As some of you know, I struggle with upper thoracic mobility, so what better topic for me to write about right?
So what exactly is “upper thoracic mobility”? Let’s break it down.
Our Upper thoracic ranges from the base of the neck and top of the scapula (shoulder blade) to the bottom of the ribcage. (Shown in picture above, highlighted in orange) Mobility is defined as the ability to move or be moved freely and easily. So being able to move freely in our upper back/neck region is great for us Crossfitters right? Right! We always want to be as limber as possible, because being stiff and sometimes even in pain is no fun. We need to be ready for anything that comes our way, and being stiff and immobile hinders that.
As coaches we see the end results of poor thoracic mobility manifest in issues with the overhead squat, front squat, all the pressing movements including hand stands, thrusters, snatch, wall balls, pull-ups, and others. Or ,even worse, we see the end result of poor thoracic mobility manifest in an injury. (Typically in the shoulder) So pretty much anything taken over head, or in the front rack, and most pushing and pulling movements can be deeply affected by the mobility, or lack of, in your thoracic spine. Personally, I really feel it, and can tell that I need work, when I squat with weight or am doing thrusters.
So how do we address our mobility issues?
Well I’m glad you asked!
There are a lot of different things that we can do to help us get better range of motion in this area. The tools I will use are a foam roller, lacrosse ball, a double lacrosse ball and a rubber bumper plate.
To begin, Grab your roller and wrap your arms around your chest and position the roller at the base of your rib cage. Stay tight, keep that “hugging position”, and extend over the roller by arching back. If you find a spot that feels tight/ knotted up, then spend some time on that spot. You’ll want to work that spot until you feel relief (arch over the roller as many times as it takes). When you feel it is time to move on, move up the back, and continue working as you did previously. As you get closer to the upper back, squeeze your butt and elevate your hips for more extension in the upper back. You can also “smash” side to side and roll out each side individually in that same hugging position. There is really no right or wrong way as long as you are in the hugging position and SLOWLY working up the back and concentrating on problem areas that you find along the way. If you need a little more intense therapy, grab a lacrosse ball (or double lacrosse ball, my favorite) and do the same movement. The lacrosse ball is harder and much smaller, which will allow it to get much deeper into the muscle and really, REALLY work those kinks out. Nothing like a deep tissue massage right? You can also extend your arms over head (hands touching, palms towards ceiling but not clasped together and elbows straight) for a different variation. Like I said you can’t really go wrong with it. Feel free to also grab a plate and set it on your chest (right over where the ball is positioned under your back) to make it even more intense!
Doing this regularly, you will begin to notice a difference in your overhead position and hopefully will feel much more comfortable when training.
Here are a couple videos explaining the above:
BETTER UPPER BACK EXTENSION-IZER | FEAT. KELLY STARRETT | MOBILITYWOD
T-SPINE SMASH (THORACIC SPINE/UPPER BACK
As always, if you have any questions or concerns, feel free to get with me at the box or shoot me an email and I would be happy to help! Maybe we could roll out together some time!
Thanks for reading!