Top 4 Exercises To Improve Thoracic Mobility

By now you should be convinced that improving and maintaining thoracic mobility is a great idea for many different reasons. The rounded back (thoracic kyphosis) epidemic is upon us and this postural habit starts at a very young age and is detriment to our health. Everyone at some point in time has experienced an episode of upper back pain, shoulder pain, and neck pain just to name a few. On average adults spend most of their day sitting at work, watching TV, using their phones, and driving. We usually do our activities sitting down, rounded through the thoracic spine, which puts unwanted added stress to our spine.

The thoracic spine is built for rotation, flexion and let’s not forget extension. It’s designed to be highly mobile or at least it should be. Because of its mobility it must be used and must be moved.

In order to increase mobility we have to know that it first exists at all. If not we’ll attempt to rotate and bend with something more familiar the lumbar spine. That’s bad news!

In other words your thoracic spine is an important area of your body to have good mobility and range of motion and is probably the reason you experience unwanted aches and pain.

Benefits of Improved Thoracic Mobility

  • Lack of kyphosis (Rounded upper back)
  • A less painful more stable low back
  • More lung volume
  • Healthier shoulders
  • Greater range of motion
  • Improved posture
  • Decreased back aches, pain and stiffness

Today I want to share with you 4 exercises to help promote mobility in the thoracic spine. I recommend performing each exercise daily to reap the most benefit.

Cat/Camel Stretch

  1. Start on your hands and knees with your wrists directly under your shoulders, and your knees directly under your hips.
  2.  Begin by moving into Cow Pose: Inhale as you drop your belly towards the mat.
  3. Broaden across your shoulder blades and draw your shoulders away from your ears.
  4. Next, move into Cat Pose: As you exhale, draw your belly to your spine and round your back toward the ceiling. The pose should look like a cat stretching its back.
  5. Release the crown of your head toward the floor, but don’t force your chin to your chest.
  6. Inhale, coming back into Cow Pose, and then exhale as you return to Cat Pose.
  7. Repeat 5-20 times, and then rest by sitting back on your heels with your torso upright.

Foam Roller T-spine Extension Mobilization

  1. Put the foam roller under your upper back / thoracic spine. Keep your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. 
  2. Place your hands behind your head.
  3. Let your head fall to the floor and try to wrap yourself around the foam roller, extending the thoracic spine over the roller. 
  4. Roll, slowly up and down the vertebrae, pausing on any painful parts (do not roll the neck or lower back, focussing solely on the thoracic spine).

Foam Roller Kneeling Downward Rotation

  1. Start in an “All 4’s” position (quadruped).
  2. Take your right hand and slide it on the ground across and under your left arm as far as possible.
  3. As you drop your right shoulder to the ground in an attempt to reach across your body, it should bring out a light stretch to your mid back.
  4. Hold this stretch for a few seconds and perform 10 repetitions on each side.

Foam Roller Prayer Stretch

  1. Start in a kneeling position.
  2. Sit your hips back on your heels and push your hands out in front of you (one hand on top of the other).
  3. Next, let your chest drop down to the floor. Continue to reach with your arms together overhead while you let your breath out slowly.
  4. Try to sink your chest towards the ground.

The exercises shared today are not a one time fix for improving mobility. They will not fix any stiffness or aches in one session. If you do notice a small change in movement quality after performing these for the first time you should consider adding these corrective exercises into your daily routine. Consistency is key for progression in mobility, especially in this region of the body.

3 Foam Roller Exercises To Fix Your Posture

Do you wake up with a stiff back? Does your back ache on your drive to work? Do you sit slouched forward for the majority of your day? Are you starting to notice rounded shoulders and your neck protruding forward?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you have come to the right place and you are not alone. Sadly, in today’s age most people would have answered yes to these questions but the good news is that postural problems are totally preventable and reversible.

Why posture’s so important

Slouching all day forces your chest muscles to shorten and tighten, which pulls your spine forward and forces your shoulders to turn inwards. You may be asking yourself “What does that have to do with my posture?”. Well, because your chest is tight and everything has essentially shifted forward, the muscles in your back are forced to lengthen and overstretch which weakens the muscles of your upper back that are designed to aid in posture.

In other words, your chest muscles are taut and pulling everything forward while your back muscles are loose and not supporting your upright posture the way they should be. Proper posture also reduces unnecessary added stress on your muscles and ligaments, which can reduce the risk of injury. The good news is that postural kyphosis (the clinical term for a rounded back), is completely reversible and preventable.

Grab a foam roller

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you all know what a foam roller is. The following 3 exercises using a foam roller can relieve chest tightness and strengthen your upper back muscles to make you look and feel brand new. These are some of my favorite exercises to incorporate into my daily routine and workout regimen. Whether you experience aches and pains in your back or just looking for a good stretch these exercises will work wonders. Try to complete these 3 exercises at least a few times a week until your posture has improved. All exercises should be performed in a pain free range of motion. If you experience any shoulder pain with these exercises please stop immediately and consult your local doctor for an individualized program that is right for you.

All you need is a foam roller and a few minutes. Don’t have a foam roller yet? Here is the link to the one I recommend.

Read on to learn how to do 3 foam roller exercises that’ll help you stand a little taller. Let’s get started!

1. Overhead Reaches

  • Lay on the foam roller and make sure your head and spine are supported.
  • Engage your core by drawing your belly button into the foam roller to ensure your spine is kept in a neutral position.
  • Grab a resistance band or a towel. Make sure your arms remain straight throughout the entire exercise.
  • Start with the band at hip level and slowly raise your arms above your head as far as you can.
  • Complete this exercise for a total of 2 minutes.

2. Jacks

  • Lay on the foam roller and make sure your head and spine are supported.
  • Engage your core by drawing your belly button into the foam roller to ensure your spine is kept in a neutral position.
  • Start with your arms by your sides as if you were doing a jumping jack.
  • Slowly raise your arms towards your ears as far as you can while keeping the palms of your hands facing the ceiling.
  • Complete this exercise for a total of 2 minutes.

3. Alternating Overhead Reaches

  • Lay on the foam roller and make sure your head and spine are supported.
  • Engage your core by drawing your belly button into the foam roller to ensure your spine is kept in a neutral position.
  • Slowly and consistently alternate lifting your right arm and then your left arm overhead.
  • Complete this exercise for a total of 2 minutes.

Poor posture can be the root cause for many issues we experience every day. Tension headaches, neck stiffness/pain, limited shoulder mobility and pain, and upper back pain are just a few of the common side effects resulting from poor posture. But it doesn’t have to be! There’s a lot of stretches and exercises you can do to correct this problem and help minimize your discomfort and future health complications.