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SPINE TINGLING: Flexibility In Your Thoracic Spine Key To Bowling Health

By Nick Bohanan

Modern bowlers, particularly power players and two-handed bowlers, rotate their spines more than bowlers in years past. In that respect, bowlers have become more like golfers and suffer from some of the same ailments: lower-back pain and shoulder pain.

While there are numerous exercises to strengthen the lower back and shoulders, not much attention is given to the thoracic spine, the area between your lower back and neck. Rotation should only come from the thoracic spine and from the hips. Thoracic flexibility helps limit unwanted rotation from the low back and enables bowlers to get the opposite arm out in front of them, which helps players with high backswings take stress off their throwing shoulder.

Think of it this way: If you tried to throw the ball with your shoulders completely square to the lane, you wouldn’t be able to get your backswing very high. By rotating the thoracic spine, or mid-back, you are opening your shoulder and essentially bringing the ball out to your side instead of directly behind you. Consequently, you can get your backswing much higher without injuring your shoulder.


There are two common exercises which will help increase the flexibility of your thoracic spine. First, lying on your side with your arms out in front of you, place your top knee on a medicine ball (photo A). Keep your knee slightly above waist level. Take your top hand and reach back (photo B). Try to touch the floor without allowing your knee to lose contact with the medicine ball. To further increase your flexibility, start in the same position but add a medicine ball (photo C). Holding the medicine ball with both hands, slowly rotate your spine as far as is comfortable (photo D) with your knee maintaining contact with the first medicine ball.

— Nick Bohanan is Performance Specialist for Team USA.