There is a huge focus on abdominal strength in Pilates. Old news, I know. But Pilates is also known for its positive effect on posture.
“Draw your ribs down and together” or “keep your suspenders on” are two of the most used cues for core connection.
“Spread your collarbones wide” and “keep your chest open” are wonderful cues for posture (regarding the shoulder girdle).
Have you noticed that you basically switch back and forth between those two (opposing) cues without lasting success? When you cue the chest wide, then the ribs pop. When you cue the ribs down, the chest collapses. Oh my!
Turns out we have to do both at the same time. Argh! Well okay, you knew that, too. But why is it so f*ing hard?
The reason is that the muscles attached to the front of your chest between your neck and your lower ribs (intercostals, scalenes, sternocleidomastoid, pecs, etc) are often very short. They pull the chin and collar bones down and forward, and the lower ribs up and forward, towards each other.
My favorite exercises to lengthen this area are the Standing Back Bend/Supine Stretch (Ladder Barrel), Bridging (Ladder Barrel), Seated Back Bend/Supine Stretch (Spine Corrector) or Ab Curls (Spine Corrector). When the round barrel shape is placed under the thoracic area, it pulls the ribs down on one end and the chest and neck down the other end, hence away from one another.
Which exercises do you like to lengthen and widen the front of the chest?
Current members, check out these direct links to the exercises mentioned in this post in the Pilates Encyclopedia:
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