The 5 Exercise Fix for the Thoracic Spine

If you are struggling with achy shoulders and a chronically flared up lower back, you need to stop aimlessly treating the symptoms with foam rolling and stretching, and instead go straight to the likely source of pain and dysfunction… the thoracic spine.

Two of the biggest orthopedic pain points the general public in the last decade relating to pain are the shoulders and lower back. When this pain in a muscle or joint presents itself, the typical response is go right to the source. The low back hurts? Stick a ball on the erector for some relief. Shoulder hurts? Must be related to the rotator cuff, so stick a lacrosse ball under it and see what happens.

What’s funny is that the rotator cuff is almost always the scapegoat for shoulder pain, as if there is no other musculature that attaches itself there. Solely treating the source of pain will only get you so far in eradicating your pain, and will likely be a temporary solution. It’s of course more complicated to look at the body as a whole and see what other joints may be the root of the problem, but it’s also necessary for long-term pain alleviation and functionality.



Prevent Shoulder Injuries With 5 TRX Shoulder Exercises

The shoulder is a complex joint that requires a lot of moving pieces to maintain some degree of health. To prevent pain and injury, the thoracic spine, scapula, gleno-humeral joint and upper arm all need to work together, without compensations and restrictions.

Many of these TRX exercises can accomplish that goal, training the muscles that attach at the shoulder to function the way they are supposed to.

A myriad of exercises will improve or maintain shoulder health, using bands, dumbbells, or bodyweight; but the TRX brings a unique dimension. A steeper angle means more resistance, making the exercise more intense, and vice versa. Bonus! Because every exercise has some degree of angle, your core musculature must constantly be engaged—leading to a better relationship for the whole body.  This equals way more gains.

While these exercises might look easy,trust me they are not.  Intention of movement is vital to the success of these exercises and your shoulder health.

After mobilizing and activating the areas that need the corresponding exercises, make sure the prehab drills stick by incorporating systemic strength exercises involving the shoulder joint. Exercises like the TRX Low Row and the TRX Chest Press will add strength to the newfound ranges of movement and engage newly activated muscles.

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9 Exercises that Improve Spinal Health

Back pain can be debilitating to the point where you’re unable to do anything, let alone participate in sports. About 80 percent of people experience back pain in some capacity at some point in their lives. This can range from minor aches (like you get because you overdid something) to sharp pains and structural deformities. Poor spinal health results from lack of mobility and stability, bad movement habits, core weakness, and just not moving enough.

The spine is made up of four segments: the cervical, thoracic and lumbar vertebrae, and the sacrum. Each has a particular role in spinal health. For instance, the thoracic spine should be mobile, and the lumbar spine should maintain stability. However, when they flip roles, compensation patterns and bad movement habits occur, which can lead to spinal health being compromised.

To maintain and promote spinal health, training the body in the correct manner is of the utmost importance, and it all starts with relearning and re-grooving movements. Core strength could be at the top of the list, but if your movement patterns are of poor quality, it doesn’t matter how great your core strength and endurance are, you’re going to end up hurt.

Once movement patterns are cleaned up, you can move on to training your core to perform its true role—resisting movement. Core training isn’t just about developing rock-solid abs. It is vital to maintaining spinal health. If that’s what you’re looking to do, add these exercises into your program.


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Build Strong Hamstrings to Avoid Pulls & Strains

Explosive athletes, or those who require short-burst sprints, like football players and track runners, are usually the most susceptible to hamstring strains due to the nature of their sports. However, even weekend warriors are not immune from injuring their hamstrings.

But there is hope. These injuries can be prevented. The main precursor causing one to suffer a hamstring strain is having previously injured that muscle (or part of the muscle group). Adding a few hamstring exercises to your training program can keep you off the disabled list with a strain. Hamstring strains can cost an athlete weeks or even months of training and competing, so it’s important to take preventative measures to stave off an injury.


Aside from a history of hamstring injuries, strength, flexibility, and stability all factor into preventing hamstring strains.

Lack of Eccentric Strength
Hamstring injuries occur when there is a rapid change from acceleration to deceleration or when you approach top speed during a sprint. Since the hamstrings act to decelerate your leg during full sprints, lacking eccentric strength cause a strain. To prevent injury, it’s important that your hamstrings have the ability to control flexion at the knee while lengthening.


Lack of Glute Strength/Activation
In addition to being a prime mover for knee flexion, the hamstrings also perform hip extension, a role they share with the gluteus maximus muscles. The glutes are a huge, powerful muscle. Just take a look at the backside of any Olympic sprinter. However, when there is little or no activation/strength in the glutes, the hamstrings pick up the slack. They have to act synergistically, not solo. This is a recipe for a hamstring strain.
Lack of Flexibility/Mobility
Most people complain that their hamstrings are “tight” or “tense,” without actually having an issue with the muscles themselves. If you lack flexibility, it’s important to figure out why and not just crank away on the muscle through various stretching techniques. Lack of flexibility or having too much tension in the muscle can be a recipe for injury when you call upon it to fire quickly and it’s too locked up to do anything. You need flexibility so the muscle isn’t forced past its extensibility potential.

Muscle Imbalance
Many of us are naturally quad dominant, and our lives and daily patterns exacerbate the imbalance. But that doesn’t mean we should ignore our posterior chain. Too much quad strength over hamstring strength can lead to anterior pelvic tilt. When the posterior chain gets ignored, this condition becomes more aggravated.


“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” —Benjamin Franklin

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Make Your “Bad” Knees Behave


Snap, Crackle, Pop

Achy Knees, the top structural complaint people have, second to low back pain.  However, is the problem actually the knees or could it possibly be something else.

The general public has a tendency to scapegoat ‘knees’ as the main reason they avoid squatting or lunging or just exercise as a whole.  Either that or years of running and sports has ruined abused their knees and the thought of exercising without pain is now a distant memory.  What they don’t know is the longer they go without doing any lower body exercise, the more their knees will suffer.

There is ALWAYS a solution

What’s fun about knee pain, at least it should be for trainers, is figuring out the root of the problem.  Whether its weakness, mechanics, hypertonicity or “tightness”, or injury history, the goal is to find exercises that will help lead to more pain free movement.

This article isn’t about why knee pain occurs. There are many reasons as to how or why pain develops at the knee.  What will be examined is how to go about building strength for the muscles around the knee.  Muscles like the quads, hamstrings, calves, and to a certain extent the glutes.

Let Me Tell You a Story

Back when I used to run…. A LOT, like I’m talking half and full marathons, my knees would generally ache once I hit a certain threshold.  Attempting to back squat was out of the question.  Even my own doctor said “you likely have arthritis.”  Seriously, at 25, arthritis.  So what’s a guy, that loves exercising

to do.  We go to work.

But First…

Start with checking mobility.  Issues with the knee can stem from a lack of mobility in the joints above and below the joint, specifically the hips and ankles.  The body is incredibly resourceful in getting what it needs and adapting to stress, no matter the cost.  That unfortunately means creating movement in an area that is not meant to move or defensively tightening to protect an area.

  • Ankle– Simple movements on creating dorsi and plantar flexion through the ankle are important.
  • Hip– Especially if you sit a good portion of the day, the hips tighten and develop a lack of mobility. When we run, there is a good deal of stress placed on the hip flexors.  The problem?  Muscles like TFL run down the leg and past the knee. When such muscles are trained all day to maintain a shortened position, it can cause excess pressure on the knee when you attempt to use the muscles normally.


  • Foam Roll- Back to my personal case study, implementing a fair amount of rolling to my program was key. Quads, glutes, TFL, Hamstrings, and even calves.  This helped ease some of the tension I would feel in my legs daily and allow better movement.
  • Stretch- Additionally I would stretch, but not arbitrarily picking muscles at random. Areas like the glutes and piriformis would ease tension on my legs.


Crush that Posterior Chain

Does anyone train the back of their body anymore?  We live in a quad dominant world, whereas glutes and hamstrings need more attention in order to bring balance back.  If you have knee pain and are not currently doing any of these, start.

  • Deadlift/RDL- Both similar in that they are hip hinges, which will build strength in your glutes and hamstrings. Most people have very dominant quadriceps, especially women. Including heavy movements like deadlifts or their slightly related cousin, RDL’s, in your training will help to undue that imbalance.
  • Hamstring Curls- Isolated hamstring work is amazing for several reasons, and there are various ways to accomplish this no matter what your strength level. Still, in terms of altering a quad/hamstring imbalance, isolated work is going to help a great deal.
  • Glute Bridge/Hip Thrust- Focused glute work is fantastic for making your butt strong, and also help you look great in jeans. Double bonus.

Isolate the Quads

  • TKE- Also known as Terminal Knee Extension, this is a “rehab” type exercise meant to force you to contract the quads. This can be performed with a band tied around a post, then looped behind the knee. The knee is then slightly flexed and then fully extended by contracting the quads against the bands resistance.
  • Leg Lifts- Similar to a TKE in terms of Quad activation, perform this seated on the floor with your back to a wall. Then with your leg straight, lift off the ground.  Sounds simple? It is, however it is a challenge to perform properly.

Groove That Squat

  • Patriot Squats/Box Squats– How many times have you heard “squatting is bad for the knees.” Well that’s simply untrue. Squats with POOR technique are bad for the knees.  Learning to correctly squat will make your knees strong and healthy, which in turn makes you healthy and strong.  A patriot squat regression can progress to a box squat as your body becomes adjusted to the movement and master it.


Lastly, if your technique sucks on anything above, find someone to help you.  Seriously!  When it comes to exercise in general, it pays to have an extra set of professional eyes.


Healthy knees are all about having the right amount of movement in the lower body, as well as a necessary level of muscular strength.  Without both, you may be suffering from knee pain.  Now knee pain is not a life sentence.  Believe me.  I was there. I used to not be able to squat at all without pain.  I took the time to work on some of the exercises above, and now I have no pain when it comes to movement.