The thoracic spine, or upper back, is an often overlooked area of the body. Many athletes who struggle with overhead lifts have trouble because their upper back is stiff. For individuals with neck and back pain, improving the thoracic spine can also be a great way to help improve symptoms.
If your upper back mobility is lacking, we have four great exercises to help you to start moving better.
Peanut Upper Back Extensions - Peanut upper back extensions are a great way to start mobilizing the upper back. Get the peanut so that one of the balls is on either side of your spine anywhere in the upper back. Keep your abs tight as you raise your arms overhead. Repeat that for several reps before hitting different areas within the upper back.
Bench Stretch - The bench stretch is another great way to stretch the upper back. Kneel in front of a bench and then place your elbows right on the edge. Start with your back rounded slightly and then arch the spine as you bring your chest down towards the floor. Move back and forth between the arched and rounded position to stretch your thoracic spine and your lats at the same time.
Assisted Thoracic Rotations - After mobilizing the upper back, we want to start using that newly unlocked mobility. One great way to do that is with assisted thoracic rotations. For this exercise, you’ll be sitting with your butt on your heels with a resistance band going behind your back and then wrapping around your shoulder. That band will assist you as you actively rotate your upper back.
Sweatt Shrug - Building strength after mobilizing is also an important step. One of the best exercises for that is the Sweatt Shrug where we focus on rounding and extending the upper back before then pulling the shoulder blades together. This builds strength and control on top of the newly opened up mobility.