Thoracic Rotation PAILs & RAILs – Retraining the Muscles & the CNS
Video by Nick Hawkes

When thoracic mobility is mentioned, most people think of foam rolling or flexion and extension drills like cat-cow. But thoracic rotation is also a very important piece of the puzzle and one that is commonly overlooked.

Rotation is especially important for sports like golf, baseball and any others where you are using rotation to create force. The ability to rotate smoothly and completely through the thoracic region is also extremely important in daily activities like walking, running and checking your blind spot while driving.

Bains to Your Thoracic

Sitting, watching TV, typing and other computer work, driving, riding a road bike, texting and playing video games – if you spend a lot of time in any or all of these activities, you likely have a tight thoracic region and therefore, less-than-ideal posture, trouble getting into an overhead position, neck and shoulder pain and/or low back pain. You might even notice breathing is more difficult than it should be. If your ribs are stiff then your diaphragm doesn’t properly function and your lungs can’t fully expand.

The Thoracic Rotation Fix

Thoracic rotation through active mobilization is the method used by Coach Nick in this video, and is generally preferred because it allows you to retrain the central nervous system (CNS) in addition to stretching, which is the sole benefit received from assisted mobilization. By doing this, your body is more likely to ‘hold on’ to the newly found range of motion.

In this video, Coach Nick takes you through some Progressive Angular Isometric Loading (PAILs) which are isometric muscle contractions that strengthen the muscles placed on stretch. Stretching in this way helps teach your body that your end range of motion is safe. By driving a limb into an object and creating a strong muscular contraction – your nervous system realizes that the position is actually safe to be in.

He then shows you how to set the new ROM in place with a Regressive Angular Isometric Loading (RAILs) contraction. These are isometric muscle contractions that strengthen the muscles on the closing side of the joint and allow you pull yourself into a deeper stretch, thereby expanding your ranges.

If you’ve been following along with our spinal mobility series, you have already watched the videos on Spinal Segmentation and Spinal Flexion/Extension. If you have not, check those out first because they give you the base knowledge as well as show you how to pre-test and find your problem areas – you will use the drills in the following videos to address and progress in those areas.

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Adrienne Goodwin
Adrienne Goodwin
July 30, 2021 9:19 am

Thank you for sharing.

Last edited 2 years ago by Adrienne Goodwin
Tom Robert
Tom Robert
July 25, 2020 2:04 am

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