Spiderman with a twist? Or Spiderman with a twist?
Everyone is familiar with this stretch. I've also heard it called World's Greatest Stretch, elbow to in-step, and the reach and rotate.
My problem with this stretch is that two exercises fly under these names and I feel they need to be separated.
This was my understanding of the stretch from Day 1. Lunge out, place your hands on the ground to the inside of your feet and rotate up towards your flexed knee. As a coach I was quick to correct those that rotated away from the knee. Like this...
Whether that was because I thought Spiderman would never move that way or I just couldn't shake how I had initially been taught, I don't know.
In my travels through different collegiate weight rooms and private facilities, there does not seem to be a consensus on what a Spiderman with a twist really is. However, anyone that has done both variations can feel a clear difference.
The Spiderman with an In twist places much greater emphasis on the hip and glute part of the lunge out. This is because as you rotate your weight shifts towards the extended hip which pulls down on the flexed hip, increasing the stretch you feel on the flexed hip by adding a little external rotation.
And while the In twist does have thoracic mobility benefits, you are at a greater risk of hyper extending your low back because of the weight shift towards the extended hip. If you don't have the core strength to stabilize, your hips can sink towards the floor and you end up bending backwards.
For those seeking much greater thoracic benefits, try the Out twist instead. Twisting away from your bent knee shifts the weight towards a flexed hip which protects your low back and is much less likely to hyperextend. This increase in stability in your low back focuses most of the movement in your thoracic spine.
So which one do you do?
Its up to you! There isn't a wrong way to do them. Know that with an In twist there may be more felt in the glute, and that your low back may be more vulnerable to hyerextension. This is easily mitigated by tightening your core and focusing that twist to your mid back. The Out twist takes the pressure off your low back but heightens the stretch felt in your mid back.
As with anything in health and fitness, it depends on how you use it.