Hello, I am John Hoeber, Personal Trainer at Body Kinetics in Mill Valley, CA. Most of my personal training clients in Mill Valley are recreational golfers, many of whom lack the flexibility and body control required for a full backswing and fluid down swing and follow through. The results are a number of swing faults that rob accuracy and distance while also predisposing them to injuries of the lower back and left knee meniscus (right handed golfers). Here are three exercises that will improve the fluidity of your golf swing for greater accuracy and distance.
Cat and Cow Stretch
One of the keys to a fluid golf swing is flexibility - primarily the ability to rotate your upper body without moving your lower body, sometimes called the X-factor. That takes both flexibility and body control. These exercises will improve both your range of motion and control of your hips, Lumbar Spine (L-spine) and Thoracic Spine (T-spine) to increase your X- factor.
The ability to rotate the upper body is really the ability to rotate the T-spine. The T-spine is easy to find because Thoracic vertebrae have ribs attached to them. So what we are really trying to move is the rib cage. The T-spine is built for mobility and it is where we should be getting most of our rotation in the golf swing. Unfortunately if the T-spine is stiff the lower back or L-spine will be forced to move more that it was designed for. The L-spine is designed for stability not mobility and a stiff T-spine puts our L-spine at risk for injury, so not only do these exercises improve your accuracy and distance, but help to prevent lower back injuries.
It is impossible to get full rotation of the rib cage if the upper back is rounded, and since most of us who sit at desks have an overly rounded upper back that’s where we should start. Do the Cat and Cow Stretch to increase flexibility and muscle activation of the T-spine. Get down on all fours and arch your back up and down. Move quickly at first with smaller movements and increase the stretch as you go. Do this 20 times twice per day.
Standing Spinal Rotation Stretch
Next do the Standing Spinal Rotation Stretch. Stand up and lift your rib cage to straighten up your T-spine, and pull your head back in line with your shoulders. Beginning with your head, turn your chin toward your shoulder alternating sides 10 times. Then add in the rib cage, turning as far around as you can 20 more times. Do this without moving your hips or knees to increase your X-factor. If you can’t keep your hips still then sit down at first until you gain a little more flexibility and control.
Standing Side Stretch
Finally do the Standing Side Stretch because in reality the golf swing is a rotation and a right side bend (for right handed golfers). From the same standing position, and beginning with the head move your ear to your shoulder alternating sides 10 times. Then add in the rib cage bending your shoulder toward your hip. Concentrate on your rib cage getting taller on the opposite side, and not moving your hips. Do this 20 more times, and do it twice a day for three weeks.
If you do these exercises twice per day for three weeks the range of motion, flexibility and muscle activation in your T-spine will be greatly improved. You will feel an increased backswing with less hip movement, and your down swing and follow through will be smoother. Of course improving your ability to swing does not automatically improve your swing habits. After doing these exercises I recommend seeing a swing coach so you can put your new found physical abilities into improved swing mechanics. Otherwise you’ll just swing with your old bad habits no matter how fit you are.
This year John Hoeber, R.D. celebrates 20 years as a Personal Trainer in Mill Valley and 25 years as a Registered Dietitian/Sports Nutritionist. He works with many recreational and competitive golfers. He’s a member at the Mill Valley Golf Club. John works at Body Kinetics. You can reach him at email@example.com, 415-380-8787, CoachHoeber.Blogspot.com or visit Coach Hoeber on Facebook. Body Kinetics is located at 639 E. Blithedale Ave., Mill Valley, CA 94941.