Thoracic Mobility Drill Gone Bad (OOPS!)

What’s up, guys? Jeff Cavaliere, If you’re going to do any overhead pressing
movement, or have any exercise done with your arms full overhead you’re going to need
shoulder mobility, yes, but it’s not going to be enough alone. You need to have thoracic mobility. You need, more specifically, the ability to
extend through your thoracic spine. As a matter of fact, even a healthy shoulder
is only going to give you 165 degrees of flexion here, in front of your body. In order to get all the way up to 180 you’re
going to need to have 15 degrees of thoracic extension. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but a lot of
have lost it because we have this rounded, forward posture. Shoulders forward posture from all the things
we do during the day. all the time spent at the computer, driving,
whatever we do that’s exactly opposite of the motion we need. We need to go backward. So we can do that with a foam roller here,
but you’ve got to make sure you’re avoiding some of the big mistakes that I see people
make all the time when they’re trying to do this. They think they’re mobilizing their thoracic
spine, but they’re not. First mistake is, people do it like this. They lay over the top of the foam roller,
they put their arms here, behind their to support their neck – which is not a bad
thing, especially if you have a weak neck – but what you’ve done by doing this is
pretty much locked off exposure and access to your thoracic spine. When I do this, I’ve retracted my shoulder
blades. So now my shoulder blades are actually sitting
a little bit lower than my thoracic spine, and I’m not even getting to it. I’m not even getting to the point where
I can mobilize the spine. So, what we want to do is actually the opposite. You want to be able to get your arms out in
front of you, retract your shoulder blades, get them away – out and away – so the
lowest point is now the thoracic spine. So, I can actually get at it, and work at
it. Some people can even cross their arms. I’ve even had success sometimes with people
who can’t get this, by hanging two bands from a pullup bar, and having them grab the
bands. So, I know it’s pulling their arms up, and
into extension. So now that we’ve gotten at the thoracic
spine, the next mistake you want to avoid is just rolling back and forth over it like
this. What this tends to do is, first of all, create
contraction from your abs. As soon as I’m contracting here from my
abs I’ve stabilized my spine, and I’m not allowing it to actually bend over, into
extension. So, what you want to do is drop your hips
down, get the abs out of it, just try to work on that area of the spine that’s tight. So, once I’ve defined it, I’ve got my
arms up in front of me, and I get myself right on that tight spot, and just allow myself
to sink back. Right on that spot. I can work it with a little bit of a roll,
back and forth, right on that tight spot. I should be able to feel it. What you can do is, once you’ve found that
tight spot, and you’ve got your arms up, over here, now once you’ve mobilized it
for about a minute or so. You can then start to allow your arms to go
back, back, back, back, into the position they’ll be, into overhead extension. So, we’ve got our arms up, overhead into
that 180, and if I had a bar over my head I’d feel pretty damn good at this point. So that’s the position you want to work
yourself in. There’s another thing we can do here to
mobilize the thoracic spine. We don’t even need a foam roller. What we can do is come over to a bench, and
I like this one because it actually gives us two benefits. It gives us a chance to mobilize the thoracic
spine, but also stretch out your lats. One of the biggest problems we have is tight
lats. Tight lats will prevent our arms from going
up, and over our head. So, you put your arms up on the bench like
this, bend your elbows, then sink back into your hips this way, and try to drop your head,
and your thoracic spine – really, your chest – down, toward the ground. So, my chest headed down toward the ground,
I’m going to get this action. So, I’ll get that extension in the middle
of my back. So here, and I go straight down. Then if I want to get reestablished I come
up, I round up. So, I can feel “Okay, I’m going to go
in the opposite direction of this one. If I want to go in the opposite direction
of this, go into this position first. Now I know “Okay, opposite, and straight
down.” And I drive my chest toward the ground. I can really feel this. And up, through here, get that excursion,
and go straight back, the opposite direction. I can feel it in my lats, I can feel it here,
in my thoracic spine. So, you’ve got two options there. Again, whether you have a foam roller – if
you do, just make sure you do it right because there are a couple of things you’re probably
doing now that’s preventing you from even getting any real benefit from it in the first
place. Secondly, if you don’t have one, do it on
a bench. Do it on a piece of furniture, but just work,
and be aware of the area you’re trying to work. It’s that small area, and you’re trying
to get just that 15 degrees, but it’s going to make all the difference in helping you
to get your arm fully up, overhead. So, you can protect your shoulders and make
sure you’re doing those exercises correctly. Guys, as a physical therapist this stuff matters
to me because the guys that come into me all screwed up usually have this stuff screwed
up. I can help you get more out of everything
you do by helping you train a little bit smarter, by putting the science back in strength. I do that in our ATHLEANX training system. You can get it over at If you’ve found this video helpful, make
sure you leave your comments and thumbs up below. Let me know what else you want me to cover
here, especially in this PT related videos, and I’ll do my best to do that in the days
ahead. All right, I’ll be back here again real

100 thoughts on “Thoracic Mobility Drill Gone Bad (OOPS!)

  1. great video!! my posture is not very good after 28 years of dentistry! i practice yoga daily and that is whats keeping me from worstening. there are a lot of postures that i cannot do because i cannot fully raise my hands 180 degrees over my head. i'm about 15 degrees shy. how do we know what is shoulder and what is thoracic restrictions? i know can see i have some forward head posture and thoracic issues. tight lats and pecs as you mentioned in your other videos. thanks.

  2. i wonder how often can i foam roll the Thoracic Extension with foam roller, i find this a bit painful butt nice att the same time? 🙂

  3. I like using a medicine ball better. A little more concentrated, targeted force. Feels great. Also, why no pelvic tilt of lumbar spine to create a straight spine and then lower the upper body over the foam roller while keeping the lumbar spine in pelvic tilt? Just curious if there's a problem with doing it that way.

  4. NASMs SMR Thoracic Spine, is directly opposite of what you're saying haha. But your teachings, especially on stretching, is superior.


  6. I have had physiotherapy before now and been shown how to use the foam roller for tensions in the back caused by a dislodged rib from the sternum.

    I just watched this video and it showed a quite different technique As soon as I lowered my pelvis and rolled over the top of my back with arms up like shown in this video I seem to have dislodged something on the other side now too!!!! and am now in a LOT of pain.. I would not recommend trying any of these foam roller exercises unless shown by an actual physician especially if you are aware of an actual problem you are trying to solve. It is a risky business.

    I have had a problem with a dislodged rib ever since a rugby accident 7 years ago. It has never got better and I don't know if it ever will. I would not recommend trying this for yourself from just by watching a video. It is so easy to do more damage than good if you get the slightest movement wrong.

  7. I do think it would be a lot easier using a double tennisball or double lacross ball instead of a foam roller (you won't experience the problem with the shoulderblades and it is even less expensive then the foamroller ><

  8. I'm not so sure about the second half of these exercises, specifically the second part of the second-half when flexing the lower lumbar.

    That's an unnatural position for the spine to experience and is likely going to cause pain over time if repeated enough, although it may feel good at the time.

    "Isolating and exercising the lower back muscles while performing therapeutic, back isolation, progressive resistance exercises actually amplifies back pain. To reduce pain, rotational torso motion must originate from the hips and shoulders and not come about through rotation and flexion of the spinal column."

    -Stuart McGill
    Back Mechanic

  9. Is there a stretch routine that could be done every day that would mobilize every single part of the body? I'm very stiff and in a lot of pain from the t junction, the doctors think it's pinching a nerve. I know everything in your body is related to one another. I know the spine needs to be mobilized, my legs, my arms, my feet, my shoulders, ect.

  10. Jeff I suffer from restless legs at night. just wondering from a pt view what would you do to help

  11. TTherе аre several components to ways to treаt back pаin. Оnе resоurсe I disсoооverеd whiсh succeеds in merging these is the it's the best guide i've sеen. look аt thе greаt infоrmаtiоn .

  12. before this video title i was always like "what is a jurassic spine and why the hell do i have one?"

  13. Hey Jeff- In most cases of extreme kyphosis, the paitent is also in constant scapular protraction. Wouldn't you want them to be more neutral(scapular) in this exercise, so as not to reinforce this imbalance?

  14. You're literally the best youtube fitness guy. I've never even thought about getting a program but I think im going to buy yours.

  15. this will fix my right mid back pain(between right scapular and my column vertebra)?sorry i am french my english is not that good but i need a lot of advice .I am doing my second round of ax1and i got lot of problem du to many injuries.Shoulder mid glutes piryformis syndrome neck paine and know mid back paine.

  16. i did hedge trimming for months and focused on shoulder strength to increase stamina. As soon as i started stretching lats i went from fatigueing in 5 minutes to being able to charge through a full day.

  17. i work at the air port now brushcutting, can someone make routine for us? stretch mobilize strengthen…. thank u. harness gets in the way so we don't use one, also wrist rsi an issue. have ideas but would be great to share something frome a qualified person to the team.

  18. This is the first stretch that has helped me feel like I can stand up straight without feeling like I am forcing my shoulders back, instant relief. Thank you!!!!

  19. Very helpful, but I still have trouble doing the PT exercise where you circle your arm around. Like drawing in the sand. I cant relax my shoulder to retract it and finish the last rotation. Maybe with these two mobility drills I will! I'll report back in 2 weeks. Thanks

  20. Why did my sports physiotherapist tell me the wrong way to use the roller? Hands behind my neck? No your way is better!

  21. I'm having a bit of upper sternum pain in all of my pushing movements while in completely exhaled state. Searched on the internet and the most relevant symptoms were of a disorder termed 'costochondritis'. Please help me get out of this. It is indeed a pain in the ass when I've gotta leave my set in between due to the pain kicking in.

  22. These two exercises, the second one in particular, awaken impingement so much that I have to desist. Why does that happen and what should I do?

  23. Your videos about the rounded shoulders, tilted pelvis, stretching your back are absolutely amazing. If you only you had a more specific programme of exercise to buy to fix those conditions (I have both)!!!

  24. Thank you for not only showing the exercises but the critical manner in which to perform the exercises! I have been foam rolling most of the time improperly while trying to target my thoracic spine. Now I know the proper method to make it effective. Knowledge is power! Truly thankful for your excellent tips & advice

  25. Couldn’t you still support your neck by cradling your head with your hands but instead of having your elbows flared out you actually pull them in towards each other and still have the same effect as arms straight up?

  26. What is the root cause though of the very tight pain in the thoracic? ? Is there some shoulder rolled, forward head carriage?

  27. How often.should you foam roll?I just tried a bit as.I.have been.having some.dis comfort in thoracic area and so now looking into this

  28. Nice video. Really appreciate all the areas that you know that can help treat and better mobility throughout the body to help with exercises that may be difficult for some

  29. I legit can’t do overhead squats… I can do overhead press easily, but once I add the squat my upper shoulders can’t stay overhead

  30. Great info on arm/shoulder position while foam rolling the thoracic, not seen that mentioned elsewhere. Good stuff

  31. I have 2 bulding discs in thoracic area. After 2 years and half i feel better but i have a soft pain almost all the time. Is it posible to cure this of its better to take a rope and hung my self? ^^

  32. i'm no bodybuilder but I just found out about Jeff/Athlean-X today. As someone determined to correct their posture, I have stretched my way through a few videos now and I really enjoy them. Thanks Jeff!

  33. When I do that second stretch I feel a pain right in my right shoulder blade area any clue what that means?

  34. Ugh guys that second exercise is genius. My thoracic was FROZEN. I COULDNT SQUEEZE A MUSCLE IN MY UPPER BACK. Took days to feel my shoulders again but then I found this excedcise and mannn do I feel between my shoulders now. Sore as hell too.

  35. how do i prevent my lumbar spine from curving while doing these exercises to target the thoracic spine more?

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