Upper back mobility and strength
Another fundamental area for players to improve mobility and strength is in the upper back or thoracic spine. A high number off GAA players demonstrate stiffness and tightness through the upper back and shoulder area.
Poor thoracic spine mobility can affect the shoulder and neck causing restricted movement and pain and poor rotational control. It can also affect further down the chain to lower back and hips so it is an important area for players to work on.
The reduced range of movement and corresponding tight restricted muscles of the upper back can restrict movement patterns and decrease upper body strength in certain plains.
This leads to compensation by other areas and overload which can leave a player more susceptible to injury. Unfortunately most people's daily living habits, ie sitting at a desk all day at a computer and the associated posture only adds to the problem.
Combining these factors with the common love of hitting the gym to bench press only exacerbates the problem! Over-dominant tight pecs only draws the shoulders forward more, adding to poor posture and imbalance with corresponding back muscles.
Balancing push-to-pull exercises in gym work is very important for this reason as the imbalance can also affect the stability of the shoulder girdle and increasing risk of injury there.
We will look more at shoulder injuries and strengthening next week.
Get started with the following exercises first to improve thoracic mobility movement patterns and strength.
You can get good visual examples of all on YouTube:
1Kneeling back stretch
Kneeling on all fours, shoulders over hands and hips over knees but keeping the knees slightly wider than hip width. Draw in your abs and push you hips up and back, lengthening through your spine as you move and sitting right back onto your feet. Stretch your hands right out in front, keeping the core engaged and keep pushing back and up with your hips. Hold for 10 seconds, return to start position and repeat x3.
Kneeling on all fours ensure your hips are aligned over knees and shoulders over hands. In one smooth, controlled movement extend right hand and left leg full out keeping control through the core and not allowing your back to extend. Keeping core fully engaged return to start position and repeat on the opposite side. Focus should be on extending through the shoulder without losing core control.
1One-Arm Dumbbell Row
Using a bench, align yourself in a split stance, keeping the front knee slightly bent and weight on that hip. Extend your other leg straight out behind. Placing one hand on the bench, hold the dumbbell in the other hand. Keeping your body aligned, draw the dumbbell straight up to your chest height keeping the elbow high and squeeze the shoulder blade in tight to your back. Lower the dumbbell back down in a slow, controlled movement and repeat x8. Switch sides and repeat on the other arm. Do not allow your back to twist at all during the movement.
As always, if you experience any pain with the exercises, stop and seek advice from a professional