Tips for Thoracic Spinal Extension

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Do you struggle with the Swan exercise or backbends in general? Shari Berkowitz is here to help! Very often when we do backbends we end up bending too much in the neck and low back and we skip the stiffer area of the thoracic spine, thereby leading to strain in the areas we're overdoing. Get Shari's tips for strengthening your thoracic extensors (your upper back area) and you'll feel the difference in all backbends and even better, in your awesome upright posture. Visit Shari for teacher training, workshops and lessons at The Vertical Workshop. Our thanks to Shari’s student Roccio Cárceles and The Contrology Cohort in New York City where this was filmed.

What Others Are Saying


  1. DonnaLongo

    Hi Shari! So happy to see you here. Look forward to more great tips!

  2. Chris7 7 months ago

    great to see you on this platform, Shari!!

  3. tracy 7 months ago

    Shari Fan here!!! Whenever any of my teachers ask what I’d like to work on, I say – extension! Great tips, want more!

    • Alisa Wyatt

      :)) we have lots more Shari coming for you Tracy! Stay tuned!

    • Author
      Shari Berkowitz 7 months ago

      Thanks, Tracy! It’s lovely seeing you here! There will be a whole lot more tips videos from me!

  4. Tracy Sue Du Plessis 7 months ago

    Really looking forward to more. Yay!!! Thanks you.

    • Author
      Shari Berkowitz 7 months ago

      Thanks, Tracy! More coming your way!

  5. Alisa Wyatt

    To all of you Shari fans out there–we are thrilled to finally have Shari on Pilatesology and wanted to let you know we have tons more videos coming up so stay tuned!

  6. 8 months ago

    Wonderful video! Hoping you can do more here!

    • Author
      Shari Berkowitz 7 months ago

      Hi, Shannon! Indeed…there are many, many more coming!

  7. Melania 8 months ago

    excellent! thank you.

    • Author
      Shari Berkowitz 7 months ago

      Melania! Thank you for checking it out!

  8. davidjsterry 8 months ago


    • Author
      Shari Berkowitz 7 months ago

      Thank you, David! More is coming for sure! Like 20 or so in this first batch!

  9. Jennifer Allen

    Super excited to see Shari on Pilatesology!!!

    • Author
      Shari Berkowitz 7 months ago

      Thank you, Jennifer! Glad to be here!

  10. Andrea
    Andrea 8 months ago

    Yes please! More Shari! Great cue: reverse the curve of the thoracic spine.

    • Author
      Shari Berkowitz 7 months ago

      Thanks, Andrea! And…I’m super glad you like that cue!

  11. michellando 8 months ago

    Wonderful! Would love to see more from Shari here!

    • Author
      Shari Berkowitz 7 months ago

      Thank you! I’m happy to be here and we’ll have many more videos here, indeed!

  12. Victoria Sommer 8 months ago

    Soooooo happy to see you here finally!!!!!

    • Author
      Shari Berkowitz 7 months ago

      Victoria!!! I’m happy to be here, as you know!

  13. Martin 8 months ago

    Shari! So excited to see your videos live on Pilatesology! Can’t wait to watch all the others. : )

    • Author
      Shari Berkowitz 7 months ago

      Thanks, Martin! I’ll be so happy when they are available to share! Let’s stay tuned!

  14. pilenthuses 8 months ago

    Dear Shari Berkowitz:

    You speak about:

    1. “Release the Upper Abdominals” – Could you please define the muscles you speak about releasing?

    2. “Effort in the middle back & Upper Thoracic Spine” – Could you please define the muscles you are speaking about here please?

    Thank you.

    • Author
      Shari Berkowitz 7 months ago

      Thanks for watching and for asking!
      1 – Release your upper abdominals
      In order to achieve thoracic extension and therefore true spinal extension, you must make sure that you are allowing the thoracic spine to move. When we hold onto the upper abdominals, then the thoracic spine will be stuck in its natural curve or even in a slight bit of extra flexion. The thoracic spine will remain immobile. The cues that typical hold the upper abdominals are as follows: closer your ribs, knit your ribs, melt your ribs… Pretty much anything to do with the rib cage. For many reason, it’s wise to let go of those cues, but especially for thoracic extension. Why let go of that set of cues in general? Because they reduce the ability of your entire breathing mechanism and thereby negatively affect your nervous system. Additionally, they lock down the thoracic spine which will surely affect the cervical spine and shoulder girdle.

      2 – Effort in the middle back and upper thoracic spine
      This means that you’ll want to make real muscular connections around the joints of T1-T7 in the attempt to reverse the curve there. It is tempting to let that area stay still and focus on the mobility of the lower thoracic spine. However, it’s the upper-middle portion that really requires our attention.

      I hope that helps. And if it brought on more questions…just ask! If here is not the right place, feel free to email me directly:

  15. JuliaHart 8 months ago

    Shari!!!!…!!! so happy to see you on Pilatesology

    • Author
      Shari Berkowitz 7 months ago

      Julia! I’m glad to be here! Happy to see you here, too!

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