Active Thoracic Spine Disassociation

The following videos come from my 2016 CSCCa presentation on the thoracic spine.  It is one of our more advanced progressions through our active t-spine rotation.  I say more advanced because of the control it requires from the pelvis, and t-spine.  In the active series, the internal / external obliques control motion versus our lying progressions where we can apply opposite arm pressure on the floor to rotate along with gravity assisting us.

The ability to separate the hips from the spine is a very important one for any athlete, especially a rotational one.  Creating separation is one of the driving forces of the whip effect to impart velocity into an object.  Without the ability to disassociate the hips will move with the spine resulting in virtually no build up of elastic energy to release into a rotational effort.

Thoracic spine rotation is fairly obvious for rotational athletes.  Controlling the rib cage becomes a priority with all our t-spine movements as well the addition of breathing patterns.  Controlled exhalation assists in rib control, oblique firing patterns, and increased mobility.  Exhalation is mobility, inhalation is stability.  Whenever we train for thoracic spine motion we focus on relaxed exhalation.  Movements are generally done for sets of 3-5 reps per side.

Hip Rotations w/ T-Spine Away From Wall
  • Start standing 6-12″ off a wall in an athletic position.  We like to use a wall as a reference for rotation.
  • Begin with a controlled hip shift.  One of the easiest ways we’ve found to teach this is to have the athlete think of pulling one knee back and pushing the opposite knee forward.
  • With arms locked rotate shoulders into the shifted side and hold.  Exhale fully and try to rotate further.
  • While continuing to hold the hip shift rotate back to the opposite direction and exhale.
  • Huge keys here are continuing to hold the shifted pelvic position while controlling the separation of the t-spine.  Don’t let your hips move throughout the movement otherwise we get no true disassociation.

T-Spine Single Leg Lunge Rotations

We have two methods at our disposal with this movement.  Keeping light or no pressure into the wall creates an active disassociation focused on the thoracic rotators.  Keeping pressure into the waltakes stress off the active portion but creates a surface to rotate against creating more mobility.  For the purposes of this article we focus on active rotation.

  • Start with hip 6″ away from the wall.  Mobile athletes may need to start closer.  Less mobile may have to move further away.
  • Start with both hands on the wall and LIGHT PRESSURE.   Keep that light pressure throughout to gain active separation with the obliques.  Pushing the hands into the wall takes stress of controlled rotation resulting in more mobility but less controlled disassociation.
  • Arch the hands above the head controlling the ribs and reach as far as possible with both hands while keeping light or no pressure into the wall.  Exhale into the stretch.
  • Only use activation of the thoracic rotators to gain movement.
  • Control the rib and spine into extension.  Many athletes will compensate extending the spine instead of pure rotation.  Keep the hips directly under the shoulders in a neutral tilt.
  • Generally 3-5 reps with both legs forward, then switch sides of rotation.