Happy New Year everyone! I have for you the much awaited second part of thoracic mobility. If you haven’t had a chance to ready part one you can do so here. This post is packed full of video explanations with several variations for beginners and those who are more advanced.
In part 1 I discussed the importance of postural awareness and releasing areas of tension around the shoulder and upper paraspinal muscles. Once areas of tension have been released you can complete simple drills to further facilitate mobility. Lastly, it is important to reinforce this mobility you create with appropriate stabilzation exercises.
1. Side Lying Rib grab
This exercise helps to improve thoracic rotation and shoulder mobility. This is a good starting exercise if your a beginner as it is usually quite tolerable and it also gets you to incorporate your breathing into the drill (which is extremely important and often forgotten). Lay on floor in a side lying position, flex the top hip to 90 degrees and support the knee with a foam roll. The head is supported by a block or cushion. Reach under your ribs with the top hand. Begin rotating your top shoulder to the floor and pull the ribs in the direction you are rotating. Maintain contact between the knee and the foam roll and return to the starting position. Complete 5-10 pulls on each side.
2. Side Lying Rotation with Arm Reach
This exercise is slightly more advanced than the rib pull as you need to have adequate shoulder flexion, adbduction, and external rotation to get into the proper position. It helps to improve thoracic rotation as well as provided a static stretch of the assossiated pectoral and lat musculature. Use the same starting position as above; however, once you’ve rotated your top shoulder to the floor, reach top arm out at about a 45 degree angle so that you feel a comforatable stretch around your shoulder. Lift bottom arm up, take a breath, exhale as you lower arm back to starting position. Complete 10-15 lifts on each side.
3. Thoracic Rotation Combo
This drill can be used once you have mastered the above two drills. It involves 5 rib grabs, followed by 10 arm lifts, finishing with 5 arm swoops.
4. Wall Sit with shoulder Flexion
This exercise is good for those with limitations with their shoulder mobility. If you lack shoulder flexion, external rotation, and/or shoulder abduction that this exercise is for you. Just make sure to work in a comfortable range to avoid compensation. Sit the sacrum in contact with the wall and the lumbar spine flat against the wall. Knees and hips are flexed with feet together; foam rolls can be added to reduce the amount of the stretch. Cup the end of a dowel with one hand and gently assist that arm to the wall with the other. Your head and opposite shoulder should rotate to the arm against the wall. I normally get people to complete 2 sets of 10 reps, making sure to hold in end position for 1 breath.
5. Wall sit with shoulder Press
This exercise is a progression for the wall sit with shoulder flexion. Use the same starting position as above except place the dowel over the head with the elbows in the 90/90 position. Press the dowel over-head while the elbow, forearm, sacrum, and lumbar spine maintain contact with the wall. This exercise is a mobilty exercise as it helps to improve thoracic extension and shoulder mobility but is also a stability exercise. You will feel the muscles of your upper back engage and they fatigue quite easily at first. I normally recommend that people complete 30 presses but take a rest as needed. Watch for shoulder shrugging and hyperextension of the neck.
The above drills can be used a the start of a workout but can also be incorporated into a strength training session. I will often get my clients to do a mobility drill or patterning exercise during a rest interval. It is an effective way to add in corrective exercises as most often the corrective exercises are the most needed but often the most boring!
That is all for today! I will save strengthening exercises for the lower trapezius, serratus anterior muscles for my next post!