Pilates teachers are familiar with this issue – clients thrusting their rib cage forward when lifting their arms overhead. Sometimes, no matter what cues you give your clients, they can’t seem to perform this simple and yet not so easy movement.

One key reason why clients can’t lift their arms overhead without thrusting their rib cage is the lack of thoracic spine mobility.

What does the thoracic spine have anything to do with arm movement?

Here is a brief description of the thoracic spine and shoulder girdle.

pilates-exercises-for-thoracic-spine-mobilityThe shoulder girdle – scapula and humerus – is connected to the axial skeleton via the clavicle. This is the only true joint that connects the shoulder girdle to the spine. Posteriorly, the scapula is connected to the rib cage by muscular attachments so it is not a true joint.

When we lift our arms overhead, the scapula has to upwardly rotate and tilt posteriorly.

However, due to poor posture – forward head and rounded shoulders – the thoracic spine does not extend enough for the scapula to slide easily in order to lift the arms overhead. Hence the body compensates by arching the lower back, thrusting the rib cage forward as a result.

The Ped-i-Pul is a very useful Pilates equipment for a Pilates teacher and the client to see and feel this compensation. Have the client stand with his/her back and head touching the pole and move the arms from the hip to overhead (this could be performed holding a dowel or a Fletcher braided towel). For clients with a lack of thoracic spine mobility, there will be an increase in the lumbar curve, and in some cases, the base of the thoracic spine will lift off the pole.

So which Pilates exercises are good for promoting thoracic spine mobility?

Here are some Pilates exercises that don’t require Pilates equipment that clients can do at home:

1. Saw
2. Spine Twist
3. Swan

If you are a Fletcher Qualified Pilates Teacher, you will have a lot more Pilates exercises to choose from the Fletcher Floorwork or Fletcher Barrework repertoire to improve thoracic mobility. Some examples are High Release, Cat Stretch and Lateral Opening – Hip Lift with Leg and Arm.

Written by LayYong