Do you spend a lot of time at your desk and want better posture? Do you always feel stiff after playing sports or a workout? Maybe you are just fed up with someone close to you asking for a back massage all the time!

If so, then thread-the-needle is the perfect exercise for you! It’s a great way of improving mobility in the spine and is an excellent warm-up or cool down stretch following a workout.

In this article, we’ll be discussing:

  • What is thread-the-needle?
  • How to do the thread-the-needle Pilates exercise?
  • What are the benefits of the thread-the-needle exercise?
  • Who is the thread-the-needle exercise suitable for / not suitable for?

What is the thread the needle exercise?

Essentially, the thread-the-needle is a super exercise to do if you are looking for a deep, yet gentle stretch that primarily targets your shoulders, chest, neck and upper back at the same time. It can be a static or dynamic pose or performed either fast or slow for a more deeper, restorative stretch. It can also be used as part of your warm up or cool-down routine and is a great pose to do just before bed or early in the morning to release any tension.

Purposes of thread-the-needle:

  • Full Body Stretch
  • Opens your shoulders, neck, arms, chest and upper back
  • Allows for a light twist in the spine
  • Releases upper back and shoulder tension
  • Promotes a sense of calm in the body
  • Stretches your thighs and hips

How to do the thread the needle exercise?

Here’s how to do thread-the-needle and reap all the benefits of this upper body stretch.

  • Start on all fours making a tabletop with your body
  • Stack your hips directly above your knees and position your elbows, shoulders, and wrists in a straight line to the ground.
  • Lift your right hand up sending your gaze up with it and then follow your right hand down as you thread it beneath your left arm.
  • Keep your hips high and allow your chest to rest on or come close to the ground.
  • Push your hips back and up and keep some pressure in your left palm
  • Hold the position for as long as you need and then switch sides.
  • To come out, press firmly into your left palm and slowly unthread your right arm reaching back up towards the sky, the gaze can follow.
  • Return your right hand down to the ground back in tabletop.
  • Repeat on the left side.

Thread the needle exercise tips

  • It’s all in the legs
    Keep the weight in the legs rather than overloading your wrists.
  • Find your push
    To come into extension and rotation, really push into your standing arm to give you some shoulder stability. It will also encourage you round a little more.
  • Lose the wiggle
    Try to keep your hips in the centre of you rather than shifting over to one side. You can check this by looking through your arms and seeing if your thighs are vertical.
  • Take a big breath
    Use this to expand your rib cage. This will give you more mobility in your mid back as your rib cage attaches onto your spine. Using this accessory movement, it will help you to feel looser!
  • It’s your choice!
    How many you do is down to you. If you feel you want to do more on one side, then do! The aim is to feel more mobile afterwards and remember, we are all asymmetrical!
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Thread the needle exercise benefits

There are a number of benefits to thread-the-needle exercise, especially as mentioned above, if you work at a desk all day or are tight in your neck, shoulders or upper back.

Twists like thread-the-needle are detoxifying and energizing. It gently works the spinal muscles, which therefore enhances flexibility and releases any tightness that can build up between the vertebrae.

Benefits of thread-the-needle include: 

  • Relieves Neck Pain 

If your neck is painful, tight or tense then thread-the-needle can help relieve these as you slowly twist back and forth and rids any knots you may have in your neck.

  • Stretches Out the Upper Back

Thread-the-needle is one of the best stretches for the upper back, especially if you have a limited range of motion. It opens up the cervical and thoracic spine which often become stiff when you sit for long periods of time.

  • Stretches the Shoulders

If you sit at a computer or phone all day then it’s likely you have tight shoulders from hunching over. Thread-the-needle stretches the sides and backs of your shoulders, helping to ease any pain and tension you may have there.

  • It’s Relaxing

Thread-the-needle can be super relaxing as you dynamically move and twist through the stretch. It’s perfect if you want to unwind from a busy, hectic day or cool down from training.

Who is thread the needle suitable for?

Thread-the-needle is suitable for anyone and is generally a very safe and accessible pose but always be mindful of how your body feels. It’s especially great for people who play lots of sports, anyone who has shoulder, neck or shoulder discomfort or anyone in need of a bit of deep relaxation.

Who is thread the needle not suitable for?

Take extra caution with thread the Needle if you have:

  • Knee injury
  • Neck injury or discomfort
  • Shoulder injury or discomfort
  • Disk or back injuries

It is always best to speak to your GP or a physiotherapist if you have any back or neck pain and find out if this exercise is right for you. If it just isn’t working for you then consult with an exercise specialist such as a Clinical Pilates Instructor for individual advice.

Why Do thread the needle?

In summary, the thread-the-needle exercise is a great stretch if you need to loosen the muscles in the neck, back and shoulders. if you work from a desk throughout the day, if you play a lot of sports such as tennis, swimming or running or simply need a good deep relaxing stretch.

If you are new to exercise at Complete Pilates, we would advise you to always speak to your doctor or physiotherapist before starting a new exercise routine, especially if you have any health concerns or are new to fitness.

If you would like more information then do reach out to our team of clinical Pilates instructors here at Complete Pilates who are all trained to safely treat and create manageable  plans to keep you healthy.

Get in touch online or contact us on 0203 764 5668 for further information.

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Education is key:

These blogs are designed to give information to everyone, however, it is important to remember that everyone is different! If you have not seen one of our therapists and have any questions about injuries, what you have read or whether this may be useful to you, please just ask. We are more than happy to help anyone and point you in the right direction. Our biggest belief is that education is key. The more you understand about your injury, illness and movement, the more you are likely to improve.

If you are not sure whether this is for you, simply get in touch. We are here to help!