Thoracic spine mobility is important in many aspects of sport performance and strength and conditioning. For most lifting endeavors, we need some degree of thoracic extension (straightening) at approximately the level of the shoulder blades. We also need to be able to reverse that thoracic extension back into flexion, in order to restore the slight kyphotic curve to the thoracic spine and ribcage, which is normal for resting posture.
The Cat-Camel drill is commonly prescribed to restore thoracic spine mobility. In this article, I will go over some finer points and tips for its execution. For the cat portion of the drill, I will typically cue a posterior tilt of the pelvis (tuck the tailbone under) and rounding of the lower back, in addition to thoracic rounding. This is simply to decrease global tone in the spinal erectors.
Breathe in through your nose, and fill your lower and upper back with air. Try not to shrug towards your ears as you breathe in. As you exhale through your mouth, posteriorly tilt your pelvis and round both your upper and lower back. This is done by lightly pushing straight down with your knees (your hamstrings will activate), and pushing through your shoulder by protracting your shoulder blades. Think about spreading your shoulder blades apart from each other. From here, take a breathe in and fill your upper back with air. Again, do not shrug towards your ears, or alter your position as you inhale. Just let it flow in like water.
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