Here are a few brief clips demonstrating movements to enhance thoracic spine extension, mobility, and shoulder strength. Over the years I have written a number of in-depth blogs regarding shoulder function and development so feel free and use the search tool for more details. Sometimes we simply need to move our body through a variety of planes and discover what relieves tension and enhances motion. Perhaps it is my island mind-set that encourages my less rules, more movement philosophy! Focus on your breathwork, full, deep inhales and exhales, as well as being aware of the position of the shoulders. Are the shoulders attached to your ears or drawn lightly down your back with width of the shoulder blades? As always, I value the gentle neck ramping movement, draw the chin lightly back to create length and strength through the back of the neck. Keep in mind though, if you just need to let your head fall through your arms in gentle flexion to relieve tension, that is fine too! Play with it!
These are gentle joint oscillations in flexion over a half foam roller. The roller provides gentle pressure to joint segments between the thoracic vertebrae. This movement helps to lessen tension. Although it resembles a curl-up, the emphasis is on lightly curling and relaxing back toward neutral or slight thoracic extension. Begin around the mid-ribcage and work up toward the shoulder blades. As always, these are simply movements that have been helpful for me through the years...they may or may not be suitable for you. Explore and question how they feel to your body. This is a great exercise to emphasize a tummy vacuum on the exhale. Exhale as you lightly lift and sink your abdominals toward your backbone; inhale as you return to neutral. Check that your abdominals are pulling in on your exhale and seek to avoid the "pooching" or "doming" of the abs.
After you release tension through the mid back/thoracic region, then we need to build some strength. Can you lift your face and chest sequentially away from the ball without flaring the ribs or over-using the low back? This segmental mobility from head to tail is healthy for the spine as the spine is designed to move in both directions rather than get stuck and fixed in one position. Move slowly and mindfully and keep thinking "reach" through the crown of the head. Finally, if you have sustained endurance to maintain extension of the upper thoracic spine, test if you can maintain the length and add shoulder movements like Y's, T's, W's and I's. (p.s. there was a gentleman in the gym watching soap operas while walking on the treadmill. I don't think I successfully eliminated the background noise. Just turn down your volume! This tech stuff does not come easy for me!) Thanks for reading.