After sitting, standing, slumping, slouching, or otherwise remaining stationary at a desk all day, your rib cage and the middle part of your spine begin to get stuck in place.
The quickest and simplest way to get your thorax moving again is to sit in a non-rotating chair and:
- squeeze a tennis ball (or something similar) between your knees (to engage your core muscles and prevent your lower back from moving),
- place your hands on top of your head,
- rotate your torso to one side, and then
- laterally flex your torso to the same side.
- Repeat on the other side.
It’s tempting to think of the thorax as a relatively fixed structure, constrained as it is by the rib cage, but your rib cage and mid-spine can actually flex, extend, rotate, and laterally flex quite a bit.
This video shows a very simple version of this exercise, focusing on rotation.
This video shows how to incrementally add a bit more rotation and lateral flexion with multiple iterations of the basic rotation and lateral-flexion exercise.
This video shows a version that you can do sitting on the floor.
This video shows how to use a foam roller to improve forward-to-back thoracic spine mobility.
This video shows how to use tennis balls instead of a foam roller to improve thoracic spine extension.
This video focuses on improving rotational mobility through the thorax, giving very detailed instructions on each step of the exercise.
This video quickly demonstrates a the same exercise from a different angle.
Lying on your side can make it easier to emphasize the rotational part of thoracic mobility, as this video shows.
One of the funnest ways to improve your thoracic mobility is through dance. Here’s a quick video of my friend Etienne Cakpo demonstrating some African dance moves. His is about as mobile a thoracic spine as you will ever see.