Increase the effectiveness of your swing and get more speed through the clubhead
Why is trunk rotation so important?
Generation of clubhead speed and the ability to maintain a stable posture during your golf swing relies on your ability to separate movement between the upper and lower body.
Lacking effective rotation through the trunk is a common problem and may result in excessive rotational forces through the lower back or overuse of the shoulder during your golf swing in compensation. This may lead to an inefficient and ineffective swing and make you more prone to injury. It is therefore essential to establish good underpinning trunk rotation mobility which we will explore further in this article.
Gaining an effective level of mobility in the trunk is just the first step in maximising your swing potential. Establishing good motor control of this new improved range of motion will make the difference in how you utilise this rotation to separate your upper and lower body, and therefore create effective forces during your swing to maximise output. Correct muscle activation is key to generating the amount of force you need through the correct muscles to produce speed in your golf swing.
When swinging the golf club, it is important to remember that you are not simply rotating through your trunk. You are also flexing, extending and laterally flexing throughout the swing motion. As a result, excessive lumbar mobility when in posture at the top of the backswing or during the high-force phase of the downswing and follow-through can increase the incidence of lower back pain.
While you need to generate sufficient rotation through the trunk, it is also important that the hips provide rotation during your golf swing. Some golfers will gain rotation during their backswing through the lumbo-pelvic region by making compensatory movements such as changing leg movements, buckling the knees, or extending the knee joint to provide added rotation through the hip and can lead to excessive pelvic turn. This may result in reduced clubhead speed, a lack of separation between upper and lower body, and increased risk of injury to the back, hips and knees. The key is to make sure that clubhead speed in the swing is not limited by physical constraints through a lack of range of movement in upper trunk.
So how is the spine made up to give us this mobility?
Function and Anatomy of the Spine
As a whole unit, the spine serves 3 main functions:
- To protect the spinal cord, nerve roots and several of the body’s internal organs;
- To provide structural support and balance to maintain an upright posture;
- To enable flexible motion
A healthy adult spine normally have 33 vertebrae, from top to bottom:
7 cervical vertebrae
12 thoracic vertebrae
5 lumbar vertebrae
5 sacral vertebrae (fused together to form the sacrum)
4 coccygeal vertebrae (fused together to form the tailbone, also known as the coccyx)
Viewed from the side, there are four slight natural curves in a healthy adult spine: the cervical (neck) and lumbar (lower back) sections of the spine curve inward, and the thoracic (upper back) and sacral (bottom of the spine) sections curve outward.
This S-shaped curvature makes the spine stable. It helps you keep your balance when you are in an upright position, acts like a shock absorber when you walk, and protects the individual bones in the spine (the vertebrae) from fractures.
Where does our golf swing mobility come from?
Table showing the available mobility at the trunk and hips
|Internal: 0-40° External: 0-50°
As you can see from the table above, more rotation in the spine comes from the mid-back (thoracic spine) than the low back (lumbar spine) and is therefore where our focus should be placed during the golf swing. As a result, the primary function of the lumbar region should be one of stability to provide support for the more mobile thoracic vertebrae above.
3 Exercises to help improve your thoracic rotation
There are many different exercises which can help improve your trunk rotation. Here are 3 key examples of these which will help functionally with your golf swing mobility.
- Open Book
Lie on your side with the hips and knees bent in front of you.
Both hands are placed together in front of your chest.
Keep the bottom arm on the floor, roll back and have the top arm reach back toward the floor, opening up the chest. Make sure you keep your arm in line with the collar bone to preserve the shoulder’s integrity.
Think about bringing your shoulder blade down to the floor.
Maintain the position for 10 seconds and return slowly to the starting position.
- Thread the Needle
Start in a four-point position with your hands directly under the shoulders and the knees under the hips.
Keep your chin in, back straight and shoulders back.
With one arm reach under the other as far as possible rotating and rounding your upper back.
Bring your arm back and reach back in the opposite direction as far as possible.
Keep your elbow bent to 90 degrees and look at your moving hand at all times.
Repeat with the other arm if indicated.
- Spiderman Stretch
Adopt a deep lunge position with the rear leg stretched behind.
Put your forearm on the floor on the inside of the front foot and drop your hips toward the floor as much as possible.
Then, rotate the trunk toward your front leg by moving your free hand up toward the ceiling while looking at your hand.
Bring your hand back down on your knee and push outward to open up the hip.
Return your forearm on the floor and repeat.
Keep your deep lunge position at all times.
Repeat on the other side.
Take Home Points
- Most of the rotation produced during your golf swing comes from the thoracic spine
- Thoracic mobility is just part of the puzzle for increasing clubhead speed and optimising movement patterns during your golf swing. Many other factors contribute, including the range of movement available at the hips, along with your body’s ability to control this range of movement in the spine and hips.
- Increasing your thoracic mobility can limit compensatory movement patterns to help maximise your golf swing efficiency and reduce your risk for injury
- As rotation and control of the rotation is so important, further focus should include improving mobility of rotation at the hips, and gaining strength / control through the correct muscles that drive the golf swing
For an individual assessment of your rotation mobility and trunk control to maximise your golf swing, book an appointment with one of our expert clinicians today!