One of my favorite things about being a trainer is discussing all things training with my fellow trainer friends. I'm the type of person that always wants to learn new things, and I always come out of these conversations with new ideas for programming and how to take care of the body and improve how it functions.
I've learned a lot of new exercises to help build muscle and strengthen the core, for example, but one of the most underrated moves, in my opinion, that I've learned over the years is the thoracic spine "T-spine" opener. Your thoracic spine is located in your upper back and runs from the base of your neck down to your abdomen. It supports your neck, protects your spinal cord, and also helps anchor your rib cage. We need to take care of our thoracic spine because it helps us have good posture and allows us to move in all directions.
If you're someone who sits for a prolonged period of time, you may be experiencing tightness in your neck, shoulders, and back, and this move can help alleviate some of that tightness by increasing your T-spine mobility. There are a few variations of this exercise but I really like the lying version. I recommend doing it on both your recovery days and before your workouts as part of your warmup. Here's how to do it.
How to Do a Lying T-Spine Opener
- Start lying in a straight line from head to toe on your left side. Keep your left leg fully extended as you bend at your right knee and place it on top of a foam roller parallel to your body. Your right knee should be perpendicular to your right hip, creating close to a 90-degree angle at the right hip. This is your starting position.
- Keeping your right knee "glued" to the foam roller, extend your left arm straight out with your palm facing up, and then stack your right arm on top of the left. Don't let your right shoulder fall to the left, and be sure to maintain a straight line from your head to your toes.
- With control, begin to peel your right arm off of your left, keeping it fully extended, as you rotate toward your right from the upper back. Your knee should never move off the foam roller. The only movement should be coming from your upper back/spine. As you rotate open towards the right, be sure to rotate your head, following your right hand with your eyes.
- Moving with control, rotate open as far as you can without your knee coming off the foam roller. How far you go will be different for everyone, so it's OK if you cannot go that far. Be sure to keep your right arm completely extended from your fingers to your shoulder. Don't bend your wrist in an attempt to touch the ground. This movement is all about control; the ability to rotate further will come with repetition and consistency.
- Once you've reached your end point (the point where you cannot go any further without sacrificing your form), slowly begin to return to the starting position with control, keeping your arm extended and your right knee on the foam roller. Be sure to follow your hand with your eyes, rotating your head back to the left.
- Place your right arm back on top of the left arm. This counts as one rep.
- Complete eight reps on the right side, then repeat for eight reps on the left side.