Thoracic Extension is something that a lot of lifters are lacking and with some dedicated focus can make some substantial improvements in a few short months. We have a few athletes in our gym that have seen some significant improvements in this t-spine extension and in doing so saw some direct improvements in their competition lifts.
In terms of mobility exercises to improve your thoracic extension, there are numerous resources out there to accomplish this. Squat University on Instagram, The Ready State or Smashwerx on YouTube, or the 'Becoming a Supple Leopard' books are just a few examples. In the future I will dive into what we do the most in terms of thoracic mobility in our gym.
What I wanted to touch on in this article are a few exercises and variations that we have used successfully to strengthen our t-spine extension. The primary exercise that our powerlifters have utilized is front squats. We did an analysis of some strength ratios and found that a majority of our powerlifters had very weak front squats in relation to their back squats. Pushing our front squats over a 3 month period led to some very strong improvements in their back squat and deadlift spinal posture. Some other exercises that we utilized in this same time period that could have helped accomplish our posture goals were good mornings, sandbag carries, farmers carries, cambered bar bent-over rows with specific tempos, as well as other various upper back exercises. The upper back work also focused on control and peak contraction of the musculature in order to target our posture improvement goals.
Below is a quick video analysis looking at a safety squat bar good morning from Hunter Hughes in our gym. Hunter is one of our lifters that has seen some major improvements in his thoracic extension. You can see in the video he still has a slight round in his mid back, but he is able to maintain this position without seeing any more spinal flexion while performing his good mornings. Not only can Hunter get into more extension than he had in the past, but his strength and ability in holding his current spinal position has greatly improved. The improvements have already started to show themselves in some recent rep-max personal records in his back squat after returning his focus to them from front squats.
If you have any more questions related to this information, please reach out and let me know.