Many personal trainers recommend foam rolling the entire body prior to a workout. That’s unnecessary and can be counterproductive. Always adjust muscle tone accordingly – find the tight tissue and release it, and vice versa (see Foam Rolling and Pain for more details). Generally, rolling two areas for most people will suffice. The upper back is one of those areas.
For the upper back, first roll the tissue then perform thoracic extensions over the roller. This simple method will help to normalize an excessive kyphotic curve (i.e., help to reverse a hunchback posture) and improve mobility. Trust me, your shoulder joints will appreciate this over time – improving your posture will improve mechanics and thus decrease unnecessary wear-and-tear on the joints.
To start, lie supine with the roller positioned in the middle of your back and roll upward, reversing the direction when you reach armpit level. To improve the effectiveness of rolling the thoracic spine, you want to get the scapula out of the way by hugging yourself.
After about 10 passes or so, return to the initial position and drop your butt to the floor. Interlock your fingers behind your head and pull the elbows together. Now perform thoracic extensions by pushing your head back toward the floor and sticking your chest out in the process. Pause at the bottom. Do 2 or 3 repetitions then slide the roller up one vertebrae and repeat.