This past weekend, I sat down with Mike Boyle’s Advances in Functional Training, Revised and 2nd edition. I was sharing my thoughts on this book with a fellow veteran coach in the fitness world. He was shocked to hear me give this book high praises. Allow me to clarify, he agrees with the content. His reasoning was, “I doubt it taught you anything new. Why are you so high on it?” He was pretty dead-on, but the book provided me with affirmation on many of the things we do and practice at the studio.
Boyle has written it as if you were sitting down and having a discussion with him over coffee. He provides many concepts that have become principals in functional training. To name a few:
- The value of assessing people using the Functional Movement Screen (FMS).
- The Benefits of training in all three planes of motion (sagittal, frontal and transverse).
- Why everyone should perform single leg exercises.
These are all things we do at our studio. Again, it provided me with an affirmation. He also inspired me to write today’s blog post on why thoracic mobility is so important. Boyle and physical therapist Gray Cook have both been credited for creating the concept of training the body in a joint by joint approach. It was over drinks at a bar, that Gray was explaining to Boyle that the body is a stack of joints alternating between mobile and stable.
The ankle is meant to be mobile, the knee should be stable, the hip should be mobile, the lumbar spine(core) should be stable, thoracic spine should be mobile, the scapula should be stable, and the gleno-humeral should be mobile. When this came out years ago, it was revolutionary. It has now regressed into a more commonplace viewpoint and theory. I feel the hips have received quite a bit of popularity, of recent, in the fitness world. In response, I thought I would spend some time sharing why the thoracic, or T-spine, as it’s commonly referred to, needs to be mobile and why everyone should work towards that. It comes back to something that Boyle stated in his book. “You will never tell someone that they have too much t-spine mobility”. I couldn’t agree more.
The thorax or thoracic spine is the area of the spine just below the cervical spine where the ribs connect from the spine in the rear to the sternum in the front. From a September 2007 Newsletter by Robert Burgess, BEd, PT, PhD, Feldenkrais Practitioner, he cited the function of the thoracic spine.
“The Thoracic spine provides us with 50 degrees of rotation, 26 degrees of side bending, 25 degrees of extension and 30 degrees of flexion in sitting.”
That’s a substantial range of motion required for optimal movement. The strategy that we use at the studio is a combination of foam rolling to enhance tissue quality with a couple mobility drills. I like to use this specific tool from the people at MobilityWod called the Gemini. Performing slow crunches with this tool positioned in the upper back between the shoulder blades can be very effective.
Based upon the person I then like to do either a t-spine rotation drill from the ground or using the TRX suspension system. 5- 10 reps performed on each side appear to do the trick. Click on the links below to see two examples.
The reason you want mobility in the t-spine is so the scapula will be stable. This also supports the reason why we want mobile hips, so the lumbar spine and core can be stable. If you cannot provide mobility where and when it is needed in the body, it has a way of finding it in joints that it shouldn’t. Give these tips a try and see if you experience better t-spine mobility.
See you at the studio.
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