1. Unless you plan on being a dysfunctional weakling incapable of throwing heavy shit around from time to time, you better be able to achieve and maintain some resemblance of spinal stiffness.
2. The most pivotal time to both achieve and maintain a strong extended thoracic position is at the point of mechanical breakdown. This holds true for any movement.
3. If we want dynamic thoracic mobility and stability to translate over to our sport or functional activity, we better start by relearning patterning that enhances the relationship between the hip and thoracic spine.
If you have goals of pressing a few wagon wheels, ripping triple your body weight off the floor, or just squatting a SmartCar, you better damn well be able to own your spinal position. It’s no big surprise that the triad of shitty posturing, the cell phone, computer, and TV, has caused an orthopedic spinal epidemic.
The ability to extend the spine past neutral has become a lost art in all populations and demographics across the board. No matter if your a water cooler rugby star or competing in the Crossfit Games, if you actually consider that a sport, you better learn to extend before your performance starts to slide.
The Thoracic Spine
The T-Spine holds the key to many movement dysfunctions of both the upper and lower body. While having the ability to flex and extend, while also rotating and side bending, the T-Spine is considered a primary mobile region of the body. Pretty simple, right?
Not so fast! Unless you plan on being a dysfunctional weakling incapable of throwing heavy shit around from time to time, you better be able to achieve and maintain some resemblance of spinal stiffness. This is even more imperative under challenging loads.
Mobility Before Stability
Before we can maintain a strong extended position of the thoracic spine, we must earn the necessary range of motion at end range spinal extension. The most advantageous techniques to not only gain mobility, but to experience what it actually feels like to achieve “super-stiffness” is through spinal rotations in the quadruped position.
The Quadruped Thoracic Spinal Rotation has been popularized through countless functional movement outlets and organizations, and for good reason. This mobilization technique is extremely effective to teach a neutral pelvis and lower body, due to maintaining the Quadruped Position, while also generating plane specific segmental movement throughout the entire thoracic spine. This technique also integrates functional movement of the Shoulder Girdle making it even more valuable for overhead performing populations. If you are not familiar with the movement, check it out here:
Quadruped Thoracic Spine Rotation
Advanced Movement Diagnostics
The Quadruped Thoracic Spinal Rotation is a highly Functional self mobilization drill, meaning it doesn’t differentiate the contributing regions or structures that play a roll in achieving end range motion. If your a bio-kinetics nerd like myself, you may want to break down the motion to isolate only the thoracic spine and see how well it is moving into a closed packed extended position.
Movement from the lumbar spine can also be taken out of the movement. By placing the hand behind the Lumbar Spine, the Shoulder is essentially locked out and unable to contribute to regional rotation and extension of the spine. Also, by dropping back from quadruped, maintaining an ass to heel position, the lumbar spine is locked out in a flexed position. This leaves us able to assess and enhance a purely thoracic movement pattern. Check out the setup here:
Lumbar/Shoulder Locked Thoracic Rotation
The Best of Both Worlds: Introducing The Hybrid T-Spine Rotation
The most pivotal time to both achieve and maintain a strong extended thoracic position is at the point of mechanical breakdown. This holds true for any movement. It doesn’t matter whether we are talking about the squat or the deadlift, the spine is at its most vulnerable state at the bottom of the movement.
Coming out of the hole in the DL and hitting proper depth and exploding out of any variation of the squat challenges core and spinal stability at an extraordinarily high level. Though the differences in these patterns is vast, one similarity holds true; at the breaking point, the hips are flexed, and the thoracic spine better damn well be held in extension.
If we want dynamic thoracic mobility and stability to translate over to our sport or functional activity, we better start by relearning patterning that enhances the relationship between the hip and thoracic spine. By combining components of a few basic thoracic spine mobility drills, the Hybrid Quadruped Spinal Rotation was born.
Hybrid Quadruped Spinal Rotation
Implementation of the Hybrid Quadruped Spinal Rotation fits nicely into any dynamic movement based warm-up, or as a mobility drill paired with a heavy loaded movement inside a compound set. Where ever you decide to program the Hybrid, make sure to first perfect the movement pattern.
Coordinate your breath with the Hybrid Quadruped Spinal Rotation by inhaling with spinal flexion and exhaling with end range spinal extension. This will aid in Core Activation and help link up the moving segments. Program 4-5 sets of 5 breaths per side. Make sure to complete all repetitions on one side before moving onto the contralateral.
About The Author
Dr. John Rusin is an internationally recognized coach, physical therapist, speaker, and writer, whose published over 200 articles in some of the most widely regarded media outlets in the industry like Men’s Fitness, Testosterone Nation, Mountain Dog Diet, Bodybuilding.com, and Muscle and Strength, to name a few.
Along with an impressive laundry list of publications, Dr. John works with some of the world’s most elite athletes, including Gold Medalist Olympians, NFL All-Pro Quarterbacks, MLB All-Star Pitchers, Professional Bodybuilders and World Class IronMan Triathletes.