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The health and mobility of your thoracic spine is integral to spinal and shoulder function, and ignoring this area could negatively affect performance, strength and posture, and could even add pressure to your lower back, resulting in pain and discomfort.
Using several stretching techniques in the same session is a great way to improve overall thoracic mobility. Start with some dynamic exercises to naturally warm your body and slowly and safely increase your range of motion. Follow those with some foam-rolling moves to further increase your range of motion, and wrap things up with a static stretch to lengthen your muscles. Though static stretching preworkout is not advisable in all instances, you can use it to help reinforce proper position without reducing power or strength if you’re training exercises like pull-ups, overhead presses, weighted squats or deadlifts. Yes, static stretching does lengthen your back muscles, but you use those muscles to stabilize rather than to create power so your lifts will not be compromised.
This mobility sequence uses all three stretching techniques to quickly and effectively improve flexion, extension and rotation in your thoracic spine. It only takes about 10 minutes and can be done preworkout or postworkout.
Dynamic Mobility | 2 sets of 6 on each side
Kneel on the floor with your toes touching and your knees spread slightly apart. Push your hips back over your heels as you reach both arms forward (Child’s Pose). Keep your left arm extended as you bend your right elbow, bringing your thumb to your right ear. Slowly draw your right elbow up as you rotate your chest open. Pause briefly, then return to the start.
Dynamic Mobility | 10 reps of each pose
Get onto all fours with your hands underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips. Draw your tailbone up, and pull your shoulder blades together as you drop your belly toward the floor, arch your back and lift your chin for the sky (Cow). Then draw your chin to your chest, tuck your tailbone under and press down firmly into your palms to widen your back and round your spine (Cat). Move smoothly and slowly between the poses.
Foam Roller | 15 reps
Lie faceup on top of the foam roller with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Position the roller vertically and directly underneath your spine, neck and head. Extend your arms along your sides with your palms up, reaching your fingers for your feet. Slowly trace your fingers along the floor (or as close as you can get) as you raise your arms in a smooth arc until they come overhead, then slowly return to the start.
Foam Roller | 90 seconds each side
Sit with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, and position the foam roller horizontally behind you. Lean back and then roll down along the roller until it is under your lower back. Place your right arm on the floor and turn slightly to the right, rolling slowly back and forth to massage the muscles.
Thread the Needle
Static Stretch | 30 to 60 seconds each side
Get on all fours with your hands underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips. Thread your left arm underneath your body, palm up, and bend your right elbow as you lower down onto your left shoulder. Keep your hips over your knees as you press into your right palm and slowly open your torso to the right side. Hold and breathe when you feel a deep stretch between your shoulder blades and along your back.