Have You Lost Club-Head Speed & Distance? Or Want More?
Have You Lost Your Ability to Turn?
If you’ve lost club-head speed and distance or are wanting to improve them, you need to understand how the turn of the shoulders in the backswing impacts your club-head speed and distance.
The turn of the shoulders is critically important to your power and distance and probably even how your back feels during and after a round. If you’ve lost distance or you want to gain more distance, you need to ensure you can actually turn your shoulders an adequate amount in your backswing.
Turning your shoulders in the backswing actually stretches and loads into many "rotational muscles" of the core, spine and shoulders.
Muscles & Rotational Muscles
Muscles in the body have differnet purposes or functions.
Some muscles flex or bend joints, like the biceps muscles of the upper arm flex or bend the elbow when you lift weights.
Other muscles like the quadriceps muscles on front of the thighs extend or straighten joints like the knee joint when you stand up from a squat.
While certainly some of the muscles in the body that bend and straighten joints are working in the golf swing, there's an entire other type of muscles that rotate or turn joints and we call them "rotational muscles". For this article we focus on the rotational muscles of the core, spine and shoulders that work in the golf swing to turn the body and specifically the spine.
The Abdominal "Oblique" Muscles
The Internal & External Oblique Muscles are on the sides of your abdomen and then help create rotational forces to turn your shoulders & spine in the golf backswing and downswing.
The Abdominal "Transverse Abdominus" Muscle
The Transverse Abdominus Muscle is a muscle that lies deeper underneath the obliques. This is one of the most important muscles to help a golfer rotate in the golf swing and to protect the spine from injury in the process.
When these rotational muscles stretch in the backswing, they build up tons of elastic energy that can be released and used in your downswing, the kind of elastic energy that builds up when you stretch a rubber band and then release it. The built up elastic energy in the rotational muscles in ther backswing can be used in the downswing to hit towering drives.
Of course you have to be able to turn your spine and shoulders far enough in the backswing to get an adequate stretch in the rotational muscles (and other elastic tisues) to build and use this elastic energy.
Many golfers who have lost club-head speed and distance have actually lost their ability to turn their shoulders far enough in the backswing to build this elastic stretch or energy.
They have lost the strength and flexibility in the rotational muscles that turn the spine and shoulders to their right, and with that the ability to build up the elastic energy that helps today's top tour professionals to hit the ball well over 300 yards off the tee with effortless power.
Mobility is the ability to move your joints easily and freely.
Golf Swing Mobility
In the golf swing, mobility is the specific ability to turn your hips, spine and shoulders to the right in your backswing. Mobility comes from having adequate strength & flexibility in the rotational muscles of the spine, hips and shoulders to turn your body to the right and left.
While the mobility of the hips is also of critically importance, our focus in this article will be solely on the mobility and turn of the spine and shoulders.
Test Your Shoulder Turn
Let's first see if you have adequate strength and flexibility (mobility) in your spine and shoulders to complete your backswing:
1. Place a stick or club across the front of your chest & shoulders and sit tall.
2. Turn your chest & shoulders to your right slowly and don’t force it, seeing how far you can easily move your sternum to your right. (note "sternum" is the center of your chest)
3. If your sternum can turn 45 degrees to your right then you have tour pro mobility in your upper spine. If your sternum only turns a 10-20 degrees, then your spine can’t turn very far and that's the main reason you've lost distance (the reason you can't build up enough elastic energy to hit the ball far).
If you've lost your ability to turn your spine and shoulders, you’ll need to improve the strength and flexibility of the rotational muscles around your upper spine to allow your upper spine to turn further and easier.
How Your Upper Spine Turns
There are many muscles on your back that connect to the bones of the spine and work to bend, extend and turn your spine.
Let's look at the muscles that turn the shoulders and upper spine to the right and left in the golf swing.
This ilustration shows the spine from the back view. [We will focus on three bones (vertebrae) from the upper spine (thoracic spine).]
This illustration shows a few of the muscles that are on the left and right side of the bones in the upper spine. These muscles shorten & lengthen to rotate the bones to the right and left in the golf swing.
This Is HUGE!
When the bones turn to the right, it’s because the rotational muscles on the left side of the bones shorten and pull the bones to your right.
While this is happening, the rotator muscles on the right side of the bones need to stretch (lengthen) to allow and not restrict the turn.
Why You Can't Turn
Many amateurs golfers can’t turn because:
- They don’t turn. (They never turn their spine which would strengthen the muscles on the left side while stretching the muscles on the right side).
- They are performing core exercises that train their muscles and body not to turn.
Problem - Most Core & Spinal Stability Exercises Restrict Spine Rotation
Many golfers try to improve their ability to turn their spine and shoulders by doing traditional core exercises. Unfortunately, while many of these core exercises do strengthen core muscles, many of these traditional core exercises don't improve spine rotation!
Planks Restrict Rotation - They’re Not the Answer
Plank exercises train the rotational muscles on the right and left side of the spine to shorten at the same time, which strengthens them (but none of the roational muscles are stretching to allow spine rotation). These exercises are considered “anti-rotational” exercises.
There is NO ROTATION!
Because the rotational muscles on the sides of the spine are NOT stretching during anti-rotational core exercise, the spine isn't rotating or turning.
This means you won't improve your spine turn, or shoulder turn and ultimately your club-head speed and distance.
Band Exercises in the Hands - Are NOT Ideal
One of the most common core exercises you see in the gym and online, called a pallof press, is an exercise designed to strengthen the multifidus muscles of the spine.
The multifidus is one of the most important muscles of the spine for sports, athletes and the golf swing because these are one of the muscles that either: A) rotates the spine OR, B) keeps the spine from rotating (anti-rotation).
Watch this exercise being performed and you’ll notice that as the hands and arms move away from the body that you don’t see any rotation of the shoulder or spine.
In this exercise, both sides of the multifidus muscles on the left and right side of the spine are indeed working and engaged which will build strength in these muscles.
The issue is that this exercise is teaching and training these muscles NOT to turn the spine, when the golfer needs to train the spine to turn with power and speed.
Once again this is a great exercise for spine health, and shold be part of your injury prevention routine for your spine and back, but it won’t optimize spine turn and rotational power to get your club-head speed and distance to the levels you’ll need to crush drives and other shots.
Solution - Find an Effective Rotational Exercise for Your Spine
Harness the Turn of Your Spine
Step One - choose an exercise that first takes the hands and arms out of the exercise so that the spinal rotator muscles can shorten and stretch at the same time (to train the spine to turn with power & speed).
Step Two - wear a PC360 harness around your rib cage to train the rotational muscles of your spine because it’s the best way to strengthen and stretch rotational spinal muscles at the same time. (Which is what they need to do in the golf swing)!
Best Rotational Core Exercise
When you train with a harness around your rib cage and connect a resistance band so that the bands resists the turn of your shoulders and spine to the right (into your backswing). The harness and the band trains the multifidus and other rotational muscles to strengthen (shorten) the muscles on the left side of the spine and at the same time stretch (lengthen) the muscles on the right side.
How to Increase Spine & Shoulder Turn Mobility
The fastest and best way to increase the mobility (strength and flexibility) of your spine and shoulder turn is to improve both rotational strength and flexibility at the same time.
Using the PC360 Torso Harness you can start to improve your shoulder turn in literally minutes:
1. Connect a light resistance band to your left underarm and turn to your right until you stop (don’t force it!).
2. Breath in and then exhale and slowly allow the pull of the resistance band to turn your spine and shoulders a bit more to your right. Hold this position for 6 seconds.
3. Repeat this 3 sets of 3 reps to your right.
4. Switch the band to your right underarm.
5. Turn your shoulders to the right as far as you can without forcing it and hold for 6 seconds while you breath.
6. Repeat this 3 times to your right and remove the band.
7. Now test your ability to turn to the right on the ball and in your backswing. (You'll likley improve your spine and shoudler turn 20 degrees in just a few minutes).
Prevent Injuries - Train Both to Your Right & Left
Repeat these simple exercises to your left as well so that you have the ability to turn further and easier both in your backswing and your downswing. Your back will feel better and you’ll start hitting it further and easier right away as you build better strength & flexibility in the muscles that turn your spine and shoulders in the golf swing.