Kneeling Thoracic Rotation
By Mike Mejia, M.S., C.S.C.S
Muscles Trained: Entire upper back (with an emphasis on the rear deltoids and muscles that help mobilize the thoracic spine) and the core.
Importance to Swimmers: Equal parts mobility drill and strengthening exercise, this oft-overlooked movement can pay huge dividends for any athlete, particularly swimmers. By strengthening the muscles that help stabilize the scapula and guard against shoulder injuries – while simultaneously improving range of motion of the thoracic spine – you'll be able to exert force through a much larger range of motion.
Execution: Get down on to all fours in a quadruped position. (*Note: Many of you may have to elevate your knees on a mat to help maintain a flat back). Once there, reach one arm underneath your body until you feel a stretch in your upper back, right behind your shoulder. Next, slowly reverse the motion by bringing your arm up and out to the side as if doing a dumbbell reverse fly, only continue the movement past the usual finish position (arm parallel to the ground) and continue raising it towards the ceiling. Be sure to keep your hips still and only allow the shoulders and upper torso to rotate. Hold the top position for a second, then lower and repeat until you've completed 8-10 repetitions, then switch sides.
• Start out with just the weight of your arm as resistance and focus on improving range of motion. Once you get better at these, you can use a light dumbbell to increase the difficulty (as pictured).
• Be sure to keep your hips perfectly still so that the rotation comes from the upper back (thoracic spine) and not the lower back (lumbar spine).
• Avoid straightening your elbow in the finish position, as this is only an attempt to compensate for limited thoracic rotation.