Thoracic spine, or mid back rotation mobility is lacking in 90% of the fighters I’ve tested, from novices to world class pros.

In the last episode, I demonstrated how I test and score this. If you scored between 1 to 3, you’re limiting your striking power and have an increased risk of lower back pain.

Today, I share the exercises I program to fix this… I break down the steps and the exercises I program to increase a fighter’s t-spine or mid back rotation mobility.

And before I explain HOW, first I explain WHY (illustrated with some Muay Thai mechanics).

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by Don Heatrick

The Truth About Mid Back (Core) Tightness & Striking Power

Although it’s true a stiff core transfers power better than a mobile, floppy one, it’s a matter of timing. Stiffness can be permanent (as shown in the t spine rotation test), or temporarily activated with well coordinated, strong muscle contractions.

Optimal performance comes from having a range of motion that exceeds the range demanded by your sport (by up to about 20%), but coupled with the strength, stability, and coordination to lock it down when needed too.

Mid Back Optimal Range Of Motion

This produces a fighter that is both powerful AND robust. A fighter that can both transmit incredible power and tolerate sudden ranges of motion outside the norm without suffering an injury.

Not to mention in Muay Thai, there are instances where extreme ranges of t spine or mid back rotation are needed to deliver efficient striking powerNone more so than at close-range and clinch-range…

For example, delivering a body KO from a curved knee in the clinch requires a rotational wind up through the mid back. You must maintain the position of your shoulder girdle relative to your opponent, while winding your hip back to cock-and-load the knee.

Mid Back Thoracic Spine Rotation during a curved knee in the clinch

This movement must come from the mid back, aka thoracic spine… Side note, if this movement repeatedly comes from your lower back or lumbar spine, then that’s going to cause you injury.

So if you tested tight, how can you improve your t spine or mid back rotation?

As I’ve explained before, my approach to mobility addresses the three areas of limitation; muscle length, joint capsule, and neuromuscular control. If you want to better understand this 3-step process, check out this article here.

First we improve muscle length using soft tissue Release exercises, then mobilise the joint using Open exercises, and finally reprogram neuromuscular control using Anchor exercises. It’s a 3-step Release, Open, Anchor process.

To improve mid back rotation, we must address either, or both tightness coming from the chest to the shoulder, and the lat muscles in the back.

In step 1 we release these muscle groups…

First let’s look at the Release exercise for the chest and shoulder… Check out the video for the Pec Minor Tack & Stretch

Next let’s look at the Release exercise for the back or Lats… Check out the video for the Lat Tack & Stretch

In step 2 we open the joints involved. Check out the video for my go to t spine rotation Open exercise… Side Lying Windmill

And as a bonus for those with lat tightness in particular, check out the video to see me demonstrate a Child’s Pose With Reach exercise that I love for opening up the torso. Reaching across, exploring angles through the spine and shoulder, and breathing into the tight areas for 3 or 4 breaths works wonders.

In step 3 we anchor the body and brain’s neuromuscular control of your new range of motion, so that it quickly becomes permanent instead of fading away after 15 minutes or so. Here’s an incredibly effective Anchor exercise… Check out the video for the Overhead Loaded Windmill

Placing these Release, Open, Anchor exercises in your warm up at least 2 to 3 times a week will increase your mid back rotation mobility, and enhance your striking power (especially at close range), and considerably reduce your chances of lower back injury.

Here are the key points from this week’s video resource…

  • 00:00 – Intro
  • 00:39 – The Truth About Core Tightness & Striking Power
  • 01:21 – Mid Back Rotation In Close Range & Clinch Range Muay Thai
  • 01:48 – Thoracic Spine Rotation Good, Lumbar Spine Rotation Bad
  • 01:58 – 3-Step Process For Improving Mid Back Rotation
  • 02:45 – RELEASE 1: Chest & Shoulder
  • 05:02 – RELEASE 2: Back Or Lats
  • 06:55 – OPEN: Side Lying Windmill
  • 08:45 – (Bonus) OPEN: Child’s Pose With Reach
  • 09:01 – ANCHOR: Overhead Loaded Windmill
  • 11:40 – How Often To Use These Exercises

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Don Heatrick

Founder of Heatrick Strength and Conditioning

Don Heatrick is a family man from the UK, former mechanical design engineer, European Muay Thai silver medallist, former pro Thai boxer (ranked 4th in UK while aged 40-years), a Muay Thai coach, podcast host, and the go-to expert on Muay Thai performance training with over 25 years of coaching experience.

Don helps ambitious fighters and coaches take their game to the next level by bridging the gap between Strength & Conditioning, Performance Science, and Muay Thai.

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