My thoracic what!?
Thoracic spine, ok, but how!?
After releasing my first post on using spinal waves to activate your spine, someone asked me how exactly are you supposed to activate your thoracic spine instead of your lumbar spine when doing a bridge/ponte. The bending in the bridge, or ponte, is primarily done in the thoracic spine and not the lumbar spine. This is an important difference because heavy bending in the lumbar spine can lead to injury.
That person had a lot of difficulty understanding how to activate their thoracic spine and wanted some advice, so here it is!
3 Exercises to activate your thoracic Spine
The first thing you can do to activate/stretch your thoracic spine is to use a foam roller and place the roller under your thoracic spine. This should be a little below armpit level. Try to bend using just your thoracic spine, keeping your core engaged to stabilize the lumbar spine, prevent bending (hyperflexion) in that region. Here’s a video describing using a foam roller to open up the thoracic spine from the perspective of a cross-fitter.
A nifty trick that I use A LOT is wall bridges with my hands on the wall. This might sound super easy, but BRO, this will set up for success, so do it! Antranik, does a wonderful job breaking down this exercise popularized for a lot of people by Ido Portal. As great a job as Antranik does, I will point out one thing for our discussion on the thoracic spine. JUST USE YOUR THORACIC SPINE. Don’t cheat! What this means is that you are not allowed to bend from your hips, your lumbar spine, or your knees. If there is a slight bend, that’s ok, but the focus is the thoracic spine.
For you pros out there, too cool for the last couple progressions: Once you have some notion of how to activate your thoracic spine and have ample strength to hold yourself up during a ponte, try this. A bridge with elevated legs. This is something that I picked up from gymnastic bodies bridge route that is an absolute favorite of mine. The reason is it fiercely targets the thoracic spine and shoulders – big deficiencies in most people. Keep your core and butt engaged for this one and make sure you legs are at least 6 inches off the ground. Try to push forward with your legs to accentuate this motion, but be careful because you are working at your end range of motion – meaning the chance of injury is higher. This one is tough, but for you fearless people, there are some pretty cool variations you can do with this movement that will lead to much cooler stuff, like raiz, and au de coluna. This tutorial from Mussum is pretty cool, but as he says, the base for any inverted movements is the BRIDGE/PONTE, so work hard on that foundation).
The key here is progressions, like anything else, nothing is gained without some commitment. Start slow, and work your way up. As much as it is a simple movement, the bridge is not easy.
8 WEEK BRIDGE SYNOPSIS
I also want to do a 2-week synopsis on the eighth week bridge challenge. My back is on freaking fire. I recently cut down the amount I bridge in a given session to about 4 minutes because the 7 was too aggressive. My lumbar spine hasn’t been hurting and I have mostly a lot of muscle soreness, which I expected. Later on, I’ll try to include more basic and advanced movements that include ponte/bridge as the base.
Also! If you’re interested in winning a free shirt, I’m raffling a not yet released Dendê Arts T-shirt to those who use hashtag #8weekbridge. The point of the raffle is to promote bridges in your practice. Good luck and move well.