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The side-lying rotation stretch improves hip and upper-spine mobility.
Lack of mobility in your thoracic spine can reduce stability in your shoulders and lumbar spine, according to physical therapist Gray Cook, co-founder of Functional Movement Systems. Side-lying thoracic-rotation exercises increase your torso's mobility while improving stability in your lumbar spine and the rotator cuffs in your shoulders. Warm up for about 4 to 5 minutes before you attempt these exercises. You can warm up by jumping rope or doing standing torso twists and sun salutations.
Thoracic Mobility Benefits
The quality of movement in any section of the spine and other major joints in your body can influence how nearby joints move and function. When your thoracic spine lacks mobility -- being able to move freely within its range of motion -- your shoulders and lumbar spine compensate by decreasing their stability and increasing their range of motion. This can lead to instability in the shoulders and lumbar spine which can cause various problems, such as shoulder dislocation and lower-back pain, says Cook. Side-lying rotation exercises place your spine in the least amount of stress and increase thoracic spine mobility by stabilizing your shoulders and lumbar spine in place while rotating your torso with deep, controlled breathing. These exercises can be part of a warm-up or cooldown.
Active Side-lying Thoracic Rotation
Rather than just holding the stretch, rotate your thoracic spine repetitively to increase tissue mobility and neural stimulation to your muscles. With the right side of your body on the floor and your knees and hips bent at about 90 degrees, bring your palms together and extend your arms in front of your chest. Put a firm pillow or cushion beneath your head for support. Exhale as you rotate your torso to your left, lifting your left hand over your body and bringing your left shoulder and arm to the floor. Squeeze your inner thighs together to stabilize your lower body. Your upper body should resemble the letter T. Hold the stretch position for two deep breaths before returning to the starting position. Perform six to 10 reps on both sides of your body.
Side-Lying Rotation With Reach
Side-lying rotation with a reach involves thoracic mobility while reaching upward with one hand. Lie on the right side of your body on the floor, bring your palms together and extend your arms in front of your chest. Bend your left knee and hip to about 90 degrees and extend your right leg away from you. Put a firm cushion or a foam roller beneath your left knee and press your knee against it. This stabilizes your lower body to prevent it from moving. Rotate your torso to your left, bringing your left shoulder and hand to the floor, and reach upward in front of your chest with your right hand so that your right arm is perpendicular to the floor. As you reach up, keep your right shoulder blade on the floor. This position increases stability in your shoulder. Hold this position for two deep breaths before returning to the start position. Perform six to 10 reps on each side of your body.
The brettzel is a challenging variation of the side-lying thoracic rotation where you not only improve thoracic spine rotation, but also improve flexibility in your hip flexors and quadriceps. Start in the same position in the side-lying rotation with reach and place your right hand on top of the left knee to keep it in place. Bend your right knee and grab the top of your right foot or ankle with your left hand. Once you get used to this position, take a deep breath and then exhale slowly as you rotate your torso to your left. Bring your left shoulder as close to the floor as possible while keeping your hand positions and lower body in place. When you can't turn anymore, inhale deeply and exhale slowly as you rotate a bit more to your left. Repeat this breathing and moving pattern two more times then perform the brettzel on the opposite side of your body.