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F.I.T. Tips: T-Spine Extension

With Gavin Buehler

I thought I would keep in theme with our guest Dr. Angelica Dimopoulos’s feature article on the thoracic spine for today’s F.I.T. Tip. So, let's look at the T-Spine Extension. “T” stands for “thoracic.”

Exercises like this can be compared to brushing your teeth, meaning they are like hygiene for your spine. Depending on your day to day activities, selecting the appropriate exercise movements for you to perform habitually can help keep your back healthy.

Passive T-spine extension movements are quite popular, you know the ones, like lying back on a foam roller and arching over it opening your chest. It feels so good! Especially if you spend long days hunched over a desk starring at a computer screen. But it is also important to strengthen that range of motion as well. Enter the T-Spine Extension. With this exercise we are targeting the erector muscles that run along side the thoracic (rib cage) section of our spine, as well as some of the mid back muscles that help keep our shoulders from rolling forward.

As always please consult a health professional before attempting new exercises, as the following suggestions may or may not be appropriate for you.

  • Start face down on a mat ensuring that your head and neck are in a neutral position with your arms at your sides so that palms are facing up and thumbs face into the body.

  • Think of being long from the crown of your head through to your feet.

  • Keeping your head and neck in a neutral position slowly start to lift your chest off of the mat thinking of peeling up one vertebrae at a time while simultaneously squeezing shoulder blades together lifting shoulders and arms off of the mat.

  • Think of arching through your mid-back and peel up as high as you can without lifting your legs off the mat. Keep your abdominals on the mat along with your bottom ribs. If you are lifting your entire ribcage clear off the ground, you are very special but are now transferring the load into your lower back which we would like to keep minimal for this movement.

  • Hold the top position for specified time (I like 3-5 seconds to start working up to 10 second holds).

  • Slowly return to the start position going one vertebra at a time like a wave gently lapping on to the beach.

  • This is a very challenging exercise so you can regress this by using your arms to assist you throughout the movement. Remember, they are there to assist and not to do all the work. Another variation would be to use your arms to assist with the lift off, and then removing them for the hold at the top and the return to the mat.

My preferred variables for this movement are 1-3 sets, 3-6 reps with 5-10 second holds at the end range. Remember to "Move with purpose." Please feel free to reach out with any questions or inquiries. Enjoy!


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