3 Upper Back Stretches and Mobility Drills You Can Do Anywhere
Upper back mobility and stretching is the Kevin McCallister of workouts, often forgotten and left behind. What’s more, is even though everyone feels like crap, most people don’t do anything about it.
Why should you give a damn about your upper back mobility?
Besides the health and performance benefits (which we’ll get into in a moment), your daily routine probably isn’t conducive to maintaining a strong, healthy, and mobile thoracic spine.
Your thoracic spine (aka t-spine) is your upper back and shoulder area, which as you probably know, takes a lot of punishment throughout a normal 9-5 routine.
You’re hunched over your computer with your head poking forward into your screen, rounded forward at the shoulders until you cave into a turtle-like shell for hours realize, “Shit, my back hurts.”
If you don’t do anything to relieve the effects of your daily position, aches and creaks will surface.
When you do do something about it, you’ll be thrilled at how awesome you feel.
- Your posture improves (no shit, Sherlock)
- Your breathing improves
- Your confidence/attitude/mood all go up
- Your strength increases
- Your technique and positioning during exercises skyrockets
So, the exercises you’re about to see help you improve the specific functions of your upper back. Flexion, extension, and rotation are all taken care of.
Do them consistently and you’ll be happy.
Don’t do them at all and..well, nothing changes.
1. T-SPINE BENCH EXTENSION
“But Dan! I don’t have a bench! Wtf am I supposed to do? You insensitive bastard!”
Breathe. You can use a couch or a chair or whatever you want.
This stretch is great because it’s the exact opposite of what most people do for most of the day. You likely have your back in a flexed or rounded position for most of your working hours. This drill trains your upper back extension.
- Elbows placed on bench with hands behind head (interlock fingers)
- Keep your ribs down (no rib flare) and lower back flat throughout (don’t let your J-Lo butt wink out)
- Breathe in through your belly (let your stomach expand, not your ribs…think how a baby breathes)
- Exhale heavy and push your chest to the floor (keeping your ribs down and lower back flat)
- Feel the stretch in your upper back and hold for at least 1-2 min
2. THORACIC ROTATIONS
This is one of my go-to’s and is a solid drill to add to your warm-up. If you’re like 99% of us, you most likely don’t incorporate enough rotation in your upper back work. Remember, to improve your upper back mobility, you want to train it in its specific functions. One of the most neglected functions is rotation.
- Both knees and one hand on the floor
- Other hand placed behind your head
- Keep your arm on the floor locked and constantly push yourself away from the ground throughout
- Keeping your hips flat (don’t let them rotate), rotate your upper back so your elbow is directed to the ceiling
- Return and repeat motion at least 10-15 each side (or more)
A classic. This variation requires you to push your hips back and keep them back throughout, which helps you focus more specifically on your upper back. This is a great drill to do when you wake up in the morning to get the day started and as part of your warm-up, and anytime really. Just get it done.
- Hands and knees on the floor
- Keep your arms locked and push your hips back towards your heels
- Start by flexing and rounding every inch of your spine (think sad dog tucking its tail in between its legs)
- Then extend (think J-Lo butt)
- Repeat this motion for at least 10-15 reps (or more)
- You should incorporate upper back mobility throughout the day to combat the negative implications your regular routine has on your posture
- Use these drills sparingly throughout the day (sprinkled throughout the day for a minute here and a minute there)
- Use them as part of your warm-up routine
- Be consistent and do them every damn day if you want to see any noticeable improvements