better posture

April 28, 2017

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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September 5, 2016

How many of you have had or currently have achy shoulder(s) or know someone that has experienced this? As an exercise scientist & athlete I don’t accept lasting pain for myself or others. During personal training sessions at Energy Fitness with our clients I often refer to an app on my phone called trigger points to help clients find the origin that the pain is referring from to help alleviate pain.  When you feel pain in one part of your body it is most often a referral pain from another part of the body.  Example: You wrists hurt as your job requires that you type often on a computer. It’s most likely your forearm muscles that are overworked or tight. Since this blog post is about shoulder pain, I must tell you that the stretch below is my all time favorite stretch for the shoulder area for that burning ache from rotator cuff that just won’t ease up. Our current lifestyle of being hunched over desks, work stations, cell phones, smart tablets, holding the steering wheel, carrying heavy purses, and backpacks, sleeping on your side(s), or just holding your arms in the crossed position, etc.. makes our shoulders rotate out of proper anatomical position.

stretching my poor posture against gridstretching my imitation of anatomical position against grid

See pictures to the left for proper anatomical position? Stand in front of a mirror and place your hands down by your sides comfortably. Where are your arms and specifically your palms facing?  Are your palms touching the front of your body near your thighs? If you answered yes, then you may be likely to suffer from poor posture, shoulder pain and possibly tight chest and bicep or triceps muscles. Chances are you could use posture improvement. I always struggle with improving my posture as several sports I perform on a regular basis work against my posture such as running, swimming, cycling, and kayaking as well as some desk sitting.

Some occupations such as dental hygienists develop chronic pain in which they just learn to accept as normal.  No pain should be just accepted as it’s your body communicating with you to do something to counter the movement with a body aligning stretch or exercise.

See stretch  below to see how you can get almost immediate relief for shoulder pain. I originally did this stretch in bed and held for about 5 minutes.  As you can see my face is facing the same direction as the arm I am stretching, however you can turn your head in the other direction if you also want to stretch the muscles in your neck. I must tell you that at first this stretch does not feel great if it’s really tight. My advice to you is to hold the position in picture on the left for 2 or 3 minutes then progress to picture on the right and hold additional 2 minutes or longer if you have the time.  Try doing both arms at the same time, it’s a little intense especially if you put your chin on the floor so you are also stretching the scalene muscles (neck muscles along the sides or your neck). What’s the difference between the pictures? The picture on the right shows pushing the elbow closer to the floor which is a little more intense. Try to avoid rounding the shoulder to the floor.

Here’s motivation for you to continue everyday or at least every other day.

Fact:  It takes 3 minutes every day for 6 weeks stretching for a muscle to physiology lengthen. How can you remember to do it once it stops the chronic pain? Place a note on your toothbrush so you can see before bed or in the morning, put a note on the mirror, in your closet, set your phone to alert you, what ever your method just make time for it everyday.

stretch shoulder external rotation pic 1 stretch shoulder external rotation pic 2

Pic 1 on left) Arm External Rotation stretch

Pic 2) Arm External Rotation stretch (elbow down more)






Below is an extra stretch you may want to do to compliment the stretch above.


Door chest stretch – try holding for 3 minutes
Try counting to 90 twice and visualize the muscles lengthening.

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