3 Thoracic Spine Mobility Exercises for Golfers

Mar 18, 2024
thoracic spine mobility in golfers

(Credit: Adobe Stock)

In order to have a smooth, efficient and powerful golf swing, you need to have sufficient thoracic spine mobility. This large (the largest, in fact) section of the spine is incredibly dynamic, and has evolved to help us twist, flex and extend with tremendous variability. Keeping it strong, mobile and nourished is key to our health as golfing athletes. Let’s learn how to take care of it.

What Is the Thoracic Spine?

The thoracic spine refers to the mid-upper back. There are 12 thoracic vertebrae, making it the longest segment of the spine. It’s sandwiched in between your cervical spine (neck) and lumbar spine (lower back), which together form the spinal column. The thoracic spine attaches to the rib cage, and provides important structural support for the body and protection of the spinal cord.

(Credit: Adobe Stock)

In everyday life, our thoracic spine is subject to a lot of flexion and load as a result of modern activities, most of which include sitting. Desk work, driving and watching TV on the couch all put our thoracic spines into a rounded, hunched forward and otherwise compromised position. It is the source of many sore necks, headaches and muscle spasms worldwide.

When we’re up and moving, especially when trying to do anything athletic, the stiffness we’ve created in our mid-backs becomes very apparent. Without the ability to properly extend, flex and rotate, our bodies look for movement in other parts of the body. This can result in acute muscle strains, chronic pain syndromes, and general discomfort—particularly in golfers.

(Credit: Adobe Stock)

T Spine Mobility & Golf

Studies show that the vast majority (over 82%) of golf injuries are overuse injuries. This is an important figure when talking about mobility restrictions, because chronic stiffness is what causes our body to move differently than intended (or at least differently from what is optimal). This distorted movement is often responsible for the wear and tear that leads to overuse injury.

Being at such a critical junction in the body, and so heavily involved in all sorts of movement, the thoracic spine can often be a suspect in many of the common problems that plague golfers; lower back pain, shoulder injury and neck problems, to name a few.

Lower Back Pain

When the thoracic spine lacks mobility and cannot effectively rotate into the backswing, the body immediately looks elsewhere for that extra range. One of those places is the lower back. The low back already sustains huge amounts of force while golfing, as it acts as an axle point between the upper/lower body. A stiff thoracic spine only exacerbates this mechanism.

Shoulder Injury

Just as a lack of thoracic spine mobility affects the structures below it, it also affects the structures above it. When we don’t have the range to extend and twist into a full backswing, we’ll reach with our shoulders in order to do so. Same with the follow through, we’ll use the shoulders instead of powerful muscles in the back and core. This overuse often leads to injury.

Neck Problems

Stiffness in the thoracic spine is often coupled with a forward head posture, where the head sits in front of the collarbone. This places tremendous strain on the neck, as it has to carry the head in that position all day. Neck stiffness causes golfers to lose track of the ball while swinging, because the movement runs into a block in the neck, forcing the head to move and eyes to drift.

The man pictured lacks thoracic spine mobility, and resultantly reaches far back with his shoulders in the backswing, has a hard time maintaining eye contact with the ball, and afterwards feels discomfort in the low back. (Credit: Adobe Stock)

3 Thoracic Spine Mobility Exercises for Golfers

Thoracic spine mobility exercises are easy to do and can make a world of difference when it comes to how we feel both on and off the course. We’ve picked 3 thoracic spine stretches from our Dynamic Golfers Daily Stretching & Mobility program that you can try TODAY to start making a difference in your game!

If you like these, you’ll love our full, world class training platform available as a mobile app or desktop platform. Dynamic Golfers has hundreds of high quality strength training, stretching/mobility and injury prevention routines available to you 24/7! Sign up for a 7-day free trial and start golfing pain-free with Dynamic Golfers!

Rotations (w/Golf Club or Pole)

Instructions:

  • Stand with your feet approximately hip width apart
  • Hold a golf club or pole behind your back and resting in the crux of your elbows
  • Apply forward pressure with one elbow to twist your torso in the opposite direction
  • Try to rotate as much as possible through the mid-upper back
  • When you reach your end range, pause for a split second before returning back to center
  • Twist in the other direction
  • Repeat for 10 times per side or 30-45 seconds

Low Lunge Sequence

Instructions:

  • Start in a low lunge position with your arms elevated to shoulder height, palms together (picture 1)
  • Open the arm that is on the same side as your forward lunging leg, leaving the other arm pointing forward
  • Open as far as possible, gently twisting through the thoracic spine
  • Once you reach your end range, pause for a split second before returning back to centre
  • Repeat for 10 times or 30-45 seconds on the same side
  • Switch your forward leg, and repeat on the other side

Kneeling Thoracic Rotation

Instructions:

  • Start on all fours in a kneeling position
  • Raise one hand to your ear with your elbow tucked in
  • Open your chest, rotating through the thoracic spine and raising your bent elbow to the sky
  • Once you reach your end range, pause for a split second before reversing the movement
  • As you bring your elbow back down, reach it underneath you to flex and twist the thoracic spine in the opposite direction
  • Repeat this movement back and forth for 10 reps or 30-45 seconds on the same side
  • Switch arms and repeat

Written by Eric Lister – Certified Personal Trainer & Corrective Exercise Specialist

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