Hit it Further: Unlocking the Golfer’s Thoracic Spine



As most of you know by now, I’ve played golf my whole life and have additional training from the Titleist Performance Institute on treating this athletic population. One thing that I have seen more and more frequently among my golf athletes is a stiff and restricted thoracic spine. This is potentially a significant loss of power and limitation because the rotation provided by this area allows you to coil and generate significant potential energy to be released into the ball. Let’s get into this futher.


The thoracic spine refers to the T1-12 vertebrae along your mid back and ribs. These vertebrae primarily provide rotation for your body, along with flexion and extension. Your lumbar spine, on the other hand, cannot rotate very much, and instead provides flexion and extension. As a result, if your thoracic spine is stiff and not letting you rotate, there is nowhere else to acquire this movement. Instead, you will often compensate by forcing other areas to mimic this movement, which can lead to pain or injury.

As you can see with this golfer’s swing, there is a lot of rotation needed to get the club behind you. When the club is overhead, there is quite a bit of potential energy stored in the system, ready to be converted to power through the club and into the ball. If you cannot rotate, you will lose power and be at an increased risk for pain.

So, it is easy enough to understand that thoracic rotation is needed, but why do we lose it in the first place? Well, the short and simple answer is this: use it or lose it. Often, we do not move through full thoracic rotation in our daily lives of going to work, sitting at a desk, driving home, and sitting on the couch. Even if you are an avid exerciser, rotation likely will not come into your workouts very frequently. So, we need to add thoracic rotation back into the routine to recover this ability.


Our plan for getting more thoracic rotation will involve two steps.


Step One: Mobilize It!

Step Two: Reinforce It!


Mobilization can involve stretching, rolling, banded mobs, lacrosse balls, peanuts, and much more. Mobilization is great because it can increase your range of motion and what you are able to access. However, if all we do is mobilize, everything will stiffen right back up again. So, we need to reinforce it with strengthening and active movement. This will show your body and brain that you want to keep your new flexibility. Let’s look at some easy exercises to make this happen.


Step One: Mobilize It!


The first exercise to work on thoracic rotation is a good old-fashioned reach and roll. This exercise is fairly straightforward and is shown below. Remember to exhale when you rotate backward and to inhale when you return to the starting position. Perform 10-15 reps per side.






The second exercise involves a bit more extension than rotation, but this will help you get into the right position during your swing. Use a foam roller to bend over backward and use your exhale to increase range of motion. Perform 10-15 reps.




Step Two: Reinforce It!


Now we get into some more strengthening. These will likely be pretty challenging for you, so start out easy and give yourself some grace if you can’t do it perfectly right away. The first exercise is a kneeling rotation and will allow you to go against gravity to strengthening into your rotation. Again, use your breath to reach further upward. Perform 15 reps.





The second exercise is a half kneeling chop and will allow you to start transferring this power into a more swing-similar movement. Use a challenging band that allows you to complete the movement while in control. Perform 15-20 reps per side.







And there you have it! Some beginning steps to getting that thoracic spine to behave and help you drop some bombs down the fairway. As always, if you are having pain with movement or activity, it’s time to reach out to a PT to get some help. If you have any questions, let me know!


Thanks for reading,

Ryan


#golfers #golfpower #atlantagolfers #thoracicspine #painwithgolf #spine #mobility #strength



Image sources: By Anatomography - en:Anatomography (setting page of this image), CC BY-SA 2.1 jp, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22695299a