Thoracic spine mobility is vital to optimal performance and execution of the overhead lifts, such as the snatch or overhead squat. But proper mobility requires more than just stretching the joints. It demands active control and stability throughout the full range of motion.
Use the following drills to not only improve your thoracic spine mobility but to help you own your full thoracic spine position and set PRs under the barbell.
For a full thoracic spine mobility plan, check out my THORACIC MOBILITY OVERHAUL PROGRAM.
Advanced Thoracic Spine Mobility Drills
Sidelying Kettlebell Arm Bar
As if the kettlebell isn’t a great enough training tool already, it can do wonders for your thoracic spine mobility and strength. Start supine with a straight kettlebell overhead in one arm. Bend up the same side leg as the arm stabilizing the kettlebell and push over onto the opposite side. Keeping your top leg flexed and flat on the floor, slowly allow the shoulder of the arm stabilizing the kettlebell to drop down to the floor behind you. Paused in a restricted range before pressing back to the start position. Pro tip: exhale as the shoulder reaches for an increased range of motion and thoracic mobility.
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Supine 90/90 Overhead Y’s
Start lying on your back with your legs and feet elevated to the 90/90 position to maintain a neutral lumbar spine. Keep your ribcage pulled down by thinking of pushing your low back into the floor. Use resistance bands as you move into an overhead position. Hold this overhead position for 3-5 seconds to build strength in the end range before repeating.
Quadruped Reach & Rotate
A slight twist to a traditional thoracic spine mobility assessment. Adding a resistance band for assisted and resisted rotation can take your thoracic mobility to the next level. Be sure to sit back on your heels to maintain lumbar position. Pro tip: try leading with your eyes during upward rotation to gain an additional bit of thoracic motion.
Quadruped Rotation with Band Assist
Inverse to the previous exercise, this modification adds slight assistance with upward rotation by anchoring on the opposite shoulder, while providing resistance to the downward thoracic rotation. Stay rocked back on your heels with your hand comfortably on your low back. If you liked the previous drill, you’re sure to love this one.
Sidelying Open Book with Resistance
A great drill for gaining end range segmental rotation through the upper thoracic spine. Start on your side facing the resistance band with your top leg in a flexed position. Beginning with your arm vertical, reach out and towards the floor behind you in a slow and controlled fashion while maintaining contact with the floor with your opposite arm and leg. Pause slightly as your stake claim in this position before repeating 10-15 times to leave no doubt.
If you’ve tried smashing and rolling your thoracic spine, but it’s not carrying over to your lifts, substitute in a few of these drills instead. Control and own your positions. Shoot me a message and let me know how they go!
If you want serious help with your thoracic mobility, check out this program:
Mitch Babcock is a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree at HealthHQ and CrossFit Fenton in Michigan. With a passion for all things training, he aims to give people better information to improve their fitness, health, movement, and performance.