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The Benefits of Flexing the Thoracic Spine While Deadlifting

When it comes to deadlifting, there are numerous techniques and opinions on the optimal form. One topic of debate revolves around the flexion of the thoracic spine, which refers to the rounding or "hunching" of the upper back during the lift. While traditional deadlift advice often emphasizes maintaining a neutral spine, there is a growing school of thought suggesting that flexing the thoracic spine is not necessarily a bad thing. In this blog post, we will explore the potential benefits of incorporating thoracic spine flexion into your deadlift technique.

Decreased Range of Motion:

One of the primary arguments for allowing some flexion in the thoracic spine during deadlifting is the decreased range of motion it provides. By slightly rounding your upper back, you allow the barbell to travel closer to your center of gravity and do not need to move the bar as far off the ground. This results in an increased length in your arms and can potentially enable you to lift heavier weights. It's important to note that this flexion should be controlled and intentional, rather than excessive or uncontrolled rounding.

Improved Mechanical Advantage:

Flexing the thoracic spine can enhance your mechanical advantage during the deadlift, particularly in the starting position. By rounding the upper back, you can achieve a more advantageous leverage position. This allows you to engage your posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes, and erector spinae) more effectively, resulting in a stronger and more efficient lift.

Enhanced Grip Strength:

Thoracic spine flexion can also aid in maintaining a secure grip on the barbell. When the upper back is rounded, it enables you to position your shoulders slightly in front of the bar, creating a shorter lever arm. This position reduces the stress on your grip, allowing you to hold onto the bar more securely. As a result, you can focus on generating maximal force through your lower body without the fear of losing your grip.

Injury Prevention:

Contrary to the common belief that thoracic spine flexion is inherently harmful, it can actually play a role in injury prevention. When deadlifting with a neutral spine, some individuals may experience excessive strain on the lumbar spine. By allowing slight thoracic flexion, you can shift some of the load away from the lower back, potentially reducing the risk of lower back injuries. However, it's crucial to maintain a balance and not overexaggerate the rounding, as this could lead to other issues. Sport-Specific Applications:

Flexing the thoracic spine during deadlifting may have specific applications for certain athletes or lifters. In sports like powerlifting, where the objective is to lift the heaviest weight possible, employing every available mechanical advantage can be beneficial. Additionally, strongman competitors often adopt a rounded upper back position during certain events, such as atlas stone lifts or car deadlifts. Understanding and practicing thoracic spine flexion can be advantageous for these athletes.

While maintaining a neutral spine during deadlifting is generally considered the standard form, it is worth noting that controlled flexion of the thoracic spine can offer unique benefits. By decreasing the range of motion of the barbell, improving mechanical advantage, enhancing grip strength, and potentially reducing the risk of lower back injuries, flexing the thoracic spine becomes a technique worth exploring. However, it's important to remember that this technique may not be suitable for everyone, and proper form, progression, and individual biomechanics should always be taken into consideration. If you decide to incorporate thoracic spine flexion into your deadlift technique, consult with a qualified coach or trainer to ensure that you do it safely and effectively.

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