Thoracic Mobility 101

Other Mobility Articles: Hip Mobility | Shoulder Mobility | Ankle Mobility


In this article, I’m going to cover mobility of the Thoracic Spine. Often simply called the T-Spine or mid-back, the Thoracic Spine is a very important part in many movement patterns. This is particularly of interest to people who lift weights, because a stiff T-Spine will lead to problems with the deadlift, squat, OHP, etc. (even your bench press can be affected) as you will round your lower back to make up for the lack of mobility in your Thoracic Spine. A stiff mid back forces your lower back to compensate, which leads to lower back pain (and eventually injury a lot of the time).

The upper back is also affected by a lack of mobility in the T-Spine. Usually the upper back will be weak as a result and round forward to some degree. This is often made worse by faulty training programs where upper body pressing¬† movements outweigh upper body pulling movements, when ideally pulling should outweigh pressing by a 2:1 or even 3:1 ratio. Then even more stress is added, if you spend a lot of time sitting on chairs. At this point you’re basically a hunchback with your shoulders rounded forward, tight pec minor (basically where your shoulder attaches to your chest), tight lats, a useless upper back that is rounded forward and weak, a stiff T-Spine that doesn’t allow you to get in proper positions when you’re lifting weights… an overstressed lower back that probably hurts often… the list just goes on with problems. It will even affect your lower body.

Fixing your thoracic mobility won’t fix all your postural problems and muscular imbalances (obviously), but it’s a great start!


How to Improve Thoracic Spine Mobility

Now that I’m done rambling on and on about all the shit you might be doing that’s wrong, I’ll give you some things to do that are good for your T-Spine.


First off, here is a mid back mobility video from Omar Isuf. He’s one of my favorite YouTube fitness guys and this is just one of the things he has covered well.


Second, some stuff from MWOD. A few of the techniques in the following videos were already covered by Omar Isuf in the above video, but Kelly Starrett often adds a new twist to things. Here are some links to his T-Spine mobility videos: Adding weight to the self myofascial relase method with the two lacrosse balls taped together | Thoracic Spine mobilization with foam roller and barbell (I linked directly to the part about the T-Spine, but the rest of the video is great as well for lower body mobility and stretching.)


And that’s how I would actively work through mobility issues in the thoracic spine. It’s just my opinion as always. I would also recommend working on shoulder health specifically, as described in my shoulder health article. Foam rolling and stretching your lats will also benefit you greatly in achieving better mobility in the Thoracic Spine. Also foam roll and stretch your pec minor like this, this, and this. I’d advise you to stretch your neck as well.


I will cover mobility work for other body parts in the future, so make sure you bookmark my site. Or just tattoo on your hand, so you don’t forget!