The upper/mid-back (thoracic spine) is an area that gets brutally stiff in weight lifters.

A double leg squat assessment is all it takes to reveal thoracic extension limitations. Many times you’ll see that athletes are unable to keep their upper back erect as they squat low. The shoulders collapse forward, the upper/mid-back rounds, and the chest cavity caves in. More times than not, the “collapse” is due to an inability to maintain extension through the mid-back.

Poor thoracic extension not only looks ugly, but is also does ugly things to the shoulders. Thoracic spine extension is a major player in shoulder health so it’s wise to get this hammered down ASAP. Starting by warming up and priming for thoracic mobility is strongly encouraged, especially prior to a heavy lift day at the Greenville gym.

Today’s post introduces 7 thoracic extension mobility poses/exercises to facilitate upper body extension, which will better your shoulder mobility and enhance actions like overhead barbell movements. Bottom line: If you fall into the brutally stiff category, these free yoga exercises are wise for you to do at the Greenville sports club.

  1. Cat/Cobra/Camel Flow
    Featuring three poses which promote thoracic extension, this short, accessible sequence is great to integrate into your pre-lifting, warm-up routine at the Greenville athletic club. Feel your outer body relax as physical and/or mental stress and tension melts away.
  2. Upward Facing Dog and/or Cobra
    Learn everything you need to know to perform Upward Facing Dog and/or Cobra Pose with comfortability and intelligence. Develop awareness in each pose to ultimately decide which pose works best for your body and your level of strength and flexibility.
  3. Low Cobra
    Low Cobra is one of the more mild of backbends. As such, it’s accessible for all levels of yogis. Learn how to lift your chest and lengthen your spine to create more openness in your front body and more extension through your back body (the mid-back region especially).
  4. Camel Pose
    As a more advanced backbend, Camel Pose (Ustrasana) may need some adjusting. Explore modifications and variations to keep your low back healthy, while you reap the benefits of this deep chest/shoulder opener.
  5. Chest and Shoulders
    This short and slow-moving sequence, designed specifically for athletes, features a few shoulder and chest stretches. Prior to a heavy lifting workout, grab a yoga strap (or a belt or towel), and enjoy moving your upper body in all directions. Feel more expansive, open, and centered for it! Note: Have a rolled blanket or extra yoga mat and strap, belt, tie, or towel available.
  6. Saddle Pose (Virasana)
    Promote thoracic extension using a prop of your choice as an access point to facilitate segmental extension. Let your head and upper back sink back perhaps using a block or a bolster as an access point. To get more bang for your back, reach your arms up over your head. The key here is relaxing your spine over your choice prop in several different segments along the thoracic spine to really deepen the release and increase the mobility in the vertebral joints of the thoracic spine.
  7. Downward Facing Dog
    Once you get into this pose, let the mid-back sink to the ground, allowing gravity to assist the pose. Hold the pose for 10 to 15 breaths, allowing the thoracic spine or mid-back to sink lower with each exhale. If you feel your mid-back rounding, bend your knees. Keeping the knees bent, pivot at the hips and lift the tailbone high to find greater extension through your mid-back.

Lifter or not, if you’ve ever experienced neck pain, lower/upper/mid-back pain, shoulder pain, and/or even headaches, you may want to integrate thoracic extension exercises into your regular Greenville health club routine, so you can do what you love and stay healthy doing it.

Want more yoga? Check out our Greenville yoga class schedule!

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