Thoracic Mobility: Top 3 Exercises For Improving Midback Stiffness
Updated: Sep 8
We've all probably been there...you spend all day sitting at the computer, working away, before you realize it's been 6 hours since you moved. You tell yourself you'll be better tomorrow, and then tomorrow comes, and you rinse and repeat. It's tough to break out of old habits.
Our bodies are made to move-not to be stationary. When we sit in one position for a long time, things start to stiffen up. Most of us end up with stiffness in our midback because many of our daily activities have the same rounded midback positioning- sitting at a desk, driving in our car, sitting on the couch looking at our phones. It's not necessarily bad to find yourself in that position-it just becomes problematic when we spend SO MUCH of the day in that position.
Stiffness in the midback can limit overhead mobility, as well as contribute to low back pain. Aside from setting an alarm on your phone to remind you to get up and move a bit, what can you do to loosen up that stiffness? Here are my top three exercises to address thoracic stiffness:
Sidelying Trunk Rotation:
Lay on your side, with arms extended straight out. Think about a book, as you rotate your top arm and "open" up through your chest. Your nose should follow your top hand while you do this exercise. Don't just move your arm-think about the back of your shoulder leading the movement so you get good rotation through your midback!
Foam Roll Thoracic Extension
Lay on your back, with a foam roll positioned at your midback, with your feet on the wall (this will help minimize any compensatory movement through your low back). If you have one, hold a weight like a kettlebell behind your neck. If not, interlace your fingers behind your neck and bring your elbows together to decrease your neck compensating for movement. Let the weight, either of the kettlebell or your head, gently pull you over the foam roll. You should feel this in your midback-not your neck or low back.
Squat Thoracic Rotations
This one is a little more challenging than the last two, but if you are someone who needs overhead mobility in a squat position (weightlifters, for example), this is a great exercise to work on midback mobility in a specific position. Drop down into a low squat. Trying to keep your chest as upright as possible, and your elbow straight, rotate one arm out, following your hand with your nose (similar to the first exercise). Repeat to the other side.