As BJJ and Muay Thai practioners, we are all concerned with mobility. And not just mobility of a specific part of the body, but mobility of all parts of the body.

This month we will look at mobility of the upper back – also known as the thoracic spine. The thoracic spine is just one of 4 distinct sections of your entire spine, and it connects the top part of your body (head, neck and shoulders) to the lower part of your body (lower back, hips and legs). As such, it is easy to see how mobility in this part of the body is integral to all other parts.

Here are some simple exercises to increase thoracic spine mobility:

1) Cat stretch


Get into a 4 point kneel position (in which the knees and hands are in contact with the ground). Gentle arch the upper back towards the ceiling, before pushing your chest down into the ground.

2) 4 point knee thoracic rotations


Get into a 4 point kneel position. Place one hand on your head, as in the picture. Rotate downwards such that the elbow is pointing towards the floor. Next step, open up and rotate upwards, such that the same elbow is pointing towards the ceiling. You should feel this movement coming from the upper back. Importantly, make sure that the hips are stable and do not move during this exercise. Otherwise, the movement will come from the lower back and hips instead!

3) Thoracic extension


Sit on a chair with a back rest of moderate height. The top edge of this back rest should be in the middle to upper back region. Place both hands behind your head, and lean back into the back rest. After this, slowly arch your back backwards, using the back rest as a pivot point. If possible, you can change the height of the back rest after a few reps of this. This will allow a more specific area of the thoracic spine to be mobilised each time.

As you can see, mobility work does not require any sophisticated equipment at all. In fact, the 3rd exercise can be done at the office (if your boss doesn’t mind!). Doing these exercises whenever you can, throughout the day, will certainly help to improve your thoracic mobility, translating to improved performance on the mat!

For more detailed thoracic mobility exercises, come down to FaMA every Wednesday from 6-7pm for personalized advice and treatment (for FaMA members only).