The exercise called Chest Expansion is a great exercise that we all can benefit from. The name itself says it all: it contributes to an improved upper body posture by opening and expanding the chest and front of the shoulders. The exercise strengthens the upper back muscles that draw the shoulder blades towards each other and it also increases the mobility of the neck.
This variation of Chest Expansion called Standing Chest Expansion with the Wall came as a homework exercise assignment for a beginner client who developed a rounded shoulder posture from sitting at the computer for long periods each day at work. She wanted to improve her posture, and after just a few weeks there was a pronounced improvement in her posture. By incorporating this exercise in her work schedule when she needed a physical and mental break, she was able to reset, refresh, and improve her posture.
Standing Chest Expansion with the Wall
Begin by standing with your back close to the wall. Try not to touch or lean against the wall, instead try to feel the distance between your body and the wall. Press the inner heels towards each other while the toes are apart and pointing outwards (Pilates V). Reach the arms forward to hip height at shoulder distance apart with the palms of the hands facing the floor.
Inhale while elongating your body in two opposites directions, with the feet pressing the floor down, while the top of the head is pushing the ceiling up. Reach the arm back and press the palms of the hands towards the wall.
Exhale while you slide your arms further down the wall and simultaneously draw the shoulder blades towards each other. The action of drawing the shoulder blades towards each other creates the opening and expansion in the chest. Turn the head towards the right while maintaining an open chest, turn your head towards the left while maintaining the open chest. Return the head to center and look straight ahead. Reach the arm forward to hip height and shoulder distance apart.
Few things to keep in mind:
Draw the inner legs towards each other, while wrapping the outer legs towards the back of your legs. This will assist and establish a strong midline. Pay attention if you distribute the weight evenly on both feet or you have more weight on one foot.
Ideally, the knees should be in alignmentt over the ankles, the pelvis over the knees, the shoulders over the pelvis, and the head on top of the shoulders, creating a vertical line. Notice if you feel the back of the knees, pelvis, ribs, shoulders or head making contact with the wall. If you do feel the wall you are most likely leaning back. Try to practice standing profile to a mirror or a computer screen to monitor your alignment.
The action of turning the head towards the right might encourage the left shoulder to come forward and towards the right. Instead, encourage the left shoulder blade to draw towards the right shoulder blade in the back, and lengthen the left arm further down the wall. Conversely, do the same thing while turning the head towards the left.
Practice 3-8 sets and let the rhythm of your breath guide you. Being present and mindful of your alignment will make this exercise successful.