Lying supine with the knees bent to about 90 degrees and feet flat on the floor, position a foam roller beneath you just at or near the bottom of the shoulder blades (equivalent to T7 level). Next, gently clasp the hands together behind the head, perform a chin tuck and pull the elbows in so the forearms are perpendicular to the foam roller.
Now, slowly push the head back toward the floor and extend the thoracic spine in an attempt to bend backward over the roller. Pause at end range for 2-3 seconds at end range and then return to the start position. Perform 5 repetitions. This movement can be performed at multiple thoracic levels as well by moving the roller down 1-2 vertebral levels.
This exercise will facilitate improved thoracic spine extension while promoting better overhead shoulder mobility. Limited thoracic spine extension can adversely affect scapular alignment and increase the likelihood of shoulder impingement during end range elevation with overhead lifts, presses, throwing, swimming, etc. This exercise is an excellent way to promote optimal mobility and can be incorporated into the warm-up prior to doing resistance training or vigorous overhead activity.
Brian Schiff, PT, OCS, CSCS, is a licensed physical therapist, respected author and fitness professional. Currently, he serves as the supervisor for EXOS API at Raleigh Orthopaedic. Brian conducts live continuing education webinars and presents nationally at professional conferences and seminars on injury prevention, rehab and sport-specific training. For more information on his products and services, visit www.BrianSchiff.com.