Flexibility is an ever-elusive goal that the general population struggles with and it only seems to be getting worse. As cell phone habits increase, cars are designed with a forward head position and computer use occupies 5-8 hours of our day; pain, dysfunction and stiffness are on the rise.
Some experts recommend stretching a minimum of 6 hours a week. Some recommend stretching very little. Some recommend you shouldn’t stretch at all, but instead be out in nature moving more.
With so many suggestions competing for your attention, what should you really be doing? Here are the steps we suggest:
Learn to use your diaphragm again through diaphragm breathing drills.
Our understanding of the human body has evolved tremendously over the past few years. We now understand that that muscles of breathing are at the very “core” of your core. Sometimes you feel stiff because your body is responding to stress, sometimes it’s trying to make up for a weak “core” because your breathing muscles are at the very center of your strength. without strong breathing muscles, you’ll never truly be strong.
TIP: Spend some time learning how to diaphragm breath. At first you can diaphragm breath before workouts and before you go to bed, but after awhile, start incorporating diaphragm breathing in to your every day routine: Below is a short video
Your rib cage is a complex system of bone, ligament, cartilage and muscle that’s supposed to be able to expand and contract. It is interwoven with your upper spine and can play a role in pinching off nerves that lead to your arms and shoulders if not cared for. In fact, an inflexible ribcage can account for up to 47% of a stiff upper spine! (see reference below)
With appropriate ribcage flexibility, your spine will automatically give “chiropractic” type adjustments as it shifts with your lifestyle, relieve tension in your neck and low back, increase your strength and reduce stress.
TIP: Focus on breathing at different times of the day. You can also Do a series of gentle bends while breathing. Think about “stretching the ribcage from the inside out”. After workouts, do a little foam rolling on your pec and lat muscles.
Effects of the Rib Cage on Thoracic Spine Flexibility
Biomedizinische Technik/Biomedical Engineering, Volume 50, Issue 11, Pages 361–365, ISSN (Online) 1862-278X, ISSN (Print) 0013-5585, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/BMT.2005.051.