“Don’t Brace Before You Breathe” Part II by Coach Paluna Santamaria

Don’t forget to check out part I of this series.

In Part I, I discussed the importance of posture for efficient breathing. I asked you to be mindful of your breath and practice anatomical breathing. You may have noticed that mobility restrictions affect your breathing, you either can’t get into neutral spine or feel like you can’t breathe as deep as you want to. In other words, you have no access or control over the full potential of your muscles.

In this article, I will concentrate on exercises to help you increase movement in the thoracic spine. I suggest you try them in order and regardless of whether you think you need them or not. Trust me. You will feel amazing!

I prefer to put a timer for a minimum of 60 seconds when working on mobility rather than counting reps, but do what feels best for you!

Please check the images below for reference.


1. Side-lying arm circles

Allow your head to move by following the movement of the arm with your gaze.

Breathe into your belly.

If you find stalls in the movement take a few breaths and continue the circle.

Make sure you circle in both directions for a minimum of 60 seconds per direction before switching arms.

Side-Lying Arm Circles

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This one is a popular one. Concentrate on articulating the spine. It’s easy to over push into the ground with the hands to flex the thoracic spine but then completely overlook flexion through the lumbar spine.

Imagine you are trying to create space between in vertebra in the spine when moving in both directions.



3. T-spine/rhomboid twist

Movement in this exercise will feel very restrictive. Be patient. Make sure your hips don’t shift sideways and your spine remains neutral.

T-spine/rhomboid twist


4. Moving dolphin

I borrowed the original pose from yoga but I turned it into a lat/tricep insertion stretch by adding movement to it.

Start with shoulders over elbows then send your chest back towards your thighs until shoulders are behind elbows.

Your elbows will wing out the tighter you are in your pecs, lats, and triceps. Make an effort to keep them level or re-set as many times as you need.

Moving dolphin


5. Loaded tricep/lat insertion stretch

There are few versions of this one. If you’d like to add intensity to the one in the image try the following:

1. Hold onto a dowel and “tear it apart” with palms facing you so arms are externally rotating.
2. Hold onto a dumbbell.
3. Do all of the above with your knees off the ground.

Be aware of your ribcage, and allow the ribs to flare a few times to let your chest “sink” towards the ground, then try drawing the ribs in and see how that changes things.

Loaded tricep/lat insertion stretch


Next week we will get into few exercises to understand bracing.

Let us know how it goes!


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