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Thoracic Mobility

by Gregory Spatz, PT, DPT, PRC, CSCS and Nathan J. Shaw, ATC, PRT, CSCS,*D, RSCC
NSCA Coach July 2015
Vol 3, Issue 3

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The loss of required thoracic spine ranges of motion for sport movements can be problematic for the elite athlete, as well as the weekend warrior. The purpose of this article is to explore biomechanical causes for thoracic mobility restriction as well as provide easily applicable techniques to restore mobility.

Whether you are throwing a ball, swinging a club, or evading a grappling opponent on the mat, impeded trunk rotation and thoracic and pelvic dissociation—separation in opposite directions—may biomechanically be a contributing factor of performance deficits and injury. The loss of required thoracic spine ranges of motion for sport movements can be problematic for the elite athlete, as well as the weekend warrior. No matter what level of competition, athletes are required to access the transverse plane to produce power and excel in most sport or physical activities. Limitations in mobility can occur for different reasons including bony impingement, soft tissue hypertonicity or adaptive shortening, motor control deficits, a reduced tolerance for physiological stress (fitness), or even pain and the fear of pain. In this article, the first three listed will be the focus because restrictions in thoracic mobility may require compensatory extremity movement beyond physiologically acceptable ranges, which can lead to injury.

The purpose of this article is to explore biomechanical causes for restriction as well as provide easily applicable techniques to restore mobility. Strategies for restoring thoracic mobility in the transverse (rotational) plane should first consider the sagittal and frontal planes where flexion/extension and abduction/adduction occur, respectively.

This article originally appeared in NSCA Coach, a quarterly publication for NSCA Members that provides valuable takeaways for every level of strength and conditioning coach. You can find scientifically based articles specific to a wide variety of your athletes’ needs with Nutrition, Programming, and Youth columns. Read more articles from NSCA Coach »

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Nathan J. Shaw, CSCS, RSCC

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Nate Shaw has been the Major League Strength and Conditioning Coordinator for the Arizona Diamondbacks Major League Baseball (MLB) organization since ...

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Gregory Spatz, CSCS

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Greg Spatz is a performance-based physical therapist and strength and conditioning coach who recognizes the continuum of rehabilitation to sports perf...

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