Mobility 4 - Upper Back


Mobility exercise 4 moves us further down the spine from the neck into the upper back, or thoracic spine. Attached to the ribcage, this middle back area connects the neck and the low back and its main function is to help us twist, turn and bend from side to side. This particular area of the spine is complex in that it needs to have enough flexibility to allow for multidirectional movement, while remaining rigid enough to support and move heavy loads through the arms and legs in whatever position the body may be (sitting, standing, lying down).

Because most of us commonly sit for extended periods of time, and often rounded forward in front of a computer, we often develop mobility restrictions in the thoracic spine. This can be painful and effect overall movement.

This mobility exercise will take your upper spine through its full range of motion and release tightness. Because of its intricate connection with the neck and low back, will help with all upper and lower body movements.


Stand barefoot (unless out and about) with your feet flat on the ground, shoulder-width apart. Spread the floor with your feet and firmly contract all the muscles of your lower body. Cross your arms in front of your body over the chest and make tight fists with your hands. Activating the non-working muscles - the muscles of the lower body and tightening of the fists send a strong neuromuscular signal to the muscles involved in the movement. This is called the principal of irradiation (AKA muscle cheering).

Maintaining your weight directly over the hips, fully flex your torso, hollowing out the core and bringing the elbows to your lower ribcage. Holding that curled position, rotate the torso to the left, keeping the hips squared. Extend the back up and over, looking up at the sky as you do so. Rotate as far as you can to your right and flex the torso, coming back to the starting position. Imagine you are drawing a giant circle with the crown of the head. Move with focus and intention, but not haste.

Do this 3x to the left before repeating in the opposite direction.


  1. As you curl the chin to the chest, beware of bending at the hips. Keep your weight centered over your hips.

  2. When turning the upper body to the side, do so strongly and with intent as turn as far as you can.

  3. Pay attention to what you are feeling throughout the exercise. Strong tension is fine, but beware of any pinch points. Work around them.

  4. When moving around the back to get to the opposite side, keep the arms crossed in front of the body, connected to the chest.

  5. When moving around the back to get to the opposite side, no need to lean back and hyperextend the spine.

Next Up: Hips.

Gregg CookComment