I am not sure that there is a sport that is more frustrating than golf.
This is probably because you are always playing against yourself and you seemingly “control” everything.
My own frustrations really came to light in the last 3 weeks because I was playing with no sort of consistency.
I was playing consecutive 9 hole rounds and maybe shooting a 41 followed by a 49. On the 49, it felt like I might as well have been playing with right handed clubs.
The issue? I was not turning into my backswing whatsoever.
I was dropping my lead shoulder forward, then bending the opposite way to try to get the club around.
If I was able to compensate and somehow get the club around then I had a chance of getting the ball in the air. Usually, I had no clue what was going to happen.
How the Spine Affects the Backswing
When we start the backswing, the upper spine should be rotating.
The spine has 3 segments: Cervical, Thoracic, and Lumbar.
The cervical spine is the neck and it needs to be able to rotate and move. People with stiff necks probably struggle with mobility through that segments.
The lumbar spine is the low back and it should not be moving all that much. A lot of back injuries happen when the low back starts flexing/extending and rotating.
That leads us to the thoracic spine. The T spine is supposed to be able to rotate, it is a mobile segment.
We spend too much time sitting and hunched over technology that the T spine is no longer mobile. It gets locked up and doesn’t move well. When we go into a backswing, we are going to get there somehow. This is where the stress moves to the low back and we lose golfers.
Improving the ability of the T spine to rotate will keep more golfers playing the game for a longer time. They will also shoot better scores because their swing will improve.
The T spine is primarily responsible for turning into the backswing. The hips are there to also rotate back, but the upper back is leading the way. The opposite happens on the downswing.
Improving T Spine Mobility
The most effective way to improve T spine mobility is to practice moving through the upper back with the low back braced. A couple of exercises to do that would be the kneeling T spine rotation and side lying t spine rotation.
The key on any T spine work is to think about turning the rib cage and shoulder blades. A lot of times these exercises will be cheated by just cranking the arm. There should be a definite turn of the upper body.
On the kneeling rotation it is easy to only move at the shoulder. Instead, think about getting the shoulder blade of the moving side to get on top of the stationary arm.
The side lying variation is sometimes felt in the low back. All that means is that we need to either reduce the range of motion or bring the legs up to hip level.
This upper body turn is the same thing that we should see in the golf swing. I might not be a teaching pro but I will at least say that a golfer that isn’t turning their upper body into the backswing is going to really struggle with the game of golf.