Awhile back, I wrote an article called Why We Hurt, Lower Back Pain, and how lower back pain (LBP) can be rooted somewhere other than the lower back. As novel as it sounds, this idea of not 'chasing the pain', and treating the dysfunction, is a popular method of training as well as Physical Therapy. Moreover, the upper back, sometimes referred to as the thoracic spine, can sometimes be one of the causes of low back pain.
Because of computers, PDA's, and most of all, sitting, the 21st century has brought about a new wave of back pain perhaps never seen before. In addition, the needs of trainees and clients and athletes has significantly changed along the way, and more and more people are in need of opening up their thoracic spine. For today's article, I've enclosed simple movements that you can do on the floor, on a swiss ball, or as I demonstrate, also on a bench with a slight incline. These movements are designed to be simple yet effective in their activation of the muscles that are responsible for good posture.
Muscles used: the rhomboids, middle and lower traps, rear delts, all 4 rotator cuff muscles, and serratus anterior.
Movements countered: slight thoracic extension (fights computers and flexion!)
Equipment: swiss ball, incline bench, or even just the floor (perhaps most difficult)
Weight: None, unless exercises are becoming too easy, in which case advance to using bands or small weights. Rotator cuff muscles do not require heavy weights or high volume to effectivly train them!
Sets/Reps: 1-3 sets of 8-15 reps, depending on the difficulty the client is having with the exercise. This seems ironic, but if you are not struggling with an exercise, then either load it, or move on. These exercises range from simple yet difficult (T's, Reverse T's) to hard and difficult (Blackburns, prone snow angel). I would recommend gauging the difficulty by their form: easy to maintain? Move on to more weight, reps, or harder exercise. Having difficulties? Practice form until it becomes easy.
Prone Snow Angel