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3 Simple Moves to Get Your Upper Back & Neck Relaxed

We continue our journey up the body from the low back, now reaching the mid-back, upper-back, and neck.  (Get caught up here, here, here, and here.)  Like the low back, restrictions in these parts of the spine may cause a host of problems.  Problems from the bottom of the ribcage upward are likely to prevent you from maintaining an upright posture, forcing you to use your low back and exposing it to injury.  Issues here can also impact your breathing, shoulder mobility, and self esteem (yes, really).

Nothing will help loosen your ribcage and start realigning your mid- and upper-back like breathing with your diaphragm.

Here’s a simple routine you can do everyday.  You will need a towel, lacrosse or golf-sized ball, or a foam roller.  Total time is 12-20 minutes per session:

1. Breathe:  Yes, breathe – in your belly.  Nothing will help loosen your ribcage and start realigning your mid and upper back like breathing with your diaphragm. Try for a “box” breath of 4 counts in, hold for 4 counts, exhale for 4 counts, and hold empty for 4 counts. Start with a couple of minutes and work up to 10:00/day.  You can also do this anytime it comes to mind during the day.  Yes, you can do this in traffic, as long as you don’t find it distracting.  If you’re not in traffic, you can place on hand on your chest and one on your belly.  The hand on your belly should move out before the one on your chest moves, if it moves at all.

Belly Breathe

Related:  What is a Functional Movement Screen and How Can It Help You?

2. Laying Overhead Reach: Roll up a towel, or if you have a ‘peanut’ or foam roller, you can use that too, as long as it isn’t too intense.  How to know?  If you find yourself holding your breath, it’s too intense.  Lay on your back with the bottom of the towel above the bottom of your rib cage.  Take a deep belly breath and raise both arms overhead as far as they will go.  Exhale and lower the arms.  Repeat at least 20 times, moving with your breath.

Laying Overhead Reach ExtendedLaying Overhead Reach

3. Neck: From a standing position, grab something behind you with your right hand (the edge of a door works well) with your thumb up.  Stand up tall, take a deep breath in, and drop your left ear to your left shoulder.  Do not allow your head to roll forward.  Hold for at least 5 breaths.  Repeat on the other side.

neck-stretch-front neck-stretch-side

Related: How Can ROM Make You Fitter?

Perform all or part of this routine as often as you can, and improvement will come quickly!  Basically, if it crosses your mind, pause and knock out a mobility exercise.  Even if you can only get it in ‘here and there’, that’s better than nothing, and will help you make progress, or at least feel a bit better before continuing with your day.

I love your emails!  Shoot me any questions you may have, I’m happy to help!

-John Bryant

Founder & Head Trainer

john@crossfitslipstream.com