We sit hunched over our computers, texting on our phones…heck even sitting in the car…
And this forward flexion can cause imbalances and compensations that lead to injury. It causes some muscles to become tight and overactive and others to become underactive, which can result in mobility restrictions.
It can cause our spinal extension to become limited, especially our thoracic extension. And this can cause neck, shoulder and even LOWER BACK aches and pains.
These 4 moves will help you loosen tight muscles, improve your thoracic extension and activate the muscles of your upper back to prevent injury!
4 Must-Do Exercises To Improve Your Thoracic Extension:
Exercise #1: Peanut Foam Rolling
A great way to reverse the constant hunch and relax tight or overactive muscles so you can get the correct muscles working is to start with foam rolling.
The peanut is the perfect tool to help you work on relaxing those muscles along your spine as you put your spine into extension.
This move can also help you to stretch your chest and release any trigger points even in your rhomboids that may be causing neck or upper back aches and pains.
To do the Peanut Foam Rolling for your thoracic spine, you will place the Peanut in your mid-back while lying on your back on the ground with a ball of the peanut on each side of your spine.
Bend your knees and place your heels on the ground. Then cross your hands over your chest and relax back over the Peanut. Relaxing over the Peanut, extend your arms up overhead.
Swing your arms down and out to the side, as if making a snow angel, before bending them to cross them over your chest again.
Then crunch your upper body up, tensing the muscles of your back. Do not crunch up off the Peanut. You simply want to tighten the muscles before you relax back over the Peanut.
By “crunching up” and contracting the muscles, you can help the muscles release when you relax back over the Peanut.
As you work up your back, moving the peanut up toward your shoulders, perform a few crunches and extensions in each spot.
As you relax over each time, reach your hands overhead or even make “snow angels” with your arms, sweeping them along the ground and overhead before bringing them back down by your sides and finally back across your chest.
If you need to support your neck, you can simply place your hands behind your head as you extend over and think about opening your elbows at wide as you relax over.
To hit your rhomboids more, you may tuck your elbows together then open them out wide instead of crunching even while rolling out between your shoulder blades.
Exercise #2: Active Foam Roller Star Stretch
Improve your spinal mobility and relax your lower back as you also stretch your chest and glutes with this great active stretch to include prior to your workouts or as part of your cool down to prepare your body for work the next day.
It is the perfect move to include after sitting hunched over a computer all day so that you can make sure you don’t end up with neck, shoulder or lower back aches and pains!
To do the Active Foam Roller Star Stretch, grab a foam roller or block that you can place on the ground under your knee. Start by lying on your back with the roller running parallel to your body and about the middle at waist height. Bend your knee, on the side furthest from the roller, and bring it up toward your chest so that your hip is bent to about 90 degrees.
Take the hand on the same side as the roller and reach across to the outside of that knee and pull your knee across your body to place it on the roller. Hold your knee down on the roller and even relax your lower leg down on it. You will want to keep your knee on the roller even if you do roll forward or backward a bit on it. Just don’t let the knee come up off of it.
Place your other hand behind your head so your elbow is open and out. Rotate to bring that elbow down on the ground by your opposite shoulder. Don’t just flap your arm but actually rotate your body.
Then lift the elbow up and rotate your chest back open toward the ceiling as you try to touch your shoulder and that elbow back down on the ground. You are trying to rotate as open as you can, twisting through your spine without letting your knee come up off the roller. Open up, pause and then rotate back closed. Repeat all reps on one side before switching.
Exercise #3: Downward Dog to Upward Dog
This is not only a great stretch to open up your chest, lats, but will even stretch your hips while working on your spinal extension.
It’s a great way to reverse the constant sitting and perfect to include before your upper body or full body workouts.
The Downward Dog to Upward Dog will also help you improve your shoulder mobility and health!
To do Downward Dog to Upward Dog, start in the high plank position with your hands under your shoulders and feet about hip-width apart.
Then push back into downward dog. Drive your chest back toward your legs and lift your butt up toward the ceiling as you drive your heels down. Feel your hamstrings stretch as you extend your spine too. Drive through your palm and even your thumb and index finger instead of rocking out on your hand.
Then come back forward into the plank position and drop your hips toward the ground as you shift onto the tops of your feet. As you drop your hips, arch your spine, opening your chest up toward the ceiling. Do not shrug your shoulders.
Pause then come back into plank and shift back into downward dog. Like the divebomber but without focusing on the strengthe element of sneaking under to come forward.
Exercise #4: Lying W Pulldowns
Activate the muscles of your upper back and shoulder to help improve your posture and maintain the thoracic extension you’re working hard to improve with the foam rolling and stretching.
If you don’t also get the correct muscles working, you’ll keep compensating and things will continue to just tighten right back up no matter how much you stretch.
Activation is that often overlooked, but oh so essential piece if we want to make sure the correct muscles are working during our lifts!
This move is a great way to improve your scapular mobility while activating your lats and the muscles of your upper back. Plus it doesn’t allow your spine to be in flexion as you work to activate your back!
To do W Lying Pull Downs, lie face down on the ground and engage your upper back just enough so that your face isn’t flat on the ground. Pull your elbows down and in and lift your arms off the ground with your hands in by your shoulders like you’ve pulled your chest up to the bar in a pull up.
You want to make a W with your arms and your hands should be palms down at shoulder height. Feel the backs of your shoulders and your upper back lift your arms off the ground and pull your elbows down.
Then, keeping your hands off the ground, extend your arms straight out toward the wall in front of you. Reach out overhead the bring your hands back down and in. Move slowly, keeping your hands off the ground. Feel your back keep your arms off the ground as you extend and even feel your lats pull your elbows back down and in.
Prevent Injury AND Build A Strong, Sexy Upper Body…
Foam rolling, stretching, and activation are ESSENTIAL if you want to reverse the postural distortions we create with our modern lifestyle.
But they are often the pieces we skip in favor of the lifting and cardio that we feel are more “worthwhile.”
However, with a proper routine that includes those three pieces as well as the STRENGTHENING element, you can not only avoid injury, but also build strong, sexy arms and shoulders!
Learn more about my Arm Burner System!