Posture- the importance of thoracic mobility and scapular strengthening


Category: General |

Posture is a major contributor to our overall health as proper posture represents muscular balance. We are all familiar seeing people who have rounded shoulders and a forward head posture. This represents chronic tightening of the chest and anterior (front) shoulder muscles, along with weakening of the shoulder blade muscles (mainly the trapezius muscle group). Chronic poor posture will cause stress and fatigue which can affect our mental health.

An area that is often neglected when it comes to posture is thoracic mobility. Your thoracic spine runs the length of the rib cage, hence there are 12 ribs and 12 thoracic vertebrae. Due to the stiff nature of the ribs, the thoracic vertebrae do not have much room to move. However chronic overuse of the crunch exercise along with too many upper body pushing exercises will promote thoracic kyphosis.

One way to prevent this from happening is to use the Foam Roller and perform thoracic extensions. This will mobilize the thoracic vertebrae, preventing the upper back from rounding forward excessively (kyphosis). I typically have people hold the extension for 5 seconds and repeat 3-5 times, and to do this at three levels of the spine (top of shoulder blade, middle of shoulder blade, and below the shoulder blade).

Note: Do not perform this if you have arthritis of the spine or if you have a spinal fusion. If you are unsure, contact a medical doctor before performing this exercise.

When it comes to resistance work, especially upper body, I encourage 70% or more of our efforts to be on pulling exercises and less than 30% on pushing exercises. Focusing on our scapular retractors during resistance exercise, will allow our body to have increased success at holding a taller, more effective posture throughout the day. Please remember that developing good posture is not done exclusively at the gym. Practicing postural drills throughout the day will ensure our key postural muscles stay active. I will go over how to achieve this in my next blog topic on ergonomics and desk exercises.

The main thing to remember is that if you exercise with bad posture, you are making your key postural muscles weaker, and encouraging the body to adopt a poor posture which will lead to injury and overuse of certain tissues and/or joints.

For more information on how to develop an exercise program focused on improving and developing posture please contact Graham on (602)-923-6600 or [email protected]

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