Do you struggle with pullups? Maybe your Lats are failing?...
In order for your shoulder to function optimally, you need good thoracic (upper back) mobility. Too many people have poor upper thoracic mobility — tightness in the area between your shoulder blades — due to spending many hours at the computer, poor posture, not being active enough, etc. This can lead to problems in shoulder joints, rotator cuff issues and bursitis
We all need good extension through our upper backs in order to complete overhead movements without compromising shoulder joints. In order to improve your upper back mobility, here are a few exercises that can be done at home on a daily basis.
Foam Roller Extension
This will help improve your thoracic mobility into extension. If you're fortunate enough to have a foam roller at home or access to one in the gym, try this...
Sit comfortably with knees bent and bottom on the floor. Place foam roller below shoulder blades, hands behind head.
Keeping your bottom in contact with the floor, slowly breathe out and let your back gently extend over the foam roller. Hold for a count of 3-5 seconds and slowly rise back up to start position.
Repeat this twice and then gently roll the foam roller an inch further up the spine, repeating the extension movement twice. Keep inching the roller up the spine until you've reached the top of your shoulder blades.
Side Lying Thoracic Opener
This will help improve your thoracic mobility into rotation...
Lie on your side with your head supported and bend your knee to 90 degrees before resting it on a foam roller or firm pillow (this protects your lower back). Keep arms outstretched and hands stacked on top of each other.
Start to raise the top hand up and slowly bring it over to the other side of your body, letting your eyes follow that hand all the way, until you can't go further. Make sure your knee stays in contact with the foam roller/pillow and your resting shoulder in contact with the mat, otherwise you've gone too far.
Ensure you can still breathe comfortably and hold for 3-4 breaths, return hand to start position and repeat. Do this 10 times on each side. You'll find that by the last few reps, you'll be able to reach further than the start.
Only attempt this if you have relatively good shoulder and core strength. This is a good follow on exercise for pain free shoulders that require strength building.
In a standard plank position, make sure your hands are inline with shoulders. Spine (including neck) should be neutral and bum tucked under to engage the glutes, feet just wider than shoulder width apart.
Gently push one hand into the floor, keeping the body aligned and raise the other hand off to rotate around and reach up to the ceiling. Shoulders should be stacked (wrist, shoulder, opposite shoulder and opposite wrist all in one line) and no sagging at the hips.
Your eyes should follow the moving hand at all times. Return to start position and rotate with the opposite arm. Repeat 5-10 times on each side.
Give these a try and let me know how you go!...
Perhaps you are compromising your back as a result of poor hip movement...
Studies done on low back pain show that the pain is often caused by losing the ability to move through the hips. I see this all the time in clients and always have to re-pattern their hip movement to save their backs!
Dr Stuart McGill strikes again: “This is why the hip hinge is known to be a superior movement pattern for low back pain clients. Learning to hip hinge is paramount for both injury prevention and optimal performance.”
Too right Stuart!
Learn how to move before you learn how to be strong!
If you'd like to learn how to deadlift or kettlebell swing then check out our video downloads on these topics.
Don't sacrifice your lower back for Deadlifts or Kettlebell Swings unless the movement has been broken down and taught to you effectively and you can carry it out extremely well.
4th and final core exercise in our top 4...
If you are a client of mine you probably just felt a shudder down your spine...the beloved crawling pattern. You either love it or you hate it!
I personally love it as it is an awesome drill for:
- core stability
- core function
- connecting left & right brain
- getting back to basics
- having fun
- mental stimulation
It also follows on nicely from the previous mentioned BIRD DOG drill, the crawling precursor.
The video demonstrates the basic crawling pattern, there are many other versions of crawling. It is a challenge to fight gravity and this is required of us on a daily basis, so why not try this cheeky little drill yourself and see what you think...feel free to comment below and share your thoughts or experiences.
3rd core exercise in our top 4...
Another great core activation drill. Awesome for improving Multifidus function; neck & shoulder stability as well as overall core stability.
For full explanation of the exercise please visit "stability exercises" in our exercise library.
If you found this information (or any info on this page) useful, please share.
2nd core exercise in our top Four...
This is an awesome drill for core activation. The video pretty much says it all. I use this daily with clients and it's a great follow on exercise from the previous breathing drill. Also, don't forget to BREATHE throughout this drill! Exhale as your leg is lowering. Holding your breath is a cheat ;-)
Give it a go :-)
Four of my top core exercises everyone should make a part of their exercise regime...
First up is...
The first being BREATHING:
Before you laugh, yes, I did say breathing!
Simple right? Not really. Most of us (myself being a culprit at times) are dysfunctional breathers, this being due to stress; injury; emotional issues; poor health etc. We breathe around 20,000+ breaths per day, that is a lot of opportunity for dysfunction.
We use our core muscles for breathing; simplified our diaphragm & pelvic floor contract together on the inhale to create Intra Abdominal Pressure (IAP), this stabilises our spine & we recruit our remaining core muscles on the exhale.
The dysfunction comes in when we either hold in our stomachs for long periods (females being biggest culprits) or start taking shallower breaths. This makes it extremely hard for normal functional breathing and requires us to recruit our neck and chest muscles with every breath.
To learn how to work on your breathing keep reading. I would highly recommend ANYONE with lower back pain to focus on their breathing especially but really EVERYONE should be doing it...
Visit our exercise library and have a read through our Stability Exercises the first 3 exercises that come up which are about BREATHING.