So, you may have been doing some textbook T-spine extension exercises, ‘chest openers’ and some stretching for a while now without any results?

It’s time to understand the root cause and how to address it.

Some people’s T-spines are more kyphotic, some less so. The shape of someone’s T-spine will impact movement availability.

It is so important to note that the nervous system aims to keep us upright and facing forwards. To stay upright against the force of gravity, a human body has to be able to produce force into the ground. Think of individuals with walking sticks or frames. These people cannot produce enough force at their joints to stand up anymore.

Now over time there are these clever, little, micro-adjustments and compensations all over the body – for a lack of being able to produce force at certain joints.

Now to make it as simple as possible, if I cannot put enough force into the ground the back side of my body may compress and shove joints forward. Think about standing up and squeezing the shoulder blades together, flaring the front ribs and arching the lower back. You’ll immediately feel your weight shift forward towards your toes.

Now that shift forward has enabled me to put more force into the ground, however I am falling forward too much, so I will compress my chest wall to push me backwards. If you compress your chest wall like you are ‘crunching’ and lift your head up to look forward, you’ll notice that you have created an excessive kyphotic curve and rounded shoulders.

Most practitioners will try to attack kyphosis by getting the client to squeeze the shoulder blades together and pushing the chest out with exercises like a rope face-pull.

Let me make this very clear – any exercise that sees a lower back arch, shoulder blades being squeezed together, front ribs lifting up/flaring, will all compress the ribcage further and be very counterproductive!

Kyphosis is a chest wall that is compressed and cannot open, an upper ribcage that is compressed and cannot open, and a lower posterior ribcage (lower back) that is compressed and cannot open. 

The hunch, or excessive curvature you visibly see is due to a chest (sternum) being jammed down so hard by the ‘6-pack’ muscle desperately trying to stop the human from falling forward.  

We need to be driving strength exercises that open up the lower posterior ribcage, the chest wall, all whilst keeping in-between the shoulder blades open and more protracted versus retracted (squeezed together). In some cases – these can be fairly ‘generic’ exercises with intelligent constraints and cues. I have included a few examples below to help provide some context.

I would also avoid crunching the upper body down towards the lower body (sit-up variations). You will need to be make the ‘abs’ less concentric (squeezed).

To summarise, kyphosis is a centre of gravity that has gone too far forward. We must reverse engineer how the person got to this place by sequentially bringing them backwards. This will decompress areas of the body, unlock movement options and improve ranges of motion.

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