Ask the Doc: More on Thoracic Mobility

by THERESA LARSON, DPT, Marine Corps Veteran, CrossFit Coach

This week’s Lab location for Dr. Theresa Larson was CrossFit USD (University of San Diego) where the 21 Gun Salute Warrior WOD was taking place. The 21 Gun Salute is our nation’s highest display of military honor, and is reserved for visiting foreign heads of state, presidential funerals, and in honor of our fallen troops on Memorial Day![1]

Having the honor to help coach the workout and motivate the men and women who came out to sweat for the fallen was incredibly inspirational. Particularly inspirational that evening was a veteran, Wally, who had lost two limbs and had never done CrossFit previously performed this strenuous WOD along with all the other warrior athletes.

Thoracic Extension Mobility Technique

Thoracic Extension Mobility Technique
Wally is part of my video blog this week to demonstrate how to get thoracic extension. This mobilization is also helpful with flexion due to the orientation of the thoracic facets, so you can kill two birds with one stone and improve two movements simultaneously. As I mentioned in my previous blog about Thoracic Rotation, this segment of the spine (mid back) is the most stable and often the most stiff. Often the low back and neck have to make up for the lack of movement of a stiff thoracic spine.

1) Self-Mobilization for Thoracic Extension

The self-mobilization technique demonstrated in the video is helpful for those of you who sit at a desk all day; CrossFit after work and have stiff lower backs; and/or want to improve your American Kettle-bell swings, snatch, front squat, or just about any other overhead lifts in the weight room. It is more specific than foam-rolling and should be performed along the spinal segments where there are rib attachments only. The good news is that it only takes 5-6 minutes of time to do (with 5-10 bridges at each segment that feels “stiff” to you).

The introduction is performed by CrossFit Coach, Navy SEAL, and Team Red White and Blue San Diego Team Captain, Joseph Molina.

  1. Lie on your back, knees bent, and place the mobility tool (i.e.two lacrosse balls taped together) straight across your spine, starting at the middle of the back below the scapula and moving up to below the base of the neck. With arms crossed over the chest and head on the ground, perform 5-10 controlled hip bridges at each segment.
  2. Next, place a regular foam roller between your shoulder blades and extend your arms overhead as if in a snatch or OHS position. Stay in this extended position — with the help of a friend, as needed — and perform 5-10 controlled hip bridges (3 seconds up and 3 seconds down) once again.

2) Buddy Thoracic Extension Mob:

Do you have a friend or colleague at work or at the gym who wants to do a 2-minute mob session to help relieve mid-back stiffness, neck pressure, or low back pain from poor sitting posture? Check out the mob below.

  1. Have the athlete lie on his/her stomach to push-up into a partial cobra position, as in yoga.
  2. Partners, place the heels of your hands together and put pressure (but not all your body weight) on either side of the spine below the scapula. As the athlete pushes up into the partial cobra, gently oscillate the hands, then allow the athlete to lower to the ground again. Repeat 5-10 times.
  3. As above, work through this for each segment of the upper thoracic spine — with hands below the scapula, mid-scapula, and top of the scapula — for improved positioning.

3) Sitting Mob for Thoracic Rotation and Extension Desk Jockey Style:

Are you a desk jockey who needs to adjust your sitting position? The video talks about correct sitting posture, a contract-relax technique (proprioceptive neurofacilitaion technique) to improve thoracic rotation and extension in your chair, which can give your spine relief from sitting all day long! Truth is, you should not sit all day long; get up every 45 minutes or more and take breaks and/or set up a standing work station. Save your hips, your neck, and your back from poor postures that create unwelcome adaptations, as these lead to poor positioning, poor performance, and further down the line… INJURY!

  1. While seated, find a neutral spine position — that is, your pelvis should not be pushed behind you so that your back rounds nor pushed too far in front so your back is over-extended. Your hip crease should be just above your knees in the chair.
  2. Test for stiffness by crossing your arms at your shoulders and rotating right and left.
  3. Reach across your body to grab the chair seat and then try to rotate around your neutral spine in the opposite direction. Perform this rotation 6-8 times, holding for 6-7 seconds each time.
  4. For improved shoulder position while seated, cross your arms in the I Dream of Jeannie position and then slowly raise them overhead, still maintaining a neutral spine. When you go back to keyboarding, your goal is for each of your shoulder blades to be pointing at the opposite butt cheek to avoid rounding and slouching.

[1] Team Red White and Blue WOD for Warriors Website:

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Printable Version

We Are Scouting Top Writers

Are you passionate about fitness and have something to say? Reach a huge online community and get the discussion going - start writing for Tabata Times today!

Share this post
@TabataTimes on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook 

Contribute to this story by commenting below:

Advertise Here

Most Popular of All Time

CrossFit Focus shared an image on Facebook

It's Thursday, ladies!

CrossFit Pittsburgh posted on Facebook

I just wanted to say a special thanks to everyone for yesterday's Hero WOD. Thank you for remembering my Brothers. Special thanks to everyone at the 5:30pm.

CrossFit Iron City shared a link on Facebook

Thursday 10/16/14

CrossFit Iron City posted an article
CrossFit Focus shared an image on Facebook

Now that's teamwork right there!

CrossFit Focus shared a link on Facebook

Only as high as I reach can I grow; Only as far as I seek can I go; Only as deep as I look can I see; Only as much as I dream can I be.

Salvador published the post To cheat or not to cheat? The "misscounting disorder" on Tabata Times
You hear the signal "3-2-1...go!", the adrenaline starts pumping, you are fully beast-mode. You...
CrossFit Prime posted an article
CrossFit 77 posted an article
CrossFit 77 posted an article
CrossFit LKN posted an article
CrossFit Shadyside posted on Facebook

Oak City CrossFit shared an image on Facebook

Members of the OCCF Rowing Team are at the box RIGHT NOW getting those last meters in before the Concept2 Fall Challenge ends. Nice work y'all!

Fearless Athletics CrossFit South Philly posted an article
CrossFit Athletics posted an article
CrossFit Invoke posted an article
paleobutter published the post Sicilian Stuffed Peppers on Nutrition WOD
[yumprint-recipe id='124']
CrossFit Invoke shared an image on Facebook

Emily is putting in work with sand bag thrusters! #getit #workout #workhard #cfinvoke #cfiathlete #cfibootycamp #relentlesslife #crossfit #strong #barbellbabes #fitness #fitlife

Outlaw CrossFit shared a link on Facebook


CrossFit Novem posted an article
CrossFit Old Town shared an image on Facebook

CrossFit Love shared an image on Facebook

LV III – 10.16.14 Competition Programming Swim Intervals 50 meters x 15, Rest is :30 - :60 between each Inflammation Maintenance Mobility Weakness Work - spend 20:00 improving range of motion "Optional" - Performance Upper Body Strength Programming

CrossFit Focus shared an image on Facebook

CrossFit RTP shared an image on Facebook

The community keeps you coming back! Check out our community at our FREE intro class this Saturday at 10:50 am!! Tag a friend who wants to try crossfit. #CrossfitRTP #Crossfit #DurhamNC #Community #TeamPlayer

CrossFit Gastonia shared a link on Facebook

Thursday's WOD

CrossFit Pittsburgh posted an article
CrossFit Wilmington posted an article
Trident CrossFit posted an article
CrossFit Integrated Fitness shared a link on Facebook

CrossFit Harrisburg posted on Facebook

Barbell for boobs. Sunday, October 19 at 3:00pm Deload week, will max next week. Thurs Squat Clean and Jerk (5x5 @ 60%) Touch and go Speed and technique stay light Metcon (AMRAP - Reps) 12 min Amrap 3-6-9-12… slamball 30/20 box jump 24/20

CrossFit Main Line shared an image on Facebook

Our 6am class took on a 20 minute AMRAP loaded with lots of fun movements today! 14 Oct 2014 WEDNESDAY 10.15.14 W.O.D. WEDNESDAY 10.15.14 W.O.D. Explosive Strength Skill: Seated Box Jumps (Max Height) ** Sit on box at knee height WOD: 20min AMRAP 50 Wallballs (20,14) 50 Dubs (x3) 40 Box Jumps (24,20) 40 T2B 30 C2B 30 Burpees 20 Power Cleans (135,95) 20 Push Jerks (135,95) 10 Snatches (135,95) 10 MUs

CrossFit Main Line posted an article
CrossFit Main Line posted an article
CrossFit Main Line posted an article
CrossFit Main Line posted an article
CrossFit Main Line posted an article
CrossFit Center City shared an image on Facebook

Woohoo! These dumbbells now have clearly labelled homes and are also much easier to find to use. By our powers combined we can keep these organized! Jordan, Meg, and Perrin are the heroes responsible for this little project! #captainplanet

CrossFit Wake Forest posted on Facebook

10/16/2014 WOD: A single set of Strict Pull-ups for max reps. Then: Helen 3 rounds for time of: Run, 400 m 21 Kettlebell Swings, 1.5/1 pood 12 Pull-ups

Raleigh CrossFit posted an article
Raleigh CrossFit posted an article
CrossFit Old Town shared a link on Facebook

CrossFit King of Prussia shared a link on Facebook

Come watch the area's best compete at Team SuperFit this Saturday at CrossFit King of Prussia!

CrossFit 77 posted on Facebook

***Attention: Vida and Michael Cox, the 5pm crew misses you and demands you show your face!*** For every class that you miss from this post till the end of the year, the 5pm class will do 1 extra burpee. This starts tomorrow.

CrossFit 77 shared a link on Facebook

"@khalward: @CrossFit_77 I made a sweat devil!

CrossFit Delaware Valley shared an image on Facebook

The 4 pm class hitting it hard in today's Triple-Girl Monster Mash.

CrossFit Durham shared an image on Facebook

CrossFit Wilmington shared an image on Facebook

Who's in your gym posse? At #CFW, everyone is! #crossfitfamily #teamwork #fitness #homies #trainhard #havefun #accountability #supportsystem

CrossFit Main Line shared an image on Facebook

CrossFit Main Line and R5s Master and Scaled teams finish up the CrossFit Team Series with top rankings! Masters: 11th in the WORLD Scaled: 6th in the Mid Atlantic

CrossFit Coastal shared an image on Facebook

Happy Humpday! Noon class working on 10 x 30/30 row sprints.

CrossFit Exchange shared a link on Facebook

We supplement our eating typically because we are nutrient deprived. What about preventative supplementation? We know protein is the building block of life and in effect should get that intake of protein post wod but here's something to consider:

CrossFit King of Prussia posted an article
CrossFit Local shared an image on Facebook

Comet's enjoying #doublebarley #gourdrocker for her birthday! #kegishere #feelthelove #bringafrienddays

tamarascull published the post Why "Strong is the New Skinny" is Here to Stay on
I don't remember when I first heard the phrase "Strong is the New Skinny," but I remember vividly...
CrossFit 77 shared an image on Facebook

Bostic and his son giving directions to the gun show!

CrossFit Coastal shared an image on Facebook

Rainy morning didn't stop the 9:15am crew from getting up and pushing through the longest day of the week! Great job everyone!

CrossFit King of Prussia posted an article
CrossFit LKN shared a link on Facebook

Have you ever tried to learn kipping HSPU's and gotten frustrated that you can't quite get them? Here's a new blog post by Coach Brenden about kipping HSPU progressions that will help you learn them!

CrossFit 910 shared an image on Facebook

CrossFit LKN posted an article
CrossFit KSX posted an article

@TabataTimes on Twitter

Watch the latest episode of GPTV