Stretching pt 11- Mid Back

In the introduction post to this series, we reviewed and answered some common questions regarding stretching, including why, when, how, etc. Click here to review it.

In this post we will be talking about stretches specifically for the mid back. This includes the long back extensors as they move up the spine towards the neck, the middle and lower trapezius muscles, and  inter-scapular muscles (the ones between the shoulder blades).

The Rules:

1) Stretching should NEVER hurt. The goal is to only go until you feel a pull in the muscle. It should not be to go until it hurts in one of those “no pain, no gain” efforts. It should be comfortable and repeatable, allowing you to move a little further with each repetition.2) Perform stretches when the muscles are warmed up. This can be following a workout or following work with the foam roller. Click here to review the self massage post for the mid back (this includes pictures and video using a foam roller and tennis ball to review 3 self muscle release techniques).

2) Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat 3-4 times. You can hold longer than the 20 seconds, but the reps are key. You will always get more out of stretching frequently versus one killer session a week.

3) If hurt, start by stretching around this area. This includes the low back and neck. Build your way up to stretching the actual area of injury.

The Progression:

#1 Mid back stretch

This start this stretch, begin by getting into a hands and knees position. From here, reach your hands out as far you can comfortably and then plant them there. The last part is to then try and sit back on your heels. You should feel the stretch right along the rib cage and up into the backs of your arms. The key is to keep everything as relaxed as you can. If you are trying to "hang" from your hands, you probably won't feel anything. If this is the case, release that grip, relax your arms and you should feel a good stretch. Hold 20-30 seconds and repeat 4 times.

Ways to advance this?? try it in standing. remember, no "hanging".

#2 + 3 Mid Back with rotation

These two stretches are a modification of the first stretch. You're going to start in that same position, however, you're going put both hands off to one side to start. For example, start by reach up and to the right. Then try to sit back on your left heel. This will give you and arch along the left side of your rib cage. You can increase the stretch by pushing your ribs out even further. Ideally we're looking for a stretch that is along that outside of the ribs and up into the back of the shoulder/armpit. Hold 20-30 seconds and repeat 4 times to each side.

Ways to advance? You can move back to the standing position. The key here is to rotate your feet and lower body away first. Then push out your ribs and lean back.

#4 Seated mid-scap stretch

For this stretch you are going to start in a seated position. Clasp both hands together out in front of you  just below chest height. From here try to "round" your shoulders out or punch your hands forward. This should result in a good stretch right between your shoulder blades. Try to keep you neck relaxed as you do this (especially if you've had neck problems in the past!).  To increase the stretch, lower your hands as you push them forward. You can progress this until they are down between your knees. Same counts. 20-30 second hold and 4 reps.

#5 Thoracic Mobilization with the Foam Roller

While this is technically not a stretch, it is super helpful in releasing all of the tiny little muscles that run in between your vertebrae and ribs. Let's face it. The rib cage only moves so much and it can be hard to get rid of any little spasms in there. The mobilization is in the video below (it's part of the original video for self massage techniques in the areas).