How to Improve Overhead Mobility w/ T-Spine Drills – TechniqueWOD
Your parents have said it for years, and you probably hear it more often now than ever.
“Sit up straight, don’t slouch.”
Like many athletes I hardly ever listened, until I realized that poor posture severely limits performance. To be honest, if Mom would have said, “You’re ruining your thruster,” I probably would have listened.
Like anyone I spend a lot of time on my computer, especially when I have a day off from training. I sit tall as long as I can, but eventually my posture starts to give. I constantly fight it, trying to sit back up straight.
What’s the big deal? Basically, spending an extended amount of time slouched over a computer with your head stuck forward will cause the muscles in the front of your shoulders to shorten, leading to a rounded upper back in time. This position will become very comfortable and it might turn into a default position, even if you’re training in proper position. Falling into this kyphotic position can lead to a ton of issues throughout the rest of your body. For example, if you need to reach overhead or press something you’ll probably over extend at the lower back and press the hips forward to compensate for that lost range of motion. This position is a temporary fix, but it will likely lead to strain, wear and injury. At best, you’ll never be able to perform the jerk correctly. That requires a vertical posture and flexible shoulders.
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Here’s my suggestion. Any time you start to feel yourself creeping forward into that slouched position, go spend a few minutes on a roller or hang from a pull-up bar. Even if you stand while working, it’s still easy to round forward like a question mark. Think of it like a challenge. The second you feel yourself fighting to hold things up right, go get on the roller. This habit will work wonders. Here are a few quick take-aways from the video:
- Check for a flat upper back before starting any work on your shoulder mobility.
- Start simple with some extensions over a foam roller.
- Using a “peanut” is going to be a bit more direct if you want to dig harder.
- The muscles in the front of the shoulders and chest could be short and tight as well. So, spend some time loosening up the pecs.
I’ve found that changing up my mobility routine often helps me to be more likely to work on these issues. I recommend that you play around with your routine, varying it often. If you keep it interesting you’ll be more likely to do it. It’s the habit that matters most.
Everyone just chill and remember to muscle up slowly. #armdaychamps A video posted by Michael McGoldrick (@mcg_faction) on
Again, there is no absolute right or wrong way to stretch. Just remember that it has taken time to mess things up, and it will take some time to gain strength in the new position. I can’t say how long it will take, but I know for sure that a couple of minutes a week is not going to be enough. Start with 2 minutes a day of stretching and adjust from there.
One final tip…You need good tools.
You are more likely to work on that rounded back if you’re constantly seeing rollers, bands and balls lying around. If you have to look for it you just won’t do it. That’s actually why I started making mobility kits.
The easier and more convenient it is make to the right decision the more likely you are to succeed.
Click to check out Mike’s kits.
I haven’t invented anything new in this video. This is simply a collection from some of my favorite coaches, including Kelly Starrett, Dave Durante, Grey Cook, Eric Cressey, and Ido Portal just to name a few.
These are drills that have worked for me. I hope they help you too. If you have any mobility questions, just leave them in the comments below. I’d be happy to answer.
Train hard, stand straight,
11 Responses to “How to Improve Overhead Mobility w/ T-Spine Drills – TechniqueWOD”
Really enjoyed watching your video, going to buy one of your foam rollers straight away.
I was wondering I pulled my lower back two weeks ago; i think it was due to doing ‘good mornings’ and one my lower back is really tight and it hurts to bend over. Are there any exercises you would recommend to speed up recovery or tools I can buy?
Glad you enjoyed it!
As for your back, if it were me, just giving it some rest from any movement that irritates it is my first step. In the mean time having some soft tissue work done to help the muscles relax and get some extra blood flow in there could definitely help speed the recovery. This could be done on a roller as well.
Hope this helps! Shoot me an email if you have any other questions.
How do you incorporate mobility into your normal training program? I struggle with mobility pretty much in all areas and have begun fixing all the locked parts of my movement. For background I am a fighter pilot and long time skydiver. So pretty much like most I have spent lots of time at a desk and when I fly/jump my back, neck, and shoulders are subjected to extreme forces. My goal is working to accomplish a snatch/clean/jerk with the appropriate overhead and upright form. I had heard that a lot of mobility incorporated into a strength training program can make you more suseptible to injury and reduce gains/performance. Thanks for the help.
Good question. You mentioned hearing that “too much mobility work incorporated into a strength program can make you more susceptible to injury and reduce gains/performance.” This is probably true to some extent, but depends on the situation. If you are spending time “mobilizing” certain “stable” joints that don’t need any extra mobility, this could hinder performance. There are some studies as well that show “stretching” or relaxing muscles before training can dampen power output.
It’s always best to figure out where you need improvement. Here’s an example. Let’s say you have a terrible starting position when setting up for your snatch. Your hamstrings are really tight, and it is keep you from being able to setup with a flat back position. To compensate, you have to round the lower back to reach the bar which is causing you to lose a LOT of power in your pull and could be a potential for injury (pulling with a rounded back should be intuitively bad form). We’ll just call this a “20% loss” in power.
Now, let’s say you spend some time before your training session loosening up your hamstrings and you are now able to get into a strong, stable starting position for a snatch. And let’s also say that the time you spent “stretching” your hamstrings caused a loss of “5%” power output. This is still better than the 20% potential loss + increased chance of injury in the other example because you were out of position (these numbers don’t mean anything, just my way of illustrating it).
To keep it simple, I am a fan of doing whatever it takes to get you in the best position possible for the movement before training. This could be anything…foam rolling, stretching, holding a barbell in a bottom position under tension. Whatever works.
Does that answer your question?
I hope this helps!
Thanks for the response it was exactly what I was looking for.
Have you tried any posture shirts? I just started wearing Alignmed and It really seems to help/
I have not. I’m going to do a little reading up. Glad to hear it’s working for you!
Great t-spine mobility vid. I worked these movements over the last week and really focused on posture throughout the day. My front squat today felt noticeably more confident today – didn’t struggle to keep my elbows up and back didn’t round with heavier weight. 6 reps @ 255lb felt solid and usually the bar is starting to slide down by rep 3. The ability to keep a flat back definitely helps the weight stay on the shelf.
Awesome, John!! Glad it helped!
The exercise with the band and pipe was apparently used for the “t spine”, however it is really more for your last and triceps ( if they are particularly tight). Primarily the thoracic spine range of motion is rotation, so that exercise wouldn’t help for that really; unless you introduced a larger degree of rotation than what was shown. Also, the partner stretch that involves the partners knees into the spine of the other is locking the thoracic spine into extension so putting too much pressure into their back can place abnormal stress on the joints of that back. The start position is OK for the shoulders, provided that there are no shoulder injuries and they have already warmed up, but applying pressure into their spine is not advisable unless you are specifically train in joint manipulation like a physical therapist, chiropractor or a specially trained medical doctor.
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