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4 Favorite Healthy-Spine Thoracic Openers

My favorite kind of torture is opening up the shoulders and thoracic spine. And, of course, I mean torture in the most beneficial sense of the word.

Thoracic immobility is a major problem for many people, including us fitness types. Chances are that you find yourself hunched over your trusty laptop at least once per day. Over time this can lead to a more permanent rounding of the spine called kyphosis, which is not only unsightly, but can also lead to a host of other issues and discomfort.

Check out some of my favorite thoracic opening moves below and I encourage you to start adding these in to your daily routine.

Thoracic Extension with Foam Roller:

As I exhale, I extend over the foam roller. I run through this a few times, and then move into overhead reach, using the barbell as a grip. The goal is to move the hands as close together as possible during upward scapular rotation. Note that my ribs stay down and aligned with my pelvis.

This second position is advanced, so ease into it, especially if you have limited movement in the upper back or shoulder issues.


Try This:

Stick a yoga block between your forearms and place your elbows as close as you comfortably can in this position. Sit into a nice deep hip hinge as you move the block behind the head. Drop the head between your arms.

The goal here is to press the chest to the floor while getting as much elbow flex ion as you can. I like to time my breathe, going into thoracic flexion with the inhale and pressing into extension on the exhale.


 Thoracic Extension Drill for Squats & Deadlifts:


I love this thoracic extension drill to warm-up for squats and deadlifts (or anything really). I run through it four times. The first two times I sit back deep in the hips and as I move into deeper hip flexion, I sink my chest into the floor.

The third and fourth round I add the component of depressing the scapula as I sink into hip flexion and thoracic extension.

Notice with each rep I move my arms closer together. This is also an option if you have decent forward flexion in the shoulders.


Backbend with Medicine Ball (or Basketball) - Advanced:

I've been working on my back bend and thought no better way to control opening up the thoracic spine than with a medicine ball.

I definitely can't cheat on this one since it requires nice, fluid movement. I'm using a 15 lbs medicine ball, but any type of ball can work here.

The trick is to lead the movement by dropping the head first, followed by the chest, eventually moving into the lumbar spine. The medicine ball forces me to brace my core and control scapular movement.

This is killer. Be careful as it requires a great deal of shoulder strength. If you don't feel secure using a weight, grab a basketball or something similar.


Have a question about these or other mobility exercises?  Send me a shout!

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