I’m always looking for ways to help you build your bones, especially in areas most prone to fracture. So I’m really excited to bring you this weekend’s challenge: the Thoracic Back Press.
Today’s exercise prevents vertebral fractures because it works critical muscle groups in your middle back, where your thoracic vertebrae are located. It’s specifically designed to build bone density in your spine, and it also strengthens mid-back muscles that play an important role in deep breathing and posture.
Why: The condition of your vertebrae and by extension, your posture, depend on your back muscles, because they keep your vertebrae aligned and strong.
Let’s take a closer look at the muscles that the Thoracic Back Press is designed to tone and strengthen, in addition to increasing vertebral density.
Superficial muscles are closest to the skin, and they include the following muscles:
- The Trapezius (sometimes called the “traps”) forms a triangular sheet of muscle that originates at the base of the skull and the 7th cervical vertebrae, then fans out and attaches to the clavicle (collar bone) and scapula (shoulder blades). It then runs down and attaches to the 1st through 12th Thoracicc vertebrae (T1-T12).
- The Latissimus dorsi (sometimes called the “lats”) are also a roughly triangular sheet of muscle. They originate at the 6th through 12th thoracic vertebrae (T6-T12) and insert at the top of your humerus, or upper arm bone.
The Thoracic Back Press also works the levator scapulae, rhomboid major, and rhomboid minor.
Looking a bit deeper, we find the intermediate muscles. These are called the respiratory muscles, and for good reason. They all begin at the vertebrae and end at the ribs, playing a key role in your ability to expand your rib cage and take a deep breath. The intermediate muscles include:
- The Levatores costarum, which begins at the 7th cervical vertebrae (C7) and the first 11 Thoracicc vertebrae (T1-T11), and inserts at all the ribs. Its role is to raise your ribs when you breathe in.
- The Serratus posterior superior is attached to the top ribs and also raises them when you breathe in; and the Serratus posterior inferior attaches to the few lowest ribs and lowers them when you exhale.
Also included in the deep muscles are the Splenius, Erector Spinae, and Transversospinalis. All of these work to extend your neck and trunk, and help stabilize your core.
There are more groups and sub-groups, but these are the main ones. Clearly, back muscles are a very complex network of living tissue that needs to be nourished and strengthened.
When you work these muscles with proper form, the bone where the muscles attach responds to the force and pressure by increasing density. And your posture will improve as well, especially if you sit still for long periods, which causes the muscles that hold you straight to get weak and misaligned.
So it’s vital to move and exercise these muscles to offset the unhealthy effects of sitting.
How: To perform this exercise, you’ll need a couple of 1-pound weights, or you can use cans of food (or whatever is handy). You’ll also need an exercise mat or carpet.
- Kneel down on one knee. The other leg should be bent and your foot in front of you, flat on the floor.
- Lean slightly against the forward leg.
- With a weight in each hand, extend your arms behind you so your palms are facing upward, and your arms are parallel to your ribs, roughly at a 45 degree angle to the floor. Your hands will extend slightly beyond your bottom.
- Using your middle back muscles, slowly lift your arms slightly and press your shoulders back, while pushing your chest out. If you’re doing this move correctly, you will feel your thoracic muscles contracting.
- Slowly lower your arms and relax your shoulders to the starting position and repeat.
Do 3 sets of 8 or as many as you comfortably can.
- Don’t bend your arms. Try to keep them straight throughout the exercise.
- Your back should be straight – no excessive curve in your lower back, and don’t let your back round out.
- Push down through your forward foot.
- Move slowly and deliberately, using your back muscles rather than your arms.
I hope you can practice this exercise on a regular basis, because you will most certainly see (and feel!) the results. And please be sure to share your experience with our community by leaving a comment below.
Till next time,