Author: Nikki Naab-Levy
The BOSU Ball is often seen as a tool for functional strength and balance training. However, if you already have one, it can also be a great place to work on spinal mobility – particularly in the mid back where many of us are stiff from daily activities like sitting at a desk or driving.
When we have mid back stiffness, we are more likely to experience neck and low back pain as well as difficulty performing exercises like overhead squats and deadlifts.
Try these 4 exercises to improve mid back mobility and enhance athletic performance!
Most natural human movements like walking and running require a certain amount of side bending. However, as we get older, many of us lose mobility in this plane, which can create a lot of stress in the neck, hips and low back.
This drill is intended to gently open the areas around the ribs that can become “glued" from moving too much in a single plane of motion.
1. Z-sit with your right hip flush to the BOSU Ball with the right leg in front and the left leg in back. If this is uncomfortable for your hips, you can place a yoga block or pillow under your left hip.
2. Side bend over the BOSU Ball with your left arm reaching overhead. Breathe into your left ribs for a moment.
3. Keeping the hips relatively still, gentle rotate your ribs forward and back. If you find any restrictions, take a moment to breathe into them.
4. Return to the start position and perform this sequence 2 more times. Repeat on second side.
When our thoracic spine doesn't rotate well, we are prone to creating rotation in joint spaces where it doesn't belong like the knees and low back. This is noteworthy; because we need rotation for everything we do, including movements as basic as walking. (Read more here about Rotational Movement Training)
Assuming you have a stiff, but otherwise healthy spine, this rotation exercise is an easy way to enhance thoracic rotation, which will carry over into bigger exercises in your weight training and/or running.
1. Find the same set-up that you did for the side-bending, where you are in a Z-sit with your right hip flush to the BOSU Ball with the right leg in front and the left leg in back.
2. Place your right hand on the BOSU Ball and reach your left hand in the air.
3. Exhale as you rotate your ribs towards the BOSU Ball and place your left hand on the BOSU Ball's edge. Breathe into your mid back for a focused breath.
4. Reach your left hand in the air to rotate in the opposite direction and let your gaze follow your left hand. Gently breathe into your chest for a focused breath.
5. Perform this sequence 3 to 5 times and the repeat on second side.
Crunches get a bad rap, but this version works well for improving posture and core stability and control.
When you start from a seated position there is less strain on the neck and it allows you to practice mid back extension, while firing the muscles of the core that help hold our ribs in a neutral position relative to the pelvis.
1. Start sitting with your hips at the bottom edge of the BOSU Ball and your hands behind your head.
2. Slowly lean back over the BOSU Ball until you feel your upper back extend. Make sure that your lower back stays gently connected to the BOSU Ball and that your head is in line with your spine.
3. Take a breath in and as you exhale, slowly curl the ribs forward until you feel your ribs knit together and your abdominals contract. Your head should stay in line with your shoulders. Your pelvic position should remain the same (no excessive tucking).
4. Return to the extension phase. Perform up to 10 slow reps.
The BOSU Ball is a great place to practice mid back extension and strengthen the muscles of the upper back, because the dome gives you feedback on where your pelvis is.
This minimizes the odds of over extending in the low back, which is where many of us already have too much extension.
1. Lie face down on the BOSU Ball with your pelvis roughly on top of the dome. Plant your hands by your sides and gently roll your shoulders back away from the ears.
2. Prepare to move by gently tucking your pelvis, so your hips are pressing into the dome.
3. Lift your head, so it is in line with your shoulders. Then think about sending your sternum forward as you extend through the upper spine.
4. Pause when you feel some gentle activation in the mid back muscles. There should be no discomfort in the low back and you should feel a little activity in the glutes.
5. Do up to 10 repetitions at a slow to moderate pace.
About the Author: Nikki Naab-Levy, B.S. Exercise Science, is a Pilates teacher, MELT instructor, and massage therapist for people who haaaa-ate slowing down and making time for self-care, but secretly know they need to.
Through her sassy-smart blog posts, videos, and classes, she's here to teach you how to move better and get fitter with less pain—while making it all feel like play.
When she's not teaching the fun side of self-care or how to make Pilates sneaky hard, you can find her scaling mountains—just kidding!—hills in the Pacific Northwest with her fiancé, nerding out on business podcasts, and chain-drinking cups of coffee.