3 Reasons Increasing Upper Back Mobility is Essential for Easy Squatting
When we introduced our Pilates Focus for June as “Let’s Squat” there was a collective “eeek” and concern regarding all the leg work we may add to classes this month. Well, in true Freedom Health style, we like to go deeper than the obvious, so our first week has nothing to do with legs – it’s all about the upper back. This may raise an eyebrow or two as to the relevance, so to explain a bit more, please read on for 3 Reasons Increasing Upper Back Mobility is Essential for Easy Squatting.
1) If the upper back is stiff and can’t maintain an upright position, the entire back line of the body (lower back, hamstrings, calf muscles etc) is put under greater tension
Many people find it hard to squat down into a deep squat – and most blame it on tight calf muscles because it is easier when they raise their heels off the ground. BUT like most things in the human body, it is never as simple as that. Whilst tight calves may be a contributing factor, often the tightness is coming from somewhere further up the chain. Lifting the heels of the ground simply releases one part of the tension along the back line of the body. In my experience, a stiff thoracic spine is a common cause of the restriction.
2) When the upper back is stiff, we often compensate through the ribs flaring which inhibits core abdominal activation
If you have a stiff upper back (most people do!), your body will need to find another place to gain the movement – commonly this is through flaring of the ribs and arching through the lower back. Flaring of the ribs lengthens the abdominal muscles and makes it more difficult to activate the correct stabilising muscles of the spine. This in turn places more strain on the lumbar spine and pelvic floor and can present as low back pain with squats. Need any more motivation to get your upper back moving?
3) If the upper back is stiff, we lose function once down in the squat position
Whilst some gym-goers may focus on squats to improve muscle bulk or specific body toning goals, our focus on improving squats is more to do with increasing ease of movement in daily life. So squatting for the sake of squatting is not what we promote. But squatting so you can move more freely in life is a great goal indeed. Once down in a squat you want to be able to move freely, rather than holding rigid in a fixed position. So increasing mobility throughout the entire spine and all joints is very important indeed.
There are many other reasons why upper back mobility is essential for functional movements such as squatting, but hopefully these 3 have given you the motivation to start working on this area. If you’re ready to work on your upper back mobility and abdominal connection, keep an eye out for the upcoming “3 Simple Exercises to Improve Thoracic Mobility and Abdominal Connection”