Many of my clients exhibit thoracic kyphosis and limited extension. The inability to get into full extension can cause shoulder impingement, neck/back pain and overuse conditions. Due to the amount of time spent on a pc these days, gravity tends to work agains people accentuating poor posture and leading to postural imbalances. This exercise can help improve mobility and posture.
Execution: Begin in a supine position on the floor with a foam roller just below the bottom of the shoulder blades (T7 level). Place both hands behind the head/neck with the elbows pointing toward the ceiling. The knees should be bend and the butt firmly on the ground. Next, retract the cervical spine by pulling the chin light back (double chin maneuver) and then extend the upper back over the foam roller in a slow deliberate manner.
Pause at end range for 1 second, and then return to the start position. Remember to keep the butt on the ground at all times. The cadence should be close to 3/1/1 or even 3/1/2 with an emphasis on a slower descent. At no time should this cause any strain on the neck, back or shoulders. Do not force the motion through a restriction. Perform 1-2 sets of 10 repetitions.
Application: This is an excellent exercise that can be incorporated daily to improve posture, thoracic spine extension and reduce shoulder injury risk. Common issues in tennis players, throwers, volleyball players and those performing overhead lifts include subacromial and internal impingement. Poor thoracic spine extension can also lead to undue stress on the lumbar spine as it will compensate for limited t-spine mobility.
This is a ‘go-to’ exercise for all my overhead athletes and weight lifters. The roller can be moved lower than T7 to facilitate more specific segmental mobility as desired, keeping in mind greater motion occurs at T7 and below. This exercise is also a good primer for other scapular activation exercises such as I, T and Y exercises and snow angels.