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More Effective Thoracic & Shoulder Mobility Training

low back pain

If you were to believe the internet, building better thoracic and shoulder mobility has to be an incredibly complex and probably painful process. You gotta get into these extreme ranges of motion and pull, twist, and feel like you are ripping body apart to even have a chance of improving your movement, right?

The truth is, people that already have good thoracic and shoulder mobility often weren’t those that were really struggling with it in the first place. The number of “mobility experts” I see with years of martial arts, gymnastics, and yoga behind them are often not aware there probably wasn’t a magical method or exercise that instantly increased their mobility and solved all their thoracic and shoulder issues.

Most don’t tell you that pushing your body really hard through mobility exercises is the exact OPPOSITE way to build greater movement of your body. Doing so kicks in the alarm system to the nervous system and often causes the brain to actually restrict movement even more. So, if your typical thoracic and shoulder mobility training exercises involve great pain, discomfort, and cranking on your body and tissues, you are probably causing your body to move worse!

shoulder pain

Plus, just trying to move a joint that doesn’t move well in the first place doesn’t make a lot of sense. You will often get compensation, discomfort, and may cause other issues to arise. There are more effective ways to build thoracic and shoulder mobility and here are some tips and examples that can help greatly!

Increasing Stability

Mobility and stability have a deep connection to one another and very often lack of stability somewhere in the body causes the nervous system to find stability through creating tightness somewhere else. A classic example is when we lack core stability the body reacts in often making the next area of our body (the thoracic spine) “tight”. Research shows that issues like postural kyphosis can be improved marketably with dynamic stabilization and breathing exercises (1).

They don’t have to be crazy exercises either as coach Cory Cripe helps us show how focusing on breath work and dynamic stability on the left, helps us open the body up for more strength, stability, and mobility drills on the right.


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A post shared by Cory M. Cripe (@corymcripe)

How does breath work help with our stability? Our deep core stabilizers work synergistically and reflexively (you can’t really flex these muscles) to help provide every day spinal stability. In many people, for one reason or another, they end up not working effectively and breath work (especially with movement) can help restore the stability and we find greater mobility in the body.

shoulder mobility

The “inner unit” core muscles consist of diaphragm at the top, the pelvic floor at the bottom, the transversus abdominus at the sides and front and the lumbar multifidus at the back. These muscles allow for proper spinal stability and when they aren’t doing so they can impact lower body mobility and function as well as cause upper body issues especially in the neck, thoracic spine, and shoulder mobility. 

Using standing exercises like Cory shows allows us to build stability in the right places of the kinetic chain of our body and mobility in the appropriate segments.


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A post shared by Cory M. Cripe (@corymcripe)

What Cory showed above was drills that create stability through that deep inner unit while also using areas like our feet to develop a better foundation. When he moves he is not just moving the joint or muscles, but helping fascia stretch that will allow us to gain much better thoracic and shoulder mobility. These movements fro our Myofascial Integrated Movement system (MIM) also pair really well with drills like physical therapist, Jessica Bento, shows for another way we enhance stability for better thoracic and shoulder mobility.

Exercise progressions like Jessica shows above help build what a 2006 paper describes as…” Core muscle activity is best understood as the pre-programmed integration of local, single-joint muscles and multi-joint muscles to provide stability and produce motion. This results in proximal stability for distal mobility, a proximal to distal patterning of generation of force, and the creation of interactive moments that move and protect distal joints. Evaluation of the core should be dynamic, and include evaluation of the specific functions (trunk control over the planted leg) and directions of motions (three-planar activity). Rehabilitation should include the restoring of the core itself, but also include the core as the base for extremity function.” (2)

Good mobility training is NEVER about just one part of the body! If there is restriction of movement like we see in lack of thoracic and shoulder mobility we want to first think about what part of the body is NOT creating proper stability (the feet and core are often first places we look), and we want to think of the whole body as one big piece that moves in unison since our fascial network is one big web for us to move. That is why following a series like Jessica shows below is a great way to achieve many of the aspects that really impact mobility all at once!

You can get so much help with challenging issues like low back pain with our special program bundle that address many of the facets of low back pain with smarter exercise. Don’t miss in getting this great combo for 35% off for this week only with code “special35” HERE



  1. Mohammad Rahimi, Nasser, et al. “Efficacy of dynamic neuromuscular stabilization breathing exercises on chest mobility, trunk muscles, and thoracic kyphosis: a randomized controlled 6-Week trial.” Iranian Rehabilitation Journal 18.3 (2020): 329-336.
  2. Kibler, W. Ben, Joel Press, and Aaron Sciascia. “The role of core stability in athletic function.” Sports medicine 36 (2006): 189-198.