Thorax?? Who you calling a Thorax!!!???

Thorax?? What’s a Thorax??

In martial arts and most athletics in general, mobility is key. Improving ranges of motion will for allow for better velocity on your striking and increased positional ability in grappling.

When we think about mobility we always tend to think in terms of shoulders and hips but we tend to neglect a missing link situated right in between those 2 locations. 

T-spine or Thoracic spine

  The thoracic spine is the longest region of the spine, and by some measures it is also the most complex. Connecting with the cervical spine above and the lumbar spine below, the thoracic spine runs from the base of the neck down to the abdomen. It is the only spinal region attached to the rib cage.

Your rib cage acts as the base of support for your shoulder blades. Your shoulder is inherently unstable as it’s only bony attachment to your body is at your sternum. Therefore, there are a lot of muscles (17 to be exact), that attach to your shoulder blade to keep it stable and attached to your body.  As with any appendage in the body, you want to promote proximal stability for distal mobility. Meaning that if you want to be able to throw a punch or kick to a good end range of motion or to be able to bridge an opponent of of you with optimal power improving you T-spine mobility will help in both of these situations.

Thoracic mobility and it importance in striking

As we understand the human body works most optimally while generating torque and rotation through a spiral pattern. In striking the power is generated from the floor through the feet generating to the hips, then shoulders. More times then not we tend to neglect a very important step in this mechanism, that being the thoracic spine which similar to a drive shaft from a transmission to power the wheels to move. Improving this range of movement will not only add to the improvement of the required rotation of that action but will also decrease the level of compensation that might effect posture during the end range of that movement. This will increase your movement efficiency and allow for increased work output as certain compensations are deleterious to form that allows increased output.

For example, You’re throwing  a cross (backside straight punch) and you’re t-spine mobility is shortened or you are simply un aware of it’s function in this. In order to hit the target you will have to lean past your base making throwing the next punch in the combination less effective but also increasing the amount of effort you are using per strike. You are more likely to get fatigued then an athlete who has a more efficient movement pattern while striking.

On top of this, a lack of proper form will decrease the amount of power in your strikes.

Thoracic mobility  and its importance in Grappling

Let’s take the use of this to the ground.

Bridging is a very important skill in Wrestling, Jiu jitsu, and Judo. Being able to generate power to sweep or get an opponent out of a dominant position is extremely important and again we are talking about a ballistic rotative movement that we are generating power from the floor and through the body in order to efficiently complete this task.

Lack of mobility and again lack of movement awareness in the T-spine can make this a difficult and daunting task. The hips my fire but without proper rotation through that mid spine we will not be able to make the optimal amount of space required to hip escape and get out from underneath our opponent.

Remember, We are not looming to launch the person on top straight up but at an angle allowing us to recompose our position to one that is better in the positional hierarchy ( from being stuck in full mount to half guard to example).

Mobility exercises and movements that increase T-spine mobility

Starting with extension- Using a foam roller place it mid spine facing the ceiling.

Feet flat on the floor with your knees bent, lacing your fingers behind your head and bring your elbows together in front of you and take a deep inhale, as you open your elbows out to the side exhale and allow your mid spine to arch back letting your head drop towards the floor. You should start to feel a little muscular tension in your upper back at the end range of motion in this. Do this for 10 to 15 repetitions.

The best stretch in the world!!!!- 

Called “ the Pinwheel” or the “dragon lunge” we use this on a regular basis in our Odd Object Playground Movement prep.

Starting in plank position with your heals together and hands directly under your shoulders, step you left foot directly outside of your left hand. From hear taking you left hand reach toward the ceiling keeping your eyes on the left hand and letting your “spine follow your eyes” and pressing firmly into the floor with your right hand reaching through your left finger tips and inhale. At this point bring your left elbow to wards the floor as close to the inside of your left foot as possible then reaching back to the ceiling inhaling deeply while doing so. Repeat this for 3-5 times on each side. This is in itself an amazing tool and active stretch for warming up.

Upper body 90/90-

Laying on your left side keeping your knees together and drawing them up to your chest extend both hands directly in front of you out with the left arm on the floor and the right arm on top with your palms together. Exhaling,Taking your right arm reach first toward the ceiling and then behind you trying to touch the floor with the back of your right hand then return to the starting position. Be sure to keep you knees high to your chest to make sure the movement is coming from the T-spine and not the hips. 

Power moves 

Half kneeling medicine ball throws- One of our favorites!! Setting up next to a wall in a half kneeling position right knee on the floor and left foot flat on the floor. Left foot should be on the side of the wall with a lighter Med ball (2-8lbs is sufficient) keeping the ball close to your chest and rotating away from the wall drive your right shoulder back toward the wall and release the ball. Catching the ball on the rebound repeat this 10 to 15 reps per side adding in some alternating one hand planks with this can make it a really awesome and challenging core training session combining both ballistic rotation and stability.

The Turkish get up-

This is a stable for us at PCC. It is a complex carry that we teach regularly and is a required movement for all of our competitors. It requires muscular endurance, alignment, and mobility. At this point  I will state that we are not going to write a full description of the movement as we would rather that you come to class and learn it in the most power application in order to really understand it so that you can keep it in your tool box. There are few movements that deliver results in the way this does.  

Rope pulley-

Another tool the we use on a regular in the OOP classes that utilizes both tis pine mobility and power. On top of that it’s a hell of a metabolic tool that is fun, safe and challenging. 

Grabbing the rope with you left hand as close to the the pulley mechanism as possible drive your elbow past your torso ,Think about putting it in your same side back pocket bringing you left thumb to your chest and reaching up the rope with your right hand grab on and do the same. Repeat for 15-to 25 repetitions making sure to maximize the rotation through the mid spine and keeping your feet planted and square for this version of the exercise.

Wrapping it up

In closing we encourage you to explore what we have brought forward hear in order to improve not just your time in the gym but to improve your life outside of it. Increased Thoracic mobility will have an effect on everything from exercise patterns to breathing patterns so we absolutely welcome question on this topic if you care to reach out to us and as state these concepts are things that we steadily employ in our Odd Object Playground class which is 6 days a week in our schedule. We invite you to come and be a part of it so that our coaches can help you to improve on what ever your goals are.

The importance of Movement Preparation (Dynamic Warm Up)

Movement preparation, also referred to as a dynamic warm-up, involves moving in a variety of directions at different speeds to help activate the tissues along with the nervous, circulatory and respiratory systems responsible for controlling and fueling movement. Movement preparation can be an effective and functional way to prepare the body for a neurologically, and physically challenging training session.

Performing a warm-up at the start of an exercise session:

  • Increases circulation, which moves oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to the involved muscles

  • Elevates tissue temperature so that muscles can rapidly lengthen and return to their starting shape

  • Turns on the sensory receptors of the central nervous system responsible for identifying position changes in the body, which is essential for determining the appropriate motor response

  • Elevates the levels of hormones and neurotransmitters responsible for providing energy during a workout.

  • Rehearses movement patterns in slower, controlled tempos before adding resistance or moving at a fast speed

  • Otherwise prepares the body for physical activity

Movement preparation exercises are an effective pre-workout warm-up because they move the body in all directions and involve a number of different muscles and joints. For best results, a movement preparation warm-up should start with exercises that focus on stability of the lumbar spine along with mobility of the hips and thoracic spine, while gradually increasing the level of intensity to allow tissue temperature and circulation to increase. Here are five ways that movement preparation works as an effective pre-workout warm-up strategy:

  1. Joint capsules and ligament endings contain numerous sensory receptors that measure and identify pressure, movement and rate of movement of their respective joints. Slow, controlled movements through a complete range of motion allows the nervous system to learn how to regulate the degrees of freedom allowed in each individual joint.

  2. Muscles are comprised of two different kinds of tissue: the contractile element of the actin and myosin proteins and the elastic component of the fascia and connective tissue, which surrounds every muscle fiber down to the most microscopic level. Muscle and fascia contain sensory receptors that sense tension, length change and rate of length change. Movement preparation exercises engage the sensory receptors in both the contractile and elastic tissues to fully involve the central nervous system and prepare it to control the muscles used in the workout.

  3. As muscles lengthen, the muscle spindles sense the rate of length change and communicate with motor neurons to initiate muscle contractions. Movement preparation exercises increase nervous system activity within muscles, making them more effective at producing powerful contractions during exercise.

  4. Multiplanar movements at a variety of rhythmic speeds increase heat in the body. As body temperature elevates, muscle and fascia become more pliable and capable of lengthening and shortening at faster rates of speed.

  5. Reciprocal inhibition refers to the physiological action that occurs when the shortening or contracting of one muscle sends a signal to its functional antagonist (the muscle on the other side of a joint), which allows it to lengthen. The controlled contractions during movement preparation exercises use the principle of reciprocal inhibition to allow muscles to lengthen and prepare for activity.

An effective movement preparation sequence involves all of the foundational movement patterns of exercise: lunging, squatting, pushing, pulling and rotating. Start with slow, controlled movements and gradually progress to challenging, fast-paced multidirectional movement patterns. The body can take at least eight to 12 minutes to fully warm up. Therefore, setting aside the proper time for a complete movement preparation sequence can help ensure your client’s workout is a success.

All of our Odd Object Playground classes include a comprehensive, challenging , and fun movement prep component. We always encourage our members to keep the concepts they learn in the classes so that they have useful tools that they can utilize when ever they need where it is at PCC/DiamondHeart MA or when ever traveling or visiting another facility. 

Breathing techniques to improve recovery.

Recovery was once an often overlooked factor in athletic development and training.

Many coaches and athletes will push to high levels of intensity in the gym and on the training floor but once out of that surrounding we need to refuel, recover, reset ourselves for our next training session.


We need to start understanding that the human body is an intertwined number of subsystem that each play there own important roles in our performance, recovery and overall longevity. Targeting the recovery of only the muscular system will leaving the rest of the system in a training deficit and over time lead to problems.


The human performance system is broken down into:













A stronger and more comprehensive approach to movement and recovery put this integrated model into play, Keeping in mind each subsystem that all combined complete one super system.

Each of these subsystems hold influence upon the other in our ability to manage and strengthen both outputs of performance and the recovery from it.


The primary shift in thinking needs to step away from the outdated mode of thinking that everything starts and stops with the muscular system and begin to work towards and adopting a more integrated concept that includes all of the subsystems with in this framework.

 We need to apply a more global view of how the body works in recovery as opposed to the outdated segmented recovery concepts. In other words to start looking at this as a collection of cohesive systems which are interconnected an working together.


Once we have made that mental paradigm shift , the next step is to understand that all of the subsystems play a role and are important but one of them is what should be considered the foundation that everything else rest upon.


Breathing and it’s obvious “and not so obvious” importance


when it come to optimizing movement and recovery, the of the most crucial pieces of the performance puzzle, proper breathing mechanics are paramount.

Respiration is the most underutilized and overlooked aspect in recovery which is ironic because it is the foundation that allows all of the other systems to thrive.

If your respiration isn’t normalized, it is hard for the other systems to follow suit.

If your breathing is out of whack then it will effect the other systems in a similar fashion.



Get your breathing right and you will have a good platform to build and develop all of the other systems upon in order to build  a solid symbiotic amongst them and optimized your movement and recovery.


From a movement and recovery standpoint this should be obvious.

If you aren’t breathing effectively and efficiently , can you really expect to perform well in an activity where the most basic requirement is the effective utilization of oxygen.


The mechanical effects of airflow, and how it can detract from or enhance movement cannot be overstated.

With sub-optimal breathing patterns, posture and movement quality are compromised, leading to less efficient movement during exercise or competition which will obviously have a depreciating effect on the level you will be able to perform at.

Breathing influences movement patterns, posture, pain, as well as performance by altering the position of the musculoskeletal system, Causing restriction of airflow leading to the under inflation or hyperinflation of your lungs, thus creating a mechanical barrier that limits movement.

In short and in a very real way, being able to move optimally during performance and exercise comes back to the ability to breathe effectively.


Recovery is affected in a similarly detrimental way. To truly get a grasp on optimal recovery we need to think past the muscles and look to the nervous system.


The recovery of the nervous is a powerful influencer in regards to regaining the capacity to provide output to the movement system. But it also must be considered baed on its impact on the behavior of any number of subsystems that can allow these local adaptations to occur as well as our ability to maintain health.


If Your nervous systems chronically fatigued, it won’t matter how “effective” of a training or condition ing program you are following, results will be suboptimal due to the “trickle down” effect that will occur.


For instance, A strongly, rigid, less adaptive nervous system has broad spectrum consequences that may promote similar reductionist the ability of other systems.

If the autonomic system is overtaxed and remains sympathetic dominant , an excess of stress hormone circulation may delay the ability of energy restore mechanisms be effective.

This could lead to digestion being interrupted, which in turn will limit the necessary energy and nutrient absorption.


Keep the human movement/performance system is a network of interconnected parts that react to one another. 


Sympathetic System-“Fight or Flight”             Parasympathetic-“Rest and Recover”

-Increases Heart rate                                      -Slows heart rate

-Raises blood pressure                                   -Decreases blood pressure

-Diverts blood flow to working muscles           -Dilates blood vessels 

-Release sugar and fats into bloodstream       -Promotes energy storage

-Inhibits digestion                                             -Stimulates digestion

-Reduces appetite                                            -increases appetite

-Dilates pupils                                                   -Constricts pupils


Being “Sympathetic dominant “ reduces the immunes systems ability to manage inflammation promoting the inability of soft tissue to hypertrophy or adaptively reconstruct.

This in tun may lead to the degeneration of tissues such tendons which may eventually lead to injury.

In simplest terms, the more “sympathetic dominant” your nervous system is due to being overtaxed, overstressed and fatigued the less efficient  your body and its systems will be at facilitating movement ( your performance during both training and competition will be below what they should be) as well as being less capable of facilitating the recovery process after training meaning you will be walking around in a low level state of fatigue that will escalate over through the period of your training program leading to possible sickness and injury.


The more stress that is placed on the body , the greater the demand on the nervous system. Things that can contribute to an overtaxed nervous system include:


- Poor sleep habits

-Persistent health issues

-Lack of necessary nutrients due to poor dietary choices

-being hyper-driven, “Never quit” type of person

-Physical training/ Conditioning (exercise is a stress on the body)

-Poor breathing patterns


Obviously, Addressing each of these environmental and behavioral aspects of stress is important but if we were to establish a “hierarchy”, understanding and developing better breathing patterns would take priority.

In terms of recovery, Proper breathing can shift the nervous system from its stressed sympathetically dominant state toward a more restorative , recovery based, parasympathetic state. The focus here is: In order to move optimally during exercise and competition your nervous systems need to be in check.


You can train respiration just like you can any muscle or component of health and fitness. Over time, the consequences of an overtaxed nervous system can be altered in a favorable manor by  working on and developing better breathing mechanics.


With practice, as part of an effective movement and recovery program, a subject may be actually able to enhance recovery between repeated bouts of activity and training  to maintain performance levels as well as to improve their ability to recover better from a health and long term perspective.


3 breathing exercises to can try


Bear breathing


-position your self on all four on the floor

-Hands should be directly below the shoulders and knees directly below the hips

-Push long through the arms as if to push away from the floor until you feel a stretch between your shoulder blades

-elevate knees off the floor until shins are horizontal to the floor

-hold this position as you take 3-5 full breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth

-relax and breath normal for a few seconds

-Repeat and perform 3-5 repetitions


Wall Breathing


-Standing with your back against a wall place your feet at hip width and about 10-12 inches from the wall.

-Posteriorly tilt the pelvis to flatten the lower back against the wall

-Reach forward maximally with both hands allowing upper back to round forward.

-hold this position as you take 3-5 full breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth

-relax and breath normal for a few seconds

-Repeat and perform 3-5 repetitions


Forearm Plank Breathing


-Lay face down on floor.

-Place your hands below you face palm down on the floor such that they form a diamond with your index fingers and thumbs.

-Push through the forearms and push the shoulders forward to lift the chest and abdomen upward off the floor until weight is only on the forearms and pubic bone.

-Hold the upward position and perform 3-5 full breaths, in through nose out through mouth.

-Return to starting position

-Repeat and perform 3-5 repetitions 


These breathing exercises can be used at any time weather it be warm up , cool down , or as an active rest between sets or exercises if there is adequate time.


They can even be used at home upon getting out of bed or pre-bedtime or pre and post meditation if you follow that practice.

Try to incorporate a couple of these into your daily routine and you’ll quickly feel the difference.

We totally welcome your feedback!!