Golf season is finally approaching, which means it is time to dust off the clubs, break out the plaid pants and warm up your muscles. Properly swinging a golf club requires precise muscle coordination and sequencing of movement across numerous joints within the body, specifically the back. During the back-swing and follow-through, rotation of the trunk is required to effectively position the club for consistently accurate golf shots. This trunk rotation is facilitated by movement through the spine, specifically the thoracic spine.
The spine is composed of individual vertebrae that can separate into three distinct regions that allow for movement in particular directions:
Specifically within the thoracic spine, the vertebrae are designed to allow for rotational movement. Stiffness within the thoracic spine can not only limit the ability to properly position the club during the back-swing, but can also lead to heightened stress directed into the low back during the follow-through. Increased stress into the low back can then cause persistent back pain while playing golf.
To improve mobility within the thoracic spine, regular stretching of the trunk can enhance flexibility. If stiffness in the trunk area has been present for a while, it may take several weeks to improve your thoracic spine mobility. Increased flexibility within this region should make it much easier to keep the golf club on-plane during the entire back-swing and follow-through, leading to more consistent shots and lower scores!
Start by laying on the ground with your knees pulled up toward your chest. With your hand that is next to the ground, grasp the top of your knees to stabilize your trunk and low back. Then with the top arm straight in front of your body, rotate your trunk to stretch your thoracic spine.
Start again by laying on your back and then with your arms by your side, let your knees rock from side to side in a slow and controlled fashion. This stretch will help improve mobility throughout your spine, especially the thoracic spine.
Sitting in a chair, place a firmly rolled up towel horizontal to your mid back region. Then with your arms crossed over your chest, arch back over the towel to improve flexibility within your thoracic spine. Make sure to keep your head and neck still to prevent strain into your neck during this stretch. You can also adjust the position of the towel to specifically target areas that are more stiff.
Complete standard forward lunges, but then with each lunge, keep your arms straight out to your sides and rotate to the right and left. This rotation will help improve flexibility of the thoracic spine while your trunk and glute musculature is engaged, which is similar to how the thoracic spine has to function while swinging a golf club.