The ribcage great locks {What to stretch third, fourth and beyond}

This is the third part of a series, so I’ll try to be very brief. In the post The pelvis great locks I made the point that one should start by stretching the hip flexors and glutes, and in The cervical great locks I said that this order of stretching should be followed by the Trapezius and Sternocleidomastoid.

The logic behind this is that releasing the mobility of the spine is key for your whole body to be flexible. In the spine, we started with the sacral area because that is a key region of our body, where our center of gravity lies and many say the root of all our physical power. Releasing the pelvis first will bring more balance to the whole body, and then we moved upwards to release the neck. This was because the cervical area moves in conjunction with the sacral region, and releasing the farthest point of the line would make sure that when we came to the bridge between them, that is, the thoracic and lumbar spine, they wouldn’t have restrictions and were actually promoted to be freed.

So, as you can see, this post is about the ribcage great locks: the Lats and T-spine, on the upper part; and the lumbar great locks, the Obliques and Quadratus lumborum, on the lower part. So this should be a two part post, but I don’t want to divide this topic further along.

Regarding the upper part, the Latissimus Dorsi is the widest muscle in the human body, connecting the arm with the pelvis itself. It covers the whole back like a blanket, and without releasing it our breathing, shoulder movement and position of our pelvis cannot be optimal.

Latissimus dorsi.

This muscle is usually tight because it’s involved in many actions like pulling or even pushing.

What about the Thoracic spine? This is our extensor center: the place where the body controls the level of flexion-extension of our upper torso. This means that a lifestyle of looking at computer screens, feeling depressed and bench pressing will reduce the spring of your thoracic spine, not directly, but by pulling it downwards with the action of all the muscles in front of the ribcage: abdominals, serratus anterior, intercostals and pectorals. Releasing the Thoracic Spine will make you will feel more alive and ready for anything, as your body will lengthen and grow taller for any pursuit.

Check the Thoracic Spine at T5-T6 level, and think of everything that pulls it down from the front of the body. Image from Atlas of Human Anatomy, by Frank H. Netter

Regarding the lower part, I do not include the abdominals as I consider them part of releasing the T-spine, but with the Obliques it’s a different story. The internal and external obliques are mainly concerned with torsion, and they wrap up the belly from the sides. The lower part goes second after the upper part because it normally doesn’t hold as much tension, but it’s still important to release.

The obliques.

And about the Quadratus lumborum, it is like the psoas of the lower back, being responsible of bending it. When they are out of balance, they can create painful torsions in your body.

The Quadratus lumborum.

So to recap the ideas of this series, we said that:

1. You can use inductive or deductive reasoning for ordering your stretches, but we suggest a combination of both.

2. We proposed that the main criteria for ordering your stretching should be muscle size, tension and proximity, and that they tend to not be contradictory, but actually go hand to hand.

3. We proposed that the order for releasing your body’s flexibility should be as follow:

A: Pelvis great locks: Hip flexors and Glutes (sacral area of the spine).

B: Cervical great locks: Trapezius and Sternocleidomastoid (cervical area of the spine).

C: Ribcage great locks: Latissimus dorsi and Thoracic Spine (thoracic area of the spine).

D: Lumbar great locks: Obliques and Quadratus lumborum (lumbar area of the spine).

In your body tree, you should always consider the trunk before the branches. This means that after you have released the spine, you may very well go to the extremities. Following the same principle, this would mean to stretch the proximal root first (shoulder or hip), distal extreme second (hand or feet), distal branch third (forearms or shin/calf) and proximal branch last (biceps/triceps or adductors/quads/IT band/hamstrings).

Releasing the flexibility your body posses goes a long way, but I assure you that following these principles and levels for stretching, both in order and in priority, will be like locks that open the blessings of mobility.

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3 thoughts on “The ribcage great locks {What to stretch third, fourth and beyond}

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