T-SPINE MOBILITY, YOUR GOLF SWING AND YOUR BACK

T-SPINE MOBILITY, YOUR GOLF SWING AND YOUR BACK
Bob Forman, MS - Exercise Physiology, CPT, CAFS, CGFI
Director, The Golf Fitness Academy
Certified Golf Fitness Instructor 

mid-back musclesThe T-spine, which stands for thoracic spine, is that area of the body encompassing the chest and middle of the back.  In most golf fitness discussions, however, the main reference is to the mid-back.  The primary muscle groups include the lats, trapezius,and rhomboids.  

Mobility in the T-spine is imperative if you want to make a good upper body turn in both the back and downswing phases.  It’s also essential if you want to reduce the potential for lower back injury. 

Jim McLean, in an issue of Golf Digest, discussed the relevance of a good shoulder turn as it pertains to enhancing the X-factor.  If you’ll recall, the X-factor is basically the ability to disassociate the upper body from the lower.  Having the ability to rotate the shoulders more than the hips, pictured below, will increase the X-factor resulting in the golfer’s ability to generate more clubhead speed, power, and distance.

For professional tour players this is probably easier to accomplish for the simple fact that golf is what they do for a living so they spend time working on key elements of the swing.   

Most amateur golfers, on the other hand, are not even aware of what the X-factor is and the reason so many golfers lack T-spine mobility.  It’s a good bet that daytime job requirements and/or lifestyle habits are much to blame as is the lack of time spent working on improving the physical demands of the game.     

X-factor angle graphicLimited range of motion in the upper body will more than likely result in a limited backswing, which decreases the distance the clubhead travels and subsequently, the ability to generate clubhead speed.    

A tight mid-back may also result in an excessive hip turn as the golfer with limited ability to disassociate the upper body from the lower, forces the rotation of the body pulling the hips around along with the shoulders (left photo).  A smaller X-factor angle equates to less power.    

In some cases, the swing plane is affected.  It’s very common to see a golfer with limited mobility in the T-spine to have more of a vertical backswing due to the fact that they can’t rotate around their body.  The club may start out in a rotational plane, but then inevitably moves skyward as the limited mobility threshold is met.  

reverse spine photoTightness in the mid-back can also lead up to the reverse spine swing fault (left photo) if the golfer, lacking range of motion, tries to force the club back further in the backswing.  This is especially true if the tightness occurs on the target side of the back (left side for a right-handed golfer).  Trying to rotate beyond the stretch threshold will pull the upper body back toward the target, leaving the golfer in a poor hitting position at the top of the backswing.  This usually results in an over-the-top downswing and the dreaded consequences.   

A very real second concern of a tight mid-back is low back pain.  There is a pattern of movement in the body that needs to be addressed in order to produce efficient movement.  It starts in the foot and alternates between stability and mobility as you move up the body.  For example, the foot needs to be stable, the ankle mobile, the knee stable, the hip mobile, and so on up the chain.  In this pattern of movement, the lower back should be stable and the T-spine mobile. 

If a golfer is lacking in range of motion in the T-spine, the lower back will more than likely be asked to pick up the slack and assist more in the rotation of the upper body.  This recruitment of the lumbar spine places undue torque and stress to the lower back, an area that only has about 5 to 10 degrees of rotation, and sets it up for both acute and chronic injury. If you play a good deal of golf and don't pay attention to this physical deficiency and/or swing fault, chances are you will suffer and continue to suffer low back pain until either or both are corrected.

In addition, if the mid-back tightness is resulting in a reverse spine, discomfort to the trail-side lower back (right side for a right-handed golfer) tends to flare up.  Reverse spine is one of the top 3 swing faults that generally causes golf-related low back injury. 

To address all this, focus on T-spine mobility.  First, get an assessment to see if indeed there is tightness to the mid-back.  Any TPI certified instructor can detect this for you.  If there is, determine to what degree and develop a game plan to target and correct the deficiency.   

There are several exercises that can isolate the tightness and/or imbalance, as many golfers present with a tighter side of the body (right side vs. left, for example).  Knowing how to do these exercises correctly will certainly help to correct the situation and re-establish musculoskeletal balance back into the body.  When body parts and tissue are in alignment, the potential for efficient movement and injury prevention/reduction is drastically enhanced.   

A few exercises that target the T-spine area are the Shoulder Roll on Stability Ball, Reach Thrus, and the High Pulley Chop.   

When done on a regular basis, and that training factor cannot be overstated, these exercises will increase range of motion in the upper body and allow for a more efficient turn in the golf swing.  As a result, the X-factor angle will increase allowing the golfer to generate more clubhead speed in the downswing.  That adds up to more distance.   

It will also alleviate the need to recruit the lumbar spine in helping with the shoulder turn.  That will significantly ease the stress to the lower back.  Less stress equates to less injury and a healthier golf game. 

The tips and advice offered in the various golf publications are invaluable.  Keep in mind, however, that many amateur golfers lack the physical prerequisites to achieve the positions and angles recommended by the swing experts.  What would be beneficial to the reader, and would nicely compliment the swing instruction, are related tips on fitness.  Until that happens, golfers do have a resource at www.golfitcarolina.com.

EXERCISE OF THE MONTH

Quad-Hip Flexor Stretch

This is a progressive stretch for the quad-hip flexor area.  Be cautious as you lean back on the bench as it will challenge the knee if the quads are tight.  Avoid this stretch if you've had knee replacement.  Tight quads/hip flexors will impede hip mobility and that may rob you of power and distance.

 

 

Check with your physician before starting any type of exercise program.

IMPROVE YOUR GAME

GOLF FITNESS
ASSESSMENT & TRAINING


A quality, customized golf fitness program will. . .
  • Enhance swing efficiency
  • Increase distance
  • Improve playing performance and satisfaction
  • Identify and correct golf-specific injury triggers

    All for much less than what another brand new driver that's going to "fix my game" would cost
     
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The golf exercises are going great.  I am hitting the ball the best I have ever hit it.  My back pain has gone away also. 
 
David R. 

more testimonials

HOST A WORKSHOP

If your Club or organization would like to host an informative golf fitness workshop, contact Bob at bob@golfitcarolina.com or 336-509-4610.

Bob came to my club and did a hour long session on the basics of his teaching and philosophy of fitness and how it relates to the golf swing and its performance.  My members thoroughly enjoyed the hour and wanted more.  I was impressed with his content and explanation.  My members were floored with his Q&A and his personal adaptation to their issues.  I was impressed with his interaction with attendants of the seminar.  If you are looking for someone to integrate your fitness program with the golf program, Bob is the guy to do it!  We will be booking Bob to come back to our club next spring.
Shannon Howell, PGA Head Golf Professional
Country Club of Sapphire Valley, Sapphire Valley, NC


"Bob Forman was fabulous!  He is a great presenter who shared some extremely valuable information related to how anatomical deficiencies such as: poor posture, flexibility, and balance impact our golf swing.  He not only shared what they are and how they impact the swing, but also demonstrated exercises to help correct them."
Ellen Gregory
EWGA-Wilmington, NC chapter

“Westchester is one of the Country’s largest private clubs with a membership that has high expectations for service and performance.  Bob Forman’s seminar on golf specific fitness and flexibility was extremely well received and motivated many of my members to begin a program of evaluation, exercise and follow-ups.  I highly recommend Bob for his knowledge, energy , and ability to connect with amateurs concerning golf fitness.” 
John Kennedy, Director of Golf
Westchester CC, 
Harrison, NY

Bob has a fantastic ability to understand and combine his expertise of the physical complexities of the human body with the PGA Professional’s trained eye with respect to the complexities of the golf swing.  Bob offers a refreshing angle that most amateur and professional golfers can understand and embrace.  Many times, a golfer will have physical limitations that prevents him or her from moving the way the PGA Professional is trying to instruct.  Bob can take the golfer’s weakest physical traits and focus a training program to better overcome those obstacles and allow the golfers to ultimately improve their swing. 
Dennis Nicholl, PGA Head Golf Professional
The Dunes Golf & Beach Club, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

IMPROVE YOUR GAME

Functional Golf Fitness Training is a comprehensive player improvement resource for golfers of all ages and levels, teaching professionals and coaches.  
A great manual for golf teams as well.  

Dedicated chapters on:
- the common physical deficiencies most golfers have, how to detect and correct with over 40 golf-specific exercises and drills
- preventing/alleviating the #1 injury in golf, low back injury
- how to fix the more common swing faults 
- how to put together an inexpensive home gym

Amazon reviews:

"Very clear explanations of causes and fixes for main physical deficiencies affecting golfers. Easy to follow instructions. While other books may give a whole laundry list of exercises that end up not being used, Forman has selected a few for each issue and puts together a program that doesn't take long to do"

"This book not only tells you what to do but also why you need to do and what results you can expect.
I have every book in print about golf fitness and this book is by far the best."


Available in print at TheBookPatch

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or as an ebook on Amazon

Go to
http://www.amazon.com/Functional-Golf-Fitness-Training-ebook/dp/B00FH88Q0Q

SWING FAULT PHYSIOLOGY

Swing mechanics are often influenced by physical deficiencies in the golfer's body.  Below are some of the more common swing faults, their physical causes and how to correct.

GOLF POSTURE

S-POSTURE AND LOW BACK PAIN

EARLY EXTENSION

SWAY & SLIDE

REVERSE SPINE

While correcting the deficiencies, you also need to rewire the brain-body connection in order to break out of the inefficient swing pattern.  

REWIRE THE BAD SWING HABIT

RADIO / PODCASTS

 

 
June 22, 2017
(go to 1:10:00 into the show)
golf posture, muscle imbalance, improving distance, stretching, hydration, Tiger and specialization, Rory and weight lifting



March 14, 2015
(go to 1:08:00 into the show)
fitness vs. golf fitness, strength training and slowing down the aging process, C and S-postures,  


August 28, 2014
We talk about Shan's golf fitness assessment results

 


June 26, 2014


scroll down to 9/9/2013
(go to 23:15 into the show)
back injury