Posted January 17, 2018

Best Exercise in Ever: Bench Thoracic Extension

It’s been a pretty hectic couple of weeks. I’m moving into a new gym that’s just recently opened up in Edmonton, and getting clients organized, feeling comfortable, figuring out a new layout, plus the fact that I’m a business now versus an employee have all been big changes, but good ones that will produce a lot of long and short term benefits.

That being said, I wanted to share a way of getting some additional thoracic extension using a bench that you may not have tried before.

I’m a bit fan of getting motion from the thoracic spine, especially if done gently and to help regain some motion that may have been compromised from long times sitting or hunched over. You get good at the stuff you do a lot of, and if you’re spending a lot of time flexed, you’ll get really good at that and not so good at extension.

But a lot of magicalness happens with some extension. The shoulder blades can retract and upwardly rotate much easier in extension than flexion. You can get your chest out on squats a lot easier, making the lever arm length acting from the bar to the low back much shorter. Similarly on deadlifts, extension helps you contract the lats and shorten that same lever arm length, making it a better overall position to hoist kilos from the surface of the earth.

There’s a lot of easy ways you can work on improving thoracic extension with basic equipment in a gym. I’ve been a big fan of using a foam roller for a long time since it’s relatively simple, plus gives a broad point of contact to limit potential irritation or injury to the spine from the movement.

Another version I’ve been using lately is the one featured today. Laying sideways on a bench you can use the hips to lower down and create a point of extension where the bench contacts the back.

I like this version because there’s no limit to total range of motion that can be achieved, plus the bench can support the neck and upper back, while allowing gravity to help create the extension. There’s also less of a desire to try to get the head and shoulders to touch the floor in some kind of Linda Blair from Excorcist freaky stuff.

The total effort on these should be relatively low, and you shouldn’t be trying to be your own chiropractor on these, just work on getting some light stretch, about a 3/10 intensity, and slowly breathe to allow some motion while also ensuring your abs are doing something to keep the spine from falling apart.