Simple Thoracic Spine Mobility Exercises Everyone Can Perform

Thoracic spine mobility is an extremely important, and often times overlooked, component to a variety of dysfunctions.  Poor thoracic mobility can affect the shoulder, neck, low back, and hip very easily.  Unfortunately, our daily habits and posture make us all very prone to poor thoracic spine mobility.

I have talked about this before when discussing my reverse posturing theory and when discussing what may be the best posture stretch that I know.  A key component to reverse posturing is working on thoracic spine mobility.

There are many variations of thoracic spine mobility exercises and drills out there on the internet.  Many of them are great, but not for everyone.  Here is a collection of thoracic spine mobility exercises that you can try with your patients and clients.  These are all great example, but at the end I will discuss my preferred technique and a simple thoracic spine mobility exercises that is easy for everyone to perform.  I think it is a great place to start when trying to enhance thoracic spine mobility.

Regardless of which thoracic mobility exercise you chose, there is one major goal that MUST be achieved during all of the different mobility drills:

Mobility must come from the thoracic spine and NOT the lumbar spine

This is critical and the easiest way to turn a nice corrective exercise for the thoracic spine into a mobility drill for the lumbar spine that feeds into the person’s deficiencies.

 

Thoracic Spine Mobility Exercises for Extension

We should start with thoracic spine mobility exercises that work on increasing thoracic spine extension.  Here are a couple of nice examples.

 

Thoracic Spine Mobility Exercise for Extension Using Tennis Balls

Here is a nice example of a simple extension mobilization for the thoracic spine.  In this video, Michael Boyle shows us how he uses two tennis balls to act as a pivot to thoracic extension:

YouTube Preview Image

Nice simple exercise that works on addressing the lack of thoracic spine exercise.  The tennis balls are positioned at various spine segments. A good place to start for many people.

 

Thoracic Spine Mobility Exercise for Extension Against a Wall

Another nice drill that emphasizes thoracic extension can be performed against a wall.  Bill Hartman demonstrates this well:

YouTube Preview Image

 

This is another great option for many people, though may be challenging for someone with tight lats, shoulder issues, or really large restrictions in thoracic mobility.

 

Thoracic Spine Mobility Exercises for Rotation

After we work on thoracic spine extension, we can also focus on thoracic spine rotation mobility.  Here are a couple of examples of good thoracic spine mobility exercises to enhance rotation.

 

Thoracic Spine Mobility Exercises for Rotation in the Seated Position

A simple thoracic mobility drill for rotation can be performed in the seated position.  Here is a nice demonstration by Jeff Cubos:

YouTube Preview Image

 

As you can see, the person is squeezing something between her knees in the seated position.  This is intended to help engage the core and limit the amount of lumbar stability.  This seems really simple but the majority of people with poor thoracic mobility will perform this poorly and rotate from the lumbar spine.  This one really needs to be coached and cued well to assure that technique is perfect, otherwise you will be working the wrong area!  You can see that she does a good job rotating at the thoracic spine with just a small movement, but as we all know, more is usually better in many people’s minds.  Be careful that they don’t go home and just torque their lumbar spine.

Here is another seated drill by Michael Boyle that incorporates rotation and extension:

YouTube Preview Image

 

 

Thoracic Spine Mobility Exercises for Rotation in the Quadruped Position

A very common and popular thoracic spine mobility drill right now on the internet is in the quadruped position.  The quadruped position is used to put the hips in a degree if flexion to minimize the amount of lumbar spine movement.  Here is a great example from Eric Cressey:

YouTube Preview Image

 

Eric does a good job showing his technique.  Lucky for us as the viewer you can see that Eric has some mobility issues that he is working on.  This is a good exercise but challenging for some people to get into the position due to lack of hip flexion mobility.  Realistically the quadruped position is unachievable by some people.  As you can see in Eric’s video, his hip flexion mobility isn’t great, so his hip flexion angle is not as much as it could be and subsequently he can get too much lumbar spine rotation.  This is a great exercise and Eric demonstrates it well.  This can be used in more advanced situations with people that have proper hip mobility and no concerns in the quadruped position.

 

A Simple Program to Work on Both Thoracic Spine Extension and Rotation

 My preferred technique for thoracic spine mobility exercises is actually pretty simple.  I use a foam roll to quickly combine three different drills into one quick program that is in an easily achievable position for many people:

YouTube Preview Image

 

First, I start off with simple foam rolling of the thoracic spine.  I like to start with foam rolling to loosen up the soft tissue of the thoracic spine and reduce and potential spasm or muscle tightness that might limit my joint mobility.  My hands are positioned across my chest to protract and clear my scapulas to allow access to my paraspinals.  This video is a quick demonstration but I take my time with this and usually roll back and forth for about a minute, spending time on whatever area feels the tightest that day.

Next, I will work on extension mobility.  When the thoracic spine is in a flexed position, it is going to be very difficult to achieve rotation, so I want to work on extension first so that my upcoming rotational drills are more effective.  In the video, I demonstrate a technique very similar to Michael Boyle above.  I roll up and down the thoracic spine and try to stop at each vertebral segment and perform a few extension mobilizations.  The foam roll acts as a fulcrum, my lower half (lumbar spine) is stable, and my upper half pivots at the foam roll.  This applies a very specific thoracic spine mobilization that you can focus on individual spine levels.  I will roll up and down about an inch at a time and then work on extension.  Again, the video is a quick demonstration, I will do about 10 extension movements at each segment, but will focus on specific levels as needed.

Lastly, now that we have loosened up the muscles and increased thoracic spine extension, we can work towards increasing rotation.  I again just simply use a foam roll in the same position on the ground.  This allows for a quick progression of drills that you can bang out in sequence with ease.  Similar to the extension mobility drill, I use the foam roll as a fulcrum.  Again, my lower half is stable and my upper half pivots into thoracic rotation at the point of contact of the foam roll, allowing for a specific mobilization at the level of your choice.  I prefer to extend my hands up in front of my face.  I feel that this helps my visualize the amount of rotation achieved.  I instruct people to just rotate your hands one hour on the clock to help them visualize the small amount of movement.  Otherwise, if you are rotating more than that, you are compensating somewhere, likely with lumbar rotation below the fulcrum of the foam roll.  As your mobility improves you can try to focus on rotating and adding a small extension component, similar to Michael Boyle’s drill above.

This series of thoracic spine mobility exercises are usually where I begin with people.  As mobility increases, I use many of the other exercises demonstrated above based on the person’s individual deficits and goals.  There are a lot of options when performing thoracic spine mobility exercises, what else have you found to be effective?

 

 

Opt In Image
Learn More From Mike!
Subscribe to my newsletter now and get these 3 FREE bonuses:
  • My new 1 hour+ webinar "5 Things You Need to Understand to Master Functional Rehab and Performance"
  • My popular 36-page eBook "Solving the Patellofemoral Mystery"
  • My Accelerated Rehab Protocol following ACL Reconstruction

Comment on Facebook

comments

  • http://healthpathtoday.com Christine

    Enjoyed all of these variations – thanks Mike. An alternate version of the quadruped/extension exercise may be done in side lying for some clients/patients as an easier version. Again, as you point out, limiting lumbar movement may be tough to get them to do correctly, but one can try.

  • chng

    i get my clients in deskbound jobs to hold their hand behind their sacrum and retract their shoulders backwards and then pull both hands away from their back. Keeping both scapula retracted, go into a deep neck flexion and progressively flex the neck by rolling the chin down the neck to the chest. You will be able to feel the mobilisation of upper thoracic segments to lower and then back up again. It is important that the client is aware that they don’t move their lumbar into extension.

  • Tim

    Working primarily with an athletic patient population, I’m amazed not only by how many come to me with thoracic restrictions, but also how simply addressing these restrictions can alleviate shoulder pain and dysfunction and help with overall outcomes. Great 3-exercise progression with the foam roll. I like the rationale of rolling first to reduce muscle spasm and relax the tissues that may potentially limit the next two. I often use the quadruped position rotation for a HEP as long as the patient understands “more isn’t necessarily better”. Patients who respond well to manual thoracic mobilizations always ask how they can get the same benefit at home in between visits and once they’re finished with PT, and these are usually what I prescribe. Everyone is very happy with the results. Thank you for sharing.

  • http://www.sportschange.com Matt Swift, DPT, ATC

    I really liked this post. I am constantly trying to address thoracic spine hypomobility. Thanks for the exercises. I mostly use the typical “open book” technique- side lying, top leg flexed with the knee on a medicine ball or foam roll, bottom leg in neutral. Rotate the arms like the end of your three part progression. I am excited to have more tools in my belt for thoracic spine mobility issues.

  • Pingback: Spinalis muscles pain « Community Care ::: Affordable Therapy Collect()

  • Pingback: Rolling spine滾背 « Community Care ::: Affordable Therapy Collect()

  • http://fit2b.us Bethany Learn – Fit2B Studio

    I found this article through Tara on FB, and I enjoyed the read. However, I’m happy to have read the comments because I was going to leave one asking you modify all those crunch moves for post-partum clients with diastasis since crunches and the quadriped position are contra-indicated for those with thin connective tissue and severe separation. Now that I’ve seen all the side lying suggestions, I think those are great! I have many post-partum friends that I wouldn’t trust to send to someone who is hell-bent on using crunch-oriented moves to stabilize their spine. One commenter mentioned having a toolbox, and I’m excited to see that this group seems to have a large wealth of tools for working with all demographics.

  • Pingback: Six Month Update | A Beautiful Collision()

  • Pingback: Thoracic mobility exercises? - Ausbb - Australian BodyBuilding()

  • Barb

    Very interesting! I have a couple of questions.

    I’ve been told I’m mobile t6 and below but a bit more rigid and kyphotic t1-5. Any thoughts? (other than ditching the computer :-)

    Also, in yoga we’re told to follow extensions with rotations (they call them twists). Your layout seems to suggest something similar. Is that intentional?

  • Pingback: Thoracic Exercises « exerguys()

  • Pingback: A Case Against the Shrug()

  • http://www.exercisebasics.net Brandon G. MscPT

    I love your set Mike, it’s a very efficient way to combine all three elements. We have to remember that it will still be a select population that can balance themselves on the foam roller the way you do and be able to maintain the position. Seated or side lying options may be most beneficial to the elderly population.

    • http://www.mikereinold.com Mike Reinold

      That is true, thanks for the input! Sounds like a great guest post and video demo if you want to submit?! :) Email me!

  • Pingback: The Importance of Thoracic Mobility()

  • Lelani Swart

    Hello Mike, very informative post thanks. I have a patient with a motor neuron disease which have progressed quite a lot, his neck extensors is very long and weak and his flexors is very weak which causes him to be in neck flexion most of the time. He uses his thorax to extent his neck and this causes stress on lower back as well. He needs Thoracic spine mobility but this is very difficult as he can not keep his head up and has almost no strength in his arms. Any ideas on how I could go about to increase spine mobility?

  • Pingback: scapula winging /left side weakness. | Mark's Daily Apple Health and Fitness Forum page()

  • Pingback: Αδαμάντινη Μέση : 13 ανανεώσεις και σκέψεις | Souvlaki Fitness()

  • http://fernafagan.buzznet.com/user/journal/17458421/formula-t10-testosterone-booster/ Formula T10 Testosterone Booster

    you are really a just right webmaster. The website loading
    speed is amazing. It sort of feels that you’re doing any unique trick.
    Furthermore, The contents are masterpiece. you have performed a fantastic process on this subject!

  • Pingback: What A Crazy, Busy Wonderful Weekend We Had | Live Fit and Sore()

  • http://Website(optional) nb99

    Great page. I particularly like the Thoracic Spine Mobility Exercise for Extension Against a Wall exercise. Can’t quite see what his legs are doing though? Is he crouched down, knees against the wall? And is he doing anything or just leaning “through” his elbows?

  • http://cheatsemporium.com/addicting-games/ Addicting Games

    Anyhow, I commenced paying out much much
    more and more time celebs like Lady Ga – Ga and
    Usher. When a movie activity usually takes more than, for the subconscious portion of the mind it is as true as real can be.
    In Lovable Catz, you find a cat from the unique breeds,
    identify it, give it enjoys and hates, and consider treatment of it just like the puppies in Pet
    Pupz.

    Here is my blog post – Addicting Games

  • http://mandelaeffiong.com/social_2/social/blog/view/26612/no-hassle-plans-for-watches-luxury-replica-the-options replica watches

    For latest information you have to pay a visit web and on internet I found this web page as a best
    web site for most up-to-date updates.

  • http://serversibm.jouwpagina.eu Servers IBM

    As an enthusiast of information technology encourage all people
    interested in IT at my blog. Downloading of feeling training describe I
    test and I practice different type furniture – using by
    with mobile phones, on extremely HP servers, IMB or Cisco.
    Good relations with distributors accesses allow me to many gear
    lot before the premiere.

  • https://truemerchant.zendesk.com/entries/72563316-Bahasa-Mum-Kills-9-Year-Honest-to-god-Son www

    I’m gone to tell my little brother, that he should also go to see this
    weblog on regular basis to obtain updated from newest news.

  • http://yahoohackerdownload.Blogspot.com/ recover lost yahoo password

    Thanks for your personal marvelous posting! I definitely enjoyed reading it, you can be a great author.I will always bookmark your blog and may come back someday.

    I want to encourage you continue your great writing, have a nice weekend!

    Feel free to surf to my web blog

  • http://juegosdeaeropuertos.com/profile/nofoletta.html Addicting Games

    There is an great button in the navigation bar that will load a activity at random, which is an superb resource for the exceptionally bored man or
    woman who’s keen to test nearly anything at the time.
    It can be practically nothing frustrating however you are going
    to uncover oneself considering initially just before performing
    everything else. World of Warcraft (BLIZZARD) This recreation will
    choose hrs out of your lifespan just by the
    sheer written content by itself.

    Feel free to visit my blog post :: Addicting Games

  • http://www.francofoot.net/profile.php?mode=viewprofile&u=419155 Addicting Games

    The video game is introduced in supreme 3D graphics and an astounding 7.

    Below, the best online games (and the worst) are showcased to the Newgrounds buyers to vote on. t even like this human being when we initially fulfill
    them, but we permit this lesson into our life in any case.

    my site … Addicting Games

  • http://www.icac.org.pe/?p=239 diet herbalife sukses

    Ԍreat information. Luckky me I recently found your blog bƄy cɦance (stumbleupon).
    I’ve book marked it fօr later!

    My blog post diet herbalife sukses

  • http://www.wonderfulwaterloo.com/member.php?u=71204 www.wonderfulwaterloo.com

    I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my own bog and
    was curious what all is required to get setup?
    I’m assuming having a blog like yours would cost a
    pretty penny? I’m noot very web savvy so I’m not 100% sure.
    Any suggestions or advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Cheers

  • http://jensentrap.tumblr.com אקפוץ לבחורים האלה

    If you are going for best contents like I do, just visit this website daily since it presents feature contents, thanks

    Feel free to surf to my web page אקפוץ לבחורים האלה

  • http://cfaille.blogspot.com/2008/03/thinking-about-thaksin.html daftar harga herbalife terbaru

    Excellent blog here! Also your web site loads up
    very fast! What web host are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to your
    host? I wish my web site loaded up as quickly as yours
    lol

  • http://www.xzsports.com.tw/mozaix25/index.php/k2-mozaix/k2-store/item/350-ac-metus-et-gravida-etiam-risus Http://Www.Nouvelletriche.Com/Hay-Day-Hack-Triche-Astuce/

    It has, so far, commanded a huge population of online players,
    very intent on their game. Second, typically every single day good care
    of that knee. You will get a genuine feel for the person on the
    other end by doing so.

  • http://www.sceltic.at/index.php?mod=users&action=view&id=22063 Marrakech riad opal recensioni

    In the class, I will focus on innovative programs at the riad
    marrakech morocco origins university level throughout the
    African continent $10. But she warned that this must not be done under pressure or in haste,
    which left activists uneasy.

    Here is my blog – Marrakech riad opal recensioni

  • http://imgur.com/TvT7yT1 eczema free forever

    You can definitely see yiur expertise in the article you
    write. The world hopes for even more passionate writers such
    as you who aren’t afraid to ssay how they believe.
    Always go after yoir heart.

  • http://deshawnkupc.blog.com/2014/07/24/kdyz-nic-stane/ Georgiana

    Jistě si Seznamku také oblíbítе, vaše láska а nový vztah
    sse třeba skrývá mezi našimi profily. Chatovací místnosti lzee využívat zdarma,
    tak ѕi tuto nabídku na dobrodružství a free sex nenechte proklouznout mezi prsty.
    Chat je dobrým zpusobem, jak se s nekým blížе seznámit pred tím, než prijde samotná erotika – mužete se bavit ο cem
    chcete, vést sexy rozhovory а mužete dokonce і použít webcameru, abyste se ujistili,že na
    ʝе na druhém konci ten, kdo si myslítе.

  • http://vimeo.com/74021257 Meir Ezra Coaching

    Saban has some talent coming, and nothing beats talent when talent
    shows up to play. Lanson visits a premier
    fashion meeting by Ye Fei Hong’s magazine editor. To get ready for this exam a number of options can be viewed
    as reference books will be the most basic way for this exam preparation.

  • https://Www.Youtube.com/watch?v=1RET834opW8 Terri

    Hi colleagues, how is everything, and what you wish for to say concerning this piece of writing, in my view its truly
    awesome in support of me.

    Feel free to surf to my weblog … after effects (Terri)

  • http://www.nexopia.com/users/psppet62/blog/2-play-your-next-video-game-wisely-after-you-read-this-article Casey

    I was wondering if you ever considered changing the structure of your blog?
    Its very well written; I love what youve got to say. But maybe
    you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it
    better. Youve got an awful lot of text for only having one or two images.
    Maybe you could space it out better?

    My blog post house (Casey)

  • http://ca.linkedin.com/pub/dir/Alex/Ber A .Ber

    Valuable information. Lucky me I discovered your website by accident, and I am shocked why this twist of fate didn’t took place earlier!

    I bookmarked it.

  • http://spanishfly3aug.myownperfectsite.com/information-and-facts-relating-to-spanish-fly-rediscover-your-intercourse-life/ spanish fly

    I got this site from my pal who informed me
    concerning this website and at the moment this time I am browsing this web page and reading very informative content here.

  • http://peterwalsh.org.au/_blog/Media_Releases/post/local-crime-prevention-grants-supports-a-safer-community-in-gannawarra-shire/ peterwalsh.org.au

    Most of the custom-made articles, as well as resulting to a game title along with cutting edge data with a frequent justification, also result in either The best security with all the Ancients and also Crew linked to Tales.
    She didn’t care if they never had sex, they betrayed her
    emotionally. A one-time transaction of $27 gets you a life time membership to The City – Ville Club exactly where you’ll access everything you should know to have rich quick
    in City – Ville.

  • http://www.lintas.me/news/nasional/smeaker.com/bbm-tak-akan-naik-hingga-pemerintahan-sby- source

    Bila anda ngak menjumpai fitur-fitur tersebut di atas, lalu
    anda sebaiknya waspada terhadap situs tersebut dan web tersebut bukanlah agen bola terbaik
    yang pantas dipilih. Due to Roosevelt, most Americans believe
    government has a role in helping people. A Japan Air Lines DC-8 crashed in 1982 during the captain’s unsuccessful suicide attempt.

  • http://www.amazon.com/Avraham-Ben-Meir-Ibn-Ezra/e/B00J8GQQBY Meir Ezra investing business

    To maintain focus and interest with the coachee to be able to bring within their consciousness items that otherwise may not be apparent.

    Many tangible and intangible factors go into the decision making process when getting a consultant.
    A blog pings a directory of service to help the post get crawled
    and recognized through the search engines.

  • https://Www.Youtube.com/watch?v=WXuvTI-cTl0 After Effects tutorial

    You can definitely see your enthusiasm within the work you
    write. The arena hopes for even more passionate writers such as you
    who are not afraid to say how they believe. At all times go after your
    heart.

    Also visit my web page – After Effects tutorial

  • http://volcano-ecigs-reviews.ohiosmokefreehousing.com/polypropylene-glycol-physical-properties_spot_hecplisimpx.htm v2 electronic cigarette cartridges

    Magnificent goods from you, man. I have understand your stuff previous to and you are just extremely wonderful.
    I really like what you have acquired here, certainly like what you’re saying and the way in which you say it.
    You make it enjoyable and you still care for to keep it wise.
    I can not wait to read far more from you. This is really a wonderful site.

  • http://www.broadatonediamccanai.com revere ma

    Hi i am kavin, its my first occasion to commenting anyplace,
    when i read this post i thought i could also make comment due to this good article.

  • Pingback: Κατασκευή προγράμματος : Αποθεραπεία | Souvlaki Fitness()

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__e1CevdwsM dota 2 videos

    Link exchange is nothing else however it is just placing the other person’s website link on your page at suitable place and other person will also do similar in favor of you.