The Thoracic Spine Extension and Rotation Exercise stretches and helps to improve mobility in your thoracic spine – your middle and upper back.
Thoracic spine mobility is an extremely important, and often times overlooked, component of a great golf swing. Poor thoracic mobility can very easily lead to pain and increase the potential for injuries in the shoulders, neck, lower back, and hips. Unfortunately, our daily habits and posture make us all very prone to poor thoracic spine mobility.
The Thoracic Spine Extension and Rotation Exercise forms part of the Golf Mobility series of innovative and dynamic exercises that will help to improve your joint and muscle mobility, improving your range of motion while increasing functional strength within the entire range of that motion – thus helping to prevent injuries and building the foundation for a consistent, accurate, and powerful golf swing.
This exercise requires a foam roller, also referred to as a foam roll.
For more information on the foam roller and its benefits, see An Introduction to the Foam Roller – The Golfer’s Best Friend.
Figure 1. Thoracic Spine Extension and Rotation Exercise Video.
The video in Figure 1 is a quick demonstration of this exercise, but you should take your time with each part of this movement, spending more time on whatever areas feel the tightest each day.
- Start by lying face up with a foam roller under the middle of your back. Cross your arms in front of you and point your elbows at the sky. Use both feet to help support your weight, lifting your buttocks off the ground, and place as much weight on the foam roller as you can tolerate. Keep your abdominal muscles engaged.
- Work the foam roller up and down, gliding your back over the foam roller, from the middle of your back up to your shoulders. Do this for 30 to 60 seconds, lingering on the tender spots to reduce muscle tightness in the soft tissues around the thoracic spine.
- Now roll up and down your upper back, trying to pause at each vertebral segment and extend your back around the foam roller – roll up or down about an inch (2.5cm) at a time and then use the foam roller as a fulcrum, keeping your lower back stable, bend your upper back around the foam roller. Extend your thoracic spine as far as it will go each time, pausing on the painful parts.
- Once again work the foam roller up and down, gliding your back over the foam roller, from the middle of your back up to your shoulders, lingering on the tender spots to reduce muscle tightness in the soft tissues around the thoracic spine.
- Finally, extend your arms out in front of you and work on rotation by rolling up and down your upper back, again pausing at each vertebral segment and using the foam roller as a fulcrum, keeping your lower back stable as you rotate your upper back. Complete the stretches to one side before you work down your back again rotating to the other side.
Make sure to roll neither your neck nor your lower back; just keep it to the thoracic spine. You can roll slowly or more quickly, lingering on the tender spots. Keep your abdominal muscles engaged throughout.
The movements must come from the thoracic spine and not the lumbar spine.
As your mobility improves you can try to combine the movements and add a small amount of extension as you rotate.
This exercise must be performed within tolerance. Never attempt to press up beyond your ability or to the point of pain.
How Will It Benefit Your Golf Swing?
The Thoracic Spine Extension and Rotation Exercise is great for keeping your spine mobile and helping to reduce stiffness in your lower and middle back.
Spine mobility is crucial for a good golf swing. It enables you to maintain proper posture throughout the swing, and to rotate your body safely and efficiently. The Thoracic Spine Extension and Rotation Exercise is especially good for helping you to avoid rounding in your middle back.
Developing poor posture or stiffness in your back will reduce your ability to rotate properly and will alter your swing mechanics, leading to faulty swing patterns and increased risk of injury.
For more information on the perfect golf posture, see Golf Swing 101 – Setup: Basic Posture and Golf Swing 103 – Setup: The Perfect Golf Spine Angle.
This exercise mainly involves your erector spinae.
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