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Episode 217: Strengthen and Mobilize the Midback

Video Highlights

- Improve mid-back rotation.
- Simple progressions.
- Options for side-to-side differences.

Today we’re going to talk about improving or rehabbing mid-back mobility.

One of the most common things that we see when we work with our athletes and clients is an over reliance on moving from the lumbar spine and an under reliance on moving from the mid back.

Whenever we evaluate people, very often they’re very, very stiff through the ribs, through the mid back, all the way up to the base of the neck.

I’m going to show you just a couple of little exercises that you can start to do to improve your rotational mobility in this area.

Obviously in this particular exercise, I’m starting off seated. You can do this standing, but when you stand, you have to usually use a lunge position or something and requires a little bit more overall body activation, so I like to begin this one seated so that you can really focus on what you’re trying to achieve.

You’re going to sit down, get into a nice, tall posture. Now, in many cases, that’s going to require you to reposition the pelvis a little bit. Ultimately what I want you to think about is a weight sitting on top of your head and you’re just lengthening up against the resistance of that weight, so whatever you can visualize up there.

Now what we want to do here is we want to start working on mid back rotations. Very often in the beginning when people start rotating, they just turn from the hips or from the waist.

Mentally, you need to think about, in essence, freezing movement below your diaphragm so your abdomen is not going to move and we’re going to try to rotate above that line. You start off doing maybe five to ten repetitions, just seeing if you can make it work.

In the beginning, I recommend keeping the chin in line with the sternum as you go through your movements.

Now after you start to feel that, or if you don’t start to feel it and you need some outside load, what you can see is I’ve attached a couple of bands back behind me.

What I’m going to do is I’m going to start off, I’m going to use the red band. I really recommend when you first begin doing this that you use a very light resistance because this is actually more stressful than it looks.

What we’re going to do is we’re going to grab the band. We’re going to come back to out seated posture, and we’re going to, in essence, cross our arms over our chest.

Now, from here, you can notice that if it’s on my right shoulder, I’m going to hold it with my left hand and I’m going to hold the band against my shoulder.

Woman sitting at her work desk slightly arching back while reaching and holding her midback.

Now, you don’t want the resistance so much that you’re actually hunching forward to support yourself. You need to be upright once again, pressing up against that imaginary weight on top of your head, nice tall spine. Make sure your posture is good in terms of where your shoulders are at.

Now, obviously, just in this position you’re getting a lot of isometric resistance. You’ll probably feel it throughout the spine, also through your mid back. From here, all that we’re going to do is, once again, try to freeze the low back and abdomen as we rotate with the resistance of the band and then rotate against the resistance of the band.

Usually when people rotate against it they push their shoulder forward. I want you to try to avoid that. Remember, this is a mobility exercise with a light strengthening element. In general when you begin working on this you want to do somewhere between 10 and 20 repetitions going through, notice it’s a very small movement.

The next element that I like to add in to work on the upper portion of the mid back is to now add head and neck motion in opposition to what you’re doing with your mid back.

That looks like this. In this position, if I let my right shoulder go back, my head is going to go left, I’m looking at the camera. Now as I rotate I’m going to go in the opposite direction.  Now we’re getting this kind of interesting winding mobilization that’s going from my mid back all the way up to the lower portion of the neck.

You may, if you have visual or vestibular issues, not enjoy that exercise. If it makes you dizzy in anyway or anything, either close your eyes, or just avoid it in the beginning.

Obviously you want to work on your right side and then you would switch and work on the left side dependent on how it makes you feel.

If you have a lot of right side issues you may find that working on the left side improves them.

Conversely, if you have left side issues working on the right side.

You do not need to always do the same number of exercises, or do this bilaterally, particularly in the beginning, as you’re working to restore mobility.

That’s it for now.

Give this a shot, if you have any questions please let us know.

Otherwise good luck.

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