Your Thoracic Spine Makes Pull-Ups Divine
Written by Michele Vieux

Are you super strong and solid with your kipping pull-ups but still struggling with chest-to-bar pull-ups? Check your shoulder and THORACIC mobility. The shoulders may be obvious to many but some may wonder, “What does thoracic mobility have to do with pull-ups?” Almost everything, when you’re talking chest-to-bar pull-ups!

Picture your typical office dweller – slumped over a computer, slouching with a hunched upper back and rounded shoulders – glued in a crappy position for hours on end. Now take that person – with their turtle shell back – and ask them to touch their concave chest to the bar at the top of a pull-up. They try and try, managing chin over bar pull-ups with ease but are unable to extend their thoracic spine to stick their chest out enough to make contact. Make sense now?

Besides making chest-to-bar pull-ups nearly impossible, crappy shoulder and thoracic mobility (aka Upper Cross Syndrome aka “douchebag shoulders” by our favorite mobility guru, Kelly Starrett) mean that you can’t go overhead without straining or loading your lumbar and/or internally rotating your shoulders. Not picking up what I’m putting down? The bottom of a pull up IS the overhead position and you can tell if you’re “that guy” if you are always getting reminded by your coaches to fully extend your elbows at the bottom of your pull-up. You don’t want to be THAT guy. That guy injures his shoulder because he is improperly loading it with much force.

But how many people do you know who spend an equal amount of time counteracting that crappy position? The Yang to the douche bag shoulder Yin? Probably very few but hopefully a lot more after this article publishes and even more next month, which happens to be Remember Your Thoracic September! Yes, that’s right. An entire month dedicated to your t-spine!

My go-to website for mobility ideas is Kelly Starrett’s MobilityWod; check out this link for pages upon pages of mobility drills for the shoulders and thoracic that will be sure to improve your pull-up performance. Don’t be afraid to explore other areas too and find some new tricks to address your problem areas!

See you in Remember Your Thoracic September!

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