EXTERNAL SHOULDER ROTATION AND THE GOLF SWING

Bob Forman

Certified Golf Fitness Instructor

MS, Exercise Physiology

 

The shoulder with its complex network of muscles, tendons, labrum, and ligaments plays a significant role in the golf swing.  If one or both sides are compromised, it can have a significant impact on swing mechanics, distance, and injury.   

 

One of the main power moves in the golf swing that is often the topic of discussion for the monthly golf publications is a good shoulder turn.  The rationale being the further back you can take the club, the greater the distance the clubhead will travel and the more clubhead speed you’ll be able to generate.

 

Unfortunately for many golfers restriction in shoulder rotation, specifically external shoulder rotation, can hinder a good shoulder turn.  This applies to the trail side shoulder (right shoulder for a right-handed golfer) as it externally rotates during the backswing.  Restricted movement (less than 110 degrees of external rotation) may limit range of motion and your backswing.       

 
To assess external shoulder rotation, raise your right arm so that the upper arm is parallel to the floor with the elbow bent 90 degrees and the forearm perpendicular to the floor (think about giving the Boy Scout sign).  From this position, slowly rotate just the hand and forearm back without moving your upper body.  Your upper arm will rotate somewhat, as well, but shouldn’t move.  If you can get your forearm between a 1 and 2 o’clock position, you’re doing okay.  Anything less is considered restricted.  Repeat with the left arm where a good target is between 10 and 11 o’clock.       

 

Restriction in the trail shoulder during the backswing could also result in a couple of common swing faults.  The first is a leaning of the upper body back toward the target as the golfer attempts to take the club back.  This leaning back is known as a reverse spine and doesn’t set the golfer up in a good position to be able to initiate the proper hitting sequence in the downswing. 

 

As a result of this poor position at the top of the backswing, the upper body tends to control the downswing using arms instead of hips to lead the way (hips initiating the downswing is another power move).  An over-the-top swing path most often occurs with a casting of the club too early in the downswing (maintaining a good wrist hinge well into the

downswing is yet another power move).  The end result is the all too common slice with not much distance. 

 

Reverse spine is also correlated to lower back concerns for the golfer and is one of the more prevalent factors so many golfers suffer from low back discomfort. 

 

The second swing fault which may arise from lack of external shoulder rotation is a leveling out of the shoulders or flat shoulder plane.  This can accompany, again, the restricted golfer’s desire to get the club back further in the backswing and will impact swing path, as a result of spine angle changes, and possibly balance.

 

On the target side, restricted rotation in the shoulder often times leads-up to the widespread fault known as chicken wing.  Chicken wing is characterized by a hugging of the target elbow (left elbow for a right-handed golfer) to the body during the follow-through phase of the swing.  It prevents the golfer from extending out to the target, reducing the swing arc, and impacting speed and power.

 

Of concern with the chicken wing swing fault is the development of tendonitis on the lateral aspect of the elbow, commonly called tennis elbow. 

 

One factor to consider when assessing external shoulder rotation is whether or not and to what degree the golfer has a C-posture stance.  Excessive rounding of the shoulders, which is very prevalent today due to computers, fans the shoulder blades out and moves the glenoid fossa, the end of the shoulder blade that houses the upper arm, forward.  This can severely limit external rotation of the shoulder.  

golf fitnessExercises that address mobility in the shoulder are necessary to enhance external shoulder rotation.  One such exercise is the Open Book.  Lie on your side in the fetal position with elbows, shoulders, and knees at 90 degrees, and a light weight (1 to 2 lbs.) in each hand.  Without golf fitnesschanging any of the angles, slowly rotate the top arm up and over, as in opening a book, till a gentle stretch is felt.  Keep the knees together. 
If needed,
hold the knees down with the stationary hand.  Hold for 10 to 15 seconds and return to the starting position.  Make sure to breathe throughout.  Do 3 to 5 sets, roll over and repeat to the other side. 

 

Posture should also be checked to see if exercises are needed to correct rounded shoulders.  The goal, if present, would be to return the shoulder blades back toward the spine or midline of the body by stretching the tightness in the chest area and strengthening the upper back muscles.  A qualified golf fitness instructor can show you how.

 

The shoulder plays a pivotal role in the golf swing and restriction in range of motion can have negative effects on several different aspects.  To improve the chances for optimal swing mechanics while reducing the potential for injury, have your shoulder rotation on both the trail and target sides measured.  If a restriction is found, exercises must be initiated to correct the deficiency.  In doing so, you set the stage for better, healthier golf.       

 

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.

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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. 

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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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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