A simple, yet extremely effective, thoracic and lumbar rotation exercise, needing only a chair. The simple-looking exercise can be as gentle as you need, or as strong as you want, too—it is infinitely scalable.
Simple cues, including a contraction--relaxation technique, can help unlock hidden thoracic rotation potential.
Use a chair that cannot slide: an old-fashioned kitchen chair works very well.
The "lift the chest" cue moves the emphasis out of the lumbar spine (the locus of so many rotation exercises) into the thoracic spine—and breathing is liberated as a result.
This next exercise is an absolutely fantastic rotation stretch for the whole of the thoracic spine, and in particular, that part of the thoracic spine between the shoulder blades, which is very difficult for most people to stretch. What we do here is we use the back of a chair so that we can work against the position of own hips and hence turn the shoulders in relation to the hips. Let me show you what it looks like.
I'm going to turn away from you and show you what this looks like from behind. The first thing to notice is that the side of my leg is actually pressed against the upright of the chair here. I make sure that I've got my weight evenly on both hips. I reach this hand around and reach around to the side or the front of the chair as far as I can. I lift my chest up and I turn around and turn the hand over, and hold the side of the chair like this. Once again, I lift the chest up because it straightens the upper back, and pulling on the arms I twist myself around like so. Now the contraction is I use my waist muscles to try and twist out of that position. So I'll do that now. Five, four, three, two, one. I stop. I readjust my position. I lift the chest up and on a breath out, haah, pull myself around further still.
Now you can't see from this angle exactly which part of the back that I'm stretching, but if I turn around the other way and show the other side it'll all become clear. So spin around like so. Again, notice at the side of the chair or the upright, I should say, holds the side of my leg. That stops the hips from turning. I take this hand and reach around towards the front of the chair now, like this. Lift the chest up to straighten the middle and upper back, turn the hand over and hold the side of the chair like so. And watch, pull myself around. I take a breath in and out. Feel that stretch. I then twist back towards you. Five, four, three, two, one. Lift the chest up even further and haah, haah and always twist round to the first side, wriggle around a bit, and then see how your middle back feels.
If you get this right, it'll give you a stretch that you can't get any other way. It's fantastic.