming back down. Good. Then you can start to follow with things like, um, double leg kicks. So taking the hands behind the back, interlacing the fingers. And then I like to use the alternate hand position of palm to palm. So you're going to [inaudible]. There you go, open through the collarbones and then look up. So this one is just like the swan, but sometimes it's a little easier for people because they can use their hands, reaching toward the feet to open up through the chest and reaching back. And then let go of the hands and stay.

Bring your arms to an airplane position like that. That's it. And then out to a t position holding there. Beautiful. And then arms overhead. Nice. And that would be a really challenging movement there. Go ahead. And then coming all the way back down. So that would be a, the progression of how you would progress from upper to middle to lower, and then adding the arms as more resistance for thoracic extension.

Happy strengthening. Hope you enjoyed the tutorial.

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2 people like this.
Great tutorial Sherri! Your detailed explanations are so informative.
4 people like this.
Pure teaching gold! Thank you Sherri!
2 people like this.
Thanks for this great tutorial
Great tutorial. Excellent demonstrations and explanations.
4 people like this.
Really really good teaching. The cueing ..what to look for...how to correct it..kind hands..guiding..imagery. packed 10 mins, had me wanting more!! Thank you.
Sherri Betz
1 person likes this.
Thank you so much, I am so glad that you are finding the tutorial useful!
2 people like this.
Great tutorial. Awesome cueing. Thank you Sherri!
Susan H
2 people like this.
Loved it
3 people like this.
Loved this too. Nice to view the sequencing through the thoracic spine. very helpful. Thank you Sherri!
Jennifer W
2 people like this.
Very useful! Thank you!
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