• Upper Back Mobility (part II)

    We’ll keep up with the theme of some classic tunage on the AG blog for the day, while we continue our discussion on upper back mobility.  This time we’ll let Dan Akroyd and John Belushi take us home with “Sweet Home Chicago” in Blues Brothers:

    For those that can’t appreciate this classic flick, please check your pulse. You’re probably dead, or at the very least, dead to me.

    Blues Brothers = greatness. ’nuff said.

    Onto the business for the day.

    I wanted to continue discussing upper back mobility. We talked last time about how important it is, especially with individuals who are currently experiencing shoulder, neck, and/or back pain. One of the other things I failed to mention was its debilitating effects on the typical desk jockey sitting in an office for 8+ hours out of the day. Let’s take a peak at this dude:

    I know this is a topic that has been beaten to death for many people… but just think about it for a second. If you’re living 8 hours out of your day  with a flexed spine, forward head posture, and not moving from that posture except to get up and fetch some coffee, grab a bite to eat for lunch, and/or hit the water cooler with your coworkers and talk about how badass the Longhorns are gonna be this football season (ESPN-projected team with biggest turn around season… don’t be surprised! It’s gonna happen!), then you’ve got some problems!!

    Yup, it’s time you open that bad boy up.

    I’ve already gone over a few in the LAST POST by some of the big players in the functional fitness industry. I’ve also gone over some open chain tweaks that I have listed below, popularized by Gary Gray and the GIFT Institute:

    (open chain = distal limb is NOT fixed by a solid structure… i.e. the ground, a pull up bar, the wall, etc.)

    Type I/II Arm Driver Progressions:

    Type I/II Body Bar Progressions

    Now, I wanted to add in some more upper back mobility moves of the “closed chain” type, where our distal segment is “fixed” against a solid structure…in this case, the wall. Behold, Wall-T-Spine Mobilizations (also driven from principles derived from the Gray Institute):

    What does it do:

    – By fixing the arm into the wall, and using the opposite arm to drive motion in each plane, we can illicit a little different stretch than we can during the open chain variety. Not only that, we get a better idea of how much “true” range of motion we have (especially if we take this slow and really try to “stay within the plane” of each movement tweak… you can see this especially when I’m driving frontal plane motion, as I almost slip into transverse plane too quickly if I don’t watch out and try to control for it).

    What Cues should I be aware of?

    – Fix one arm, STRONG, into the wall. No time for sallying around here.
    – Try to “sync up” your arm driver movement with your hip movement… this touches upon the “Pel-Trunk-Ula” concept that Gray speaks of. In other words, the pelvis, trunk (torso), and scapula have a distinct connection with one another, and should be mobilized/stretched in that manner.

    – Really try to focus in on moving scapular of the arm that is moving.  “reach” with the scapula, and you will pick up more of the slack that otherwise might still be there if you just reach with your arms alone

    Throw this bad boy in at the beginning of your workout, and work through a couple sets of about 8-12 reps in each direction, but additional repetitions in the planes that you feel more restricted.

    As always, let me know your thoughts in the comments section below with these upper back mobility movements!

    have a great one!


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