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Building neck and upper back extension strength

Our lifestyles can lead to tightness in our chest and a weakness or inhibition of the muscles in our neck (cervical extensors) and in that area of the spine that our ribcage is attached to (thoracic extensors). This leads to a forward head and rounded shoulder posture. Here are a few exercises that target these muscles and will encourage strength and conditioning into that area. Each exercise progressively targets a deeper range of extension.


To start, lie on your front, with your hands underneath your forehead. Allow your armpits to get close to ground. Take a few breaths here to encourage the chest to release and open. Imagine with every exhale your breastbone sinking into your body. After a few breaths, keep all of that setup and bring your awareness to your abdominal area. With every exhale harness the natural feeling of drawing your abdominals in and up into you. This is important, as it offers your back/spine that core support to move well.



First exercise

  • Imagine you have a rope attached to the crown of your head….with this image lengthen out through the crown of your head.

  • On the exhale with this feeling of length, raise your head & chest.

  • Keep your gaze down to your hands.....think of keeping your chin in.

  • Put no pressure on your arms, they stay grounded as does your lower ribs.

  • On the inhale lower your head and chest back to the ground



Second Exercise

  • Move your arms into a position whereby your elbows are directly out in line with your shoulders and bent to 90 degrees as per the diagram above.

  • Again take a few breaths to release and open the chest here.

  • Image you have a torch attached to your breast bone.

  • On the exhale lift your head and chest & imagine shining this torch forward

  • Put no pressure on your arms, they stay grounded as does your lower ribs. Explore you extension in this range.

  • On the inhale lower your head and chest back to the ground



Third Exercise

  • Place your hands on either side of your chest, with your elbows reaching to the wall behind you. This exercise builds on the previous two. So think about the length you were focusing on in the first exercise and the extension on the second.

  • On the exhale, lengthen out through the crown of the head, shine your breast bone forward and REACH your elbows to the mat behind you.

  • Put no pressure on your hands, they stay grounded as does your lower ribs. Explore your extension in this range.

  • On the inhale lower and lengthen your head and chest back to the ground


If you have the time it would be beneficial to gently release the chest before doing these exercises, such as lying lengthways on a long foam roller as described in my last blog post. Most people will benefit from opening their chest and strengthening their neck and upper back.....even our emoji's are indicative of the posture our lifestyles are creating for us! Hope that helps x




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