Quadruped Extension Rotation
Kneel on all fours. Lift and bend your left arm and place your left hand on the back of your head. Now twist your torso to the right so that your left elbow swivels toward your right arm, which should be kept straight. Now rotate back toward the starting position, but go a bit farther, so that your eyes are directed toward the wall to your left. Be careful not to rotate from the hips — all of the movement should come from your mid-back. Complete 12 rotations and then reverse your arm positions and rotate the opposite way.
Stabilize Your Lumbar Spine
An immobile thoracic spine does not occur in isolation. It’s almost always coupled with inadequate stability in the lumbar spine. Michael Boyle, CSCS, a Massachusetts-based strength-and-conditioning coach, recommends this exercise to increase lumbar stability.
Lie on your right side with your legs fully extended and stacked, and your right arm bent 90 degrees with your forearm on the floor. Lift your hips until your body forms a straight line from your neck to your ankles, with your weight on your forearm. You may do this exercise in front of a mirror to make sure your hips don’t sag toward the floor. Hold the bridge position for two or three 10-second increments and then switch sides. Do this exercise two or three times per week, and try to work up to 40 seconds total in 10-second bouts per side.
Assess Your Mid-Back Mobility
Only a physical therapist can accurately determine whether your thoracic spine lacks sufficient mobility, but there are a couple of simple self-tests that will give you an indication.
First, raise your arms straight overhead. “If your thoracic spine is stiff, it won’t be able to extend fully, and you won’t be able to get your biceps by your ears,” says Michael Boyle, CSCS, editor of www.strengthcoach.com. Your shoulders may feel restricted or even painful as you try, and you might also find yourself arching your lower back to make up for the stiffness in your mid-back.
Eric Cressey, CSCS, owner of Cressey Performance Training Center in Hudson, Mass., suggests a second self-test. “Standing normally, have somebody take a picture of you from the side,” he says. “You should be able to draw a straight, vertical line from your ear to the lateral aspect [the bony protrusion on the outside] of your ankle. If you see a lot of deviations of your spine on one side or the other of that line, you’ll know you’re dealing with a postural imbalance that very likely includes a lack of thoracic spine mobility.”
Matt Fitzgerald is a running and triathlon expert and the author of several books, including Maximum Strength (Da Capo, 2008) with Eric Cressey.