Improve Your Overhead Position Part Three

Tucson Physical Therapy

Who is this mobility prescription for?

  • The desk worker

  • Neck Pain

  • Low back pain

  • Shoulder pain

  • Limited front rack position

  • Difficulty with achieving full overhead stacked postures

The thoracic spine or commonly referred to as the rib cage forms the connection between the shoulder and hips allowing for efficient movement. It consists of limitations in either thoracic spine extension or flexion and has impacts on your ability to achieve full overhead positions. Specifically limitations in:

  • extension can result in overextension of your low back or shoulder and can result in pain.

  • flexion can also impact performance as a result of dysfunction in the muscles around the shoulder blade (future article)

Many people are familiar with foam rolling the thoracic spine to improve their overhead mobility. It would be twice as effective if they made but one small change: limit the movement of the low back. Your lower back often is HYPERmobile while the thoracic spine is HYPOmobile. The following drills are a simple set of exercises you can perform at home, equipment free while you watch TV.

What to do?

  1. Foam roll thoracic spine 1-2 minutes. Change your thinking from extending your neck and spine to driving your elbows towards the ceiling or overhead. Keeping the elbows tucked will help you more specifically for front rack deficits, pull ups, strict press, push press. Allowing the elbows to flare out to the side may help more with the snatch as it addresses some pectoral stiffness.

  2. Side-lying book openers 15-20 repetitions per side. Lie on your side. Bottom leg is straight and in line with your hip/shoulder/head. Flex your top leg to at least hip height and place it on a foam roller. Use your bottom hand to hold the top leg in place. Place one hand behind your head close to your opposite ear. Roll top shoulder forward without moving your hips. Roll top shoulder back trying to reach the floor without your hips moving or your top leg lifting off the foam roller. Imaging rolling back 1 vertebrae at a time.

  3. Child’s pose thoracic rotation. 15-20 repetitions per side. Achieve child’s pose (if you can’t sit back all the way due to knee pain, place a pillow or towel behind your knees). Place 1 elbow between your knees and the other hand across your chest on the opposite shoulder. Without shifting your weight in your hips, rotate your elbow and head towards the ceiling. This will be stiff, the key is to minimize any strain in the lower back.

When to perform these?

  • Before overhead lifting

  • After work/before bed

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