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The throracolumbar side-bend stretch is an effective movement for stretching the muscles that run along the sides of your torso. This stretch is considered a static stretch in which you keep the target muscle or muscles in a stretched position for a set amount of time, usually 30 seconds. Perform static stretches only after you have adequately warmed up the involved muscles.
To properly perform the thoracolumbar side-bend stretch, stand or sit with your torso tall. Extend your arms overhead and interlace your fingers with your palms facing outward. Keeping your arms straight, exhale and lean from the waist to the left. Lean only as far as you can comfortably without twisting your torso. Breathe deeply as you hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds. Exhale and perform the movement in a similar fashion while slowly leaning to the right.
The obliques, particularly the external obliques, are stretched during the thoracolumbar side-bend. The external obliques are the outermost muscles of the abdomen and attach the lower ribs to the pelvis. These muscles work to stabilize and rotate your torso as well as allow you to flex from side-to-side. The farther to the side you bend during the stretch, the more your obliques are engaged. The obliques on the opposite side of those being stretched are contracted to bend your torso to the side.
The latissimus dorsi, teres major and, to some extent, the posterior deltoid are used during the side-bend stretch. The latissimus dorsi is a large back muscle used extensively during activities such as pull-ups and rows. The teres major is a much smaller muscle that sits directly above the latissimus dorsi and aids in the movements produced by the larger muscle. The posterior deltoid is located on the back of the shoulder and is a prime mover in the extension and rotation of that joint. The farther your lift your arm up and over during the stretch, the more these muscles will be activated.
The serratus anterior is a muscle that resembles a saw and attaches the shoulder blade to the ribs. This muscle is responsible for keeping the shoulder blade close to the thoracic wall. The serratus anterior is stretched as you elevate your shoulder blade during the side-bend.