What amateur golfer doesn’t want to gain more rotation in their golf swing?
Everyone wants more.
Before you can gain rotation, you need to remove barriers that impede your body to turn around your spine.
One of these barriers, especially for people that have jobs that involve working with a computer, sitting at a desk, or driving is Upper Cross Syndrome (UCS).
UCS is a muscle imbalance in the upper body caused when the pectoral and upper trapezius muscles are tight with weak cervical flexor and lower trapezius muscles.
These imbalances affect posture, people with UCS have rounded shoulders, and their neck places the head in a forward position instead of directly over the spine.
A Visual Perspective
One of my favorite fun TV shows of all time is The Simpson’s.
The Simpson’s is a parody of life.
A fan or not, you probably have seen pictures of Homer’s boss, Charles Montgomery Burns.
Mr. Burns has UCS.
His shoulders are rounded, and his head and neck lean forward.
Sitting in front of a computer all day, watching a lot of TV, or any activity that forces you to focus on a spot in front of you can tighten the pectoral and upper trapezius muscles. At the same time, the neck flexors and the lower trap muscles become weakened.
Because the upper trap and pectoral muscles are tight and the antagonistic pairs of muscles are in a weak position, the shoulders and head pull forward.
As you can see in the image, lines drawn across the tight muscles and weakened muscles form an X; this is why the condition is called Upper Cross. There’s also a condition called Lower Cross Syndrome. A future article will discuss LCS.
What Does This Have to Do With Rotation?
UCS not only places the neck (cervical spine) into flexion, it also torques the thoracic spine (T-spine) into flexion.
The body is designed so that the T-spine should contribute the largest amount of rotation to your golf swing.
I said should, because in many golfers the rotation comes from the lower back. Often leading to lower back discomfort and pain. The reason the lower back does more than it’s fair share is that the T-spine can’t go through its full range of motion due to mobility limitations, often because of UCS.
The body is designed to move in regions with the least resistance. If your brain tells your body to turn, it will find the rotation from wherever it can. If it can’t rotate due to T-spine mobility limitations, the body will recruit the lower back to add more rotation.
UCS and the T-Spine
As previously mentioned, UCS places the spine in flexion. With the neck and T-spine in a position of flexion (or extension for that matter), the vertebra encounters resistance when they try to rotate.
When the spine is in a position of flexion, the weight-bearing force of our head places uneven pressure on the vertebra. In effect, closing the gap on the inside of the spine and opening the gap on the back side. This causes resistance making it harder to rotate.
Think of a series of stacked discs threaded on a flexible rod. When the rod is straight, those discs will spin freely, especially with some lubricant between the discs. But if you bend the rod and try to spin the discs, they won’t turn as freely.
The same resistance occurs in your T-spine area when your spine is in flexion. You lose mobility in the T-spine area, and your body finds the rotation from other areas of your body, whether it is the lower back or you have to pivot your feet to add rotation.
I don’t want to say that UCS is new to humans, I’m sure it occurred in the past, but today’s lifestyle has surely added to the issue.
Humans evolved to be in motion throughout the day; they weren’t sedentary creatures that sat in front of computers, desks, TV’s, or in cars for extended periods of time.
Correcting Flexion and Upper Cross Syndrome
The best way to treat UCS is to strengthen the lower trapezius muscles and train the scapulas to stabilize the shoulders during movement.
Below are three exercise videos that will help eliminate UCS.
The first, the Isometric Scapular Pinch, will train your body to feel the position where your scapulas should be. In effect, you’re using your own body weight to strengthen the lower trapezius muscles and neck flexors.
The second exercise is a progression for the isometric scapular pinch. Resistance strengthens the muscles, and the motion will help improve scapular stability so they can hold the shoulders back while the body moves.
In the third exercise, you’ll use more weight to strengthen the lower trap muscles and improve stability.
The key to all of the exercises is good upper body posture. So keep your spine straight and hold your head up and back while doing the exercises.
How These Exercises Help You Gain More Rotation
Besides adding strength to your back, the exercises will remove the tension on your T-spine. Once the stress is lessened or removed, you should gain more rotation because your vertebra will be more on the same plane with each other making it easier to move.
The exercises will also improve scapular stability giving you more control over your shoulder movements. To see if you have shoulder stability limitations, do the 90/90 screen.
Below are the three exercise videos that will start to eliminate UCS.
The First Exercise to Gain More Rotation
Start with the Isometric Scapular Press. You can do this exercise in a doorway or archway, against a couple of trees or two support poles close enough for your to reach with both arms.
The Second Exercise Adds Resistance
A progression to the isometric scapular press is the Resisted Thumbs Up Scapular Pinch.
I call it a pinch because you try to pinch your scapulas together when you pull your arms back. Keep your thumbs up during the exercise as it pulls your scapulas down.
Hold your arms out to the side with your thumbs pointed forward and roll the thumbs up.
Can you feel your scapulas move down?
Do this movement with some resistance and you’ll feel them move down even more.
The resistance band used in this exercise is called a Gary Cook Band or FMT Band. These are great bands for golf conditioning exercises.
Each has their own uses in golf conditioning exercises.
Add More Strength and Stability
The last exercise in this article to help you eliminate UCS and gain more rotation in your golf swing is called Trap Pull Down.
Start in a half-kneeling position in front of a cable machine with good upper body posture. Pull your scapulas downward and tightening your core. Use quite a bit of weight to the cable machine and use a rope attachment. The thick rope activates and stabilizes your rotator cuff during the exercise.
A good golf swing needs shoulder stability and these exercises help you gain control your arm movements.
Gain More Rotation and Distance
Add these three exercises to your golf conditioning program to gain more rotation in your golf swing and hit the ball farther. Most people have some degree of upper cross syndrome and it usually gets worst as we age.
Take action now to improve your posture and increase the range of motion of your shoulder turn. The longer you wait the harder it is to fix. Taking action now will allow you to play better longer.
Are You Looking to Start a Golf Conditioning Program?
If you're looking for golf fitness exercises and workouts or maybe you need help designing a golf conditioning program you need to check out the Golf Conditioning Center.
The Center is a membership site that puts all the information you need in one place. The Golf Conditioning Center has:
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- By parts of the body.
- And a community forum where you can ask questions and get answers quickly.
- Access to me via chat.
The Center also has golf conditioning workouts delivered directly to your inbox that will help you improve your golf game!
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