Working with our clients at Energy Fitness over the years our personal trainers discover how limited most of the population is in spinal flexibility once we get them moving and doing functional and balance exercises. Your thoracic spine is the middle section of your vertebra between your neck and lower back and composes 12 thoracic vertebra and your rib cage.
Modern lifestyles and certain sports can lead to stiffness and poor movement which increases the natural “kyphosis” (rounding curve in upper back as shown in picture to the left) of the thoracic spine which can lead to decreased sporting performance, injury, and pain.
One new area that is becoming more researched, and is linked to thoracic spine stiffness, is changes to breathing. Normal breathing requires the ribs to move like a bucket handle (they lift to the sides). The stiffer the rib joints are where they join at the spine means less movement can occur at this joint and this can make it more difficult to take a breath when higher breathing rates and breath volumes are required, meaning potentially less air breathed.
In part 1 of Spinal Rotation for Golf & Life blog post we showed you how to test your upper spine flexibility (your thoracic spine) by trying to rotate the spine and not move the hips. We gave you a few exercises to help improve range of motion.
In this blog post we show you examples of poor upper spine flexibility as it relates to the golf swing as well as a lunge with a twist that also helps improve balance and give you 2 great stretches.
Try the exercise below. Lunge! Once you have lowered yourself as far as your hip flexibility and balance can take you twist your body left as pictured rotating your spine completely.You may find that you need to use a faster speed to get into position to get that extra stretch. Now repeat on the other side by bringing the back leg (right leg) forward into the lunge position and twist to the right.
The client below performed the lunge twist first for about 8-10 reps in each direction before we moved to putting a golf club in his hand. (See video at the bottom of this post).
My analysis: his follow at the top of the golf swing has room for improvement in flexibility of the upper spine.
Now look at the pic below. See how once the back leg is behind the buttock the body is forced to rotate in the upper spine. This client struggles to rotate and it looks as he feels he’s going to fall over? He benefits from balance and spinal rotation exercises.
Now, I’m going to throw myself under the bus and analyze my form in a left handed golf swing and right handed (as I can do both and need to just pick a side already!).
Left Handed Golf Swing Analysis: smallest picture on left is during a lesson with golf pro instructor Doug Barron in Memphis, TN.
1st pic: Rotation is great looking at my right shoulder lined up with my left foot “at the top”
2nd pic: Two weeks later (pic in the middle) I’m back to my bad habit of taking the club back too far & being more upright to try and compensate for my lack of upper body spinal flexibility. (I tend to do this weird thing with my wrists. I know that my foot is not lined up with the ball correctly in case you observed that as well.)
3rd pic: my follow through is terrible as you can see, my left foot doesn’t rotate because I didn’t rotate my hips or keep my weight on my front leg heel.
Right Handed Golf Swing Analysis: For kicks on the last hole, 2 weeks after the golf lesson with Doug, I borrowed a friend’s right handed golf club and hit a few balls right-handed. I took 2 shots and killed it with a straight line drive.
4th pic from left: Rotation good “at the top” as left shoulder lined up with right foot.
5th pic-last pic (far right): Observe the terrible follow through with the back foot not getting up on the toe just like the left handed golf swing. This was a 150 yard shot!
Here are 2 stretches for you to improve upper spine flexibility! Chair stretch and triangle pose stretch. Hold each direction for 30-60 seconds.
Go be fit to break par, breathe stress free & improve daily activities.
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