To complete the foam rolling trifecta for overhead mobility, we will be targeting the thoracic spine, specifically the lower and middle trapezius. I mentioned earlier in both foam rolling examples that compensatory patterns emerge in the upper traps if either the pecs or lats are overactive. We can safely assume that the upper traps are also overactive if this is a common compensatory pattern. The difference in this example of foam rolling is that we are using the foam roller to initially increase the lower trap muscles’ activity. This will reinforce scapular depression and improve thoracic extension. After some scrubbing in the lower traps, our pin and move technique will help us maintain scapular stability, especially while raising the arms overhead. See below for the example.
Place the foam roller underneath the shoulder blades with your feet and hips on the ground. Use your hands to support your head as you scroll up towards the head, oscillating now and again to smooth out the tissue; when you find a nice spot to pin, hold the roller there. While the tissue is “trapped” (get it?), pull the elbows together to expose different muscle fibres to the foam roller. After a moment, pull the elbows away from each other and repeat for a few reps. At this point, if you can, do some arm angels gently and smoothly to explore frontal plane mobility with the same pinned position. In the example above, Cody was having some challenges with his neck. Not everyone will have comfortable experiences with the foam roller, and it’s our job to ensure comfort and safety. As a result, we regressed to where he felt comfortable and made a note in our program.
The other pin and move technique that you can use in this position is a sagittal plane flexion and extension through the spine. Cody demonstrates a good example of using this foam rolling practice to identify other opportunities for improvement (lack of elbow extension is shown in the video above), and Logan provides an excellent example of the mobility goal for this exercise. The spinal flexion and extension in this example do 2 things: improves flexibility of the spine in the sagittal plane and work some abdominal activation at the same time. You can see that Cody’s form and flexibility improve throughout the short set that we did together. Imagine how much improvement could be observed with regular practice and appropriate integrated programming.
Foam Rolling for Overhead Mobility Precedes Stretching
Now that these muscles are warmed up and ready to move, the next step is to lengthen the same tissue foam rolled above. Try these variations of foam rolling to enhance your mobility and stick around for the upcoming article “Stretching for ‘Overhead Mobility'” coming out next Friday. See you then!