Summer Sixteen. Time to Fix Yourself-Part 3

Thoracic Extension and a Healthy Upper Back.

Okay, what the heck is a “thoracic” and why do you need to be worried about it? Your thoracic spine is basically everything in between the bottom of your neck and the bottom of your ribcage. Full function of the thoracic is the last, and sometimes the most important, part of good overall shoulder health. If you have missed the previous two articles, now would be an opportune time to review. The first article covered the hips and how hips that work well are a prerequisite to pain-free movement. The second article was a progression of the first, in which we discussed what good shoulder function looked like with a sound foundation at the hips.

The thoracic spine

So you’ve followed the first two articles and are still having trouble? Then this article is for you. The thoracic spine is especially important to us, as CrossFit-ers, because it houses the shoulder blades, and CrossFit loves to press and pull overhead. If you cannot extend at your thoracic spine, it can limit basically any movement that requires your arms to go over your head. Your shoulders are only designed to move so far, and in order to achieve a proper overhead position, the shoulders rely on the thoracic spine to finish the job. You like pull-ups, or snatches, or handstand pushups? Want to gain or maintain the ability to do them? Keep reading.

An example of a shoulder that has full range of motion but is limited by a lack of range of motion at the thoracic. Anybody’s push press look like this?

Alright, so how do you begin to look more like the first picture and less like the second? Here we go.

Start with breathing. And really breathing, not gasping breaths through your chest. I’m talking about deep, full breaths through your belly. Focusing on this proper breathing is like stretching from the inside out. Below are a few examples:

I know this may seem silly or overly simple. Try it anyway. I promise this is much more challenging than it looks.

Next tool to utilize is everybody’s favorite…the foam roller.

*skip to 2:30*

Pick one of these four drills and give your thoracic spine 5–10 minutes of love every day and watch how much better your shoulders function. Until next time…