By Soji James, CPT, CSCS
Real friends don’t keep secrets, so I want to let you in on an important piece of information: your thoracic spine mobility may be in jeopardy. I know; you’ve probably got a ton of questions. What does that even mean? What is a thoracic spine? So hear me out—because the following numbers are kind of alarming.
Now I know that you are anything but average, but the chance that you spend a significant amount of time sitting down and rounded over while performing one of the activities above are pretty high.
When it comes to lack of mobility and its negative impact on your wellbeing, tight hips usually get most of the bad press. While they definitely do deserve our attention, the lack of mobility in our thoracic spine can wreak havoc as well. Lack of mobility in the thoracic spine can lead to terrible posture, increased tension, limits to the function/range of motion of the shoulders, and could lead to lower back pain. Translation: little mobility limitations could turn into massive problems. This decrement in mobility could be the key that’s holding you back from optimal performance, and keeping you on the sideline with nagging injuries/pain.
The good news is that you don’t have to devote hours upon hours of dedicated work to fix this problem. Here are 5 simple exercises that you can quickly slip into your warm-up or current routine, or complete while catching up on your favorite show. I recommend complementing these exercises with some kind of foam rolling or self-myofascial release to get the best results. The Lacrosse balls from LAX Stars are only $10 and do an amazing job of breaking up knots and relieving pain/tension in those hard to reach areas. Pick up a pair here.
1: Wall Slides
Stand with your upper back and hips in contact with the wall. Pick your arms up and place them against the wall at a 90 degree angle. Initiate the movement by sliding your arms vertically overhead until your arms are straight as you can get them (maintain contact with the wall throughout) and then return your arms back to the starting position. That’s 1 rep. Complete 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps.
2: Quadruped Thoracic Rotation
Set up in a quadruped position with your left hand directly under your left shoulder and your right hand locked behind your head. Focus on engaging your core throughout the movement. Initiate the movement by bringing your right elbow in towards your chest as far as you can (keep your left arm straight) and then lift your right elbow up towards the ceiling, opening up as far as you can. Return to the starting position. Thats 1 rep. Complete 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps/side.
3: Pushup with Rotation
Begin in a Pushup position with you hands directly under your shoulders, your feet spread shoulder width apart, and both your abs & glutes engaged. Initiate the movement by descending into a pushup. s you explode up from the bottom, take your right hand and open up towards the ceiling. Rotate as far out as you can before returning to the starting pushup position. That’s 1 rep. Complete 2-3 sets of 6-8 reps/side.
4: 90-90 Stretch
Start off by laying on your left side with your legs bent at 90 degrees and your right hand on top of your left hand. Keeping your legs stationary throughout the movement, imitate the exercise by lifting up your right hand and attempting to get your right shoulder and arm to touch the floor. Hold the bottom position for 2-3 seconds and then return back to the starting position. That’s 1 rep. Complete 2-3 reps of 8-10 reps.
5: Standing Shoulder Opener
Begin a couple feet away from the wall with your arms fully extended and your hands at chest height. Initiate the movement by hinging at your hips and attempting to sink your chest down towards the ground as far as you can take it. Hold for 2-3 seconds and then return to the starting position. That’s 1 rep. Complete 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps.