How to make your upper back more flexible in 3 quick moves

Today, we are going to focus on increasing the available range of motion in your upper back!

You can see, I clearly have a rotational limitation as I turn to the right when compared to the left in the before video. The following are 3 exercises that will help increase your active range of motion through stretching and appropriate muscle activation (motor control). These can be performed on one side in order to fix an asymmetrical deficit, or both sides if you're limited on both!

1. Open books with the foam roller. This is a STRETCH! Lay on your side with the affected side up (my right side is up since I'm limited rotating in that direction). The bottom leg is straight, and the top leg is resting on the foam roller. While keeping the knee in contact with the foam roller the entire time, reach the top hand behind you, following the path of the hand with your eyes to ensure optimal rotation. You can feel this stretch anywhere from your neck, upper back, chest and lower back.

2. Spine Rotations (Sitting): Sit back on your heels, with the affected side hand (for me, right hand) behind your head or neck gently. Rotate that elbow up towards the ceiling as far as you can go while keeping the unaffected elbow on the floor.

3. Spine Rotations (Standing): Hinge forward (look back at older videos for this demo!) and rest the unaffected hand on your thigh. Perform the same exercise as the one before this!

As you can see in the 'after' video, I now have equal rotation to the right as I do the left. Just because you cannot move a specific way, doesn't mean you're 'tight'. Retrain your muscles to move your body in a functional and symmetrical way!

Note: For my case specifically, I had the mobility needed already, and you can tell because I had full range of motion with my open books. However, I still could not achieve the range of motion when I stood up. This means I have a motor control deficit, meaning my muscles aren't activating properly to achieve the movement. After I did the 2nd and 3rd exercises, I was then able to twist just as far to my right as my left.

Dr. Hanna Schenkman