Why is Thoracic Mobility So Important for the Golf Swing?

Why is Thoracic Mobility So Important for the Golf SwingWell, since the golf season is officially over for most of us in Wisconsin – it’s time to tune into the guys that do it best on TV.  There are a couple of great tournaments coming up, specifically the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua’s Plantation Course, which is a great test for even the top players in the field.  

If you’re anything like me you are in absolute awe while watching some of these guys swing.  Rory, Tiger, Jordan, JT, DJ… the list goes on.  Their ability to make some of the shots they do while in the worst of lies, their distance off the tee, stopping ability, and control around the green is just incredible.  Oftentimes on TV the producers slow the frames and we can see how each player’s swing looks in P1 – P10.  Obviously, impact is a large generator of a player’s capacity to control shots but the sheer swing speed that a lot of these guys can generate is simply amazing. 

There are many facets of the body that allow them to swing the club so effectively, but one of the most important is thoracic mobility.  Take a look at Collin Morikawa, JT, DJ, etc. and you will see their ability to rotate to a P4 position (top of backswing) that most of us dream of.  Their capacity to rotate their pelvis and thoracic spine is second to none which allows them to generate club head speed and find themselves in a favorable position at impact to create smash with ball control.  There are many factors that may prevent a golfer from reaching that position and one of the most important is thoracic mobility.  

What is the Thoracic Spine and How Does it Affect Your Swing?

The thoracic spine is your upper and middle back [the section from your shoulders to the bottom of your ribs].  Lack of mobility here may result in many swing faults such as early extension, c-posture, over the top and reverse spine angles are just a few of the most common.  The reasons for the number of faults that occur due to lack of spine mobility are primarily because our body then looks for motion elsewhere.

When golfers find excess motion in the hips, shoulders and so on, it not only causes your kinematic sequence to falter but we also lose the capability to generate club head speed.  Let’s be honest, hitting longer shots is not a make or break part of your game but maximizing distance does make the game itself a lot easier. Besides, how many times have you heard… or said “man I wish I could still hit the ball that far.” 

Whether your lack of distance is because you’ve slowed down or lost flexibility, parts of it can be fixed or addressed.  Even if you’re happy with your club head speed but still exhibit some of the faults described above – lack of thoracic mobility may be the ticket to lowering scores.

Below I have added some pictures so you can test yourself at home as well as a few exercises to do over the winter to either maintain or improve your thoracic spine mobility.  Oftentimes physical therapy, chiropractic or medical intervention may be required to free some of the ligament, muscles and joints of the thoracic spine – if that is the case give us a call and we can get you ready for Spring 2023.  

Test Your Thoracic Spine Mobility

Seated Rotation Test – While sitting keep your legs and hips stationary while rotating as far as you can right and left.  We are looking for greater than 45 degrees of rotation here.

Drills to Maintain or Improve Thoracic Spine Mobility

Foam Roller Drill – use a foam roller through your middle and upper back.  With your butt on the floor allow your head and upper back to extend over the foam roller. Perform 5-10 motions taking your time and then roll up (or down) 1-2 inches and perform again.  Try to break up rolling this area into 8-10 segments performing 5-10 reps at each.  

Half Kneeling with Rotation Drill – while holding ½ a foam roller or ball against the wall with your knee (this keeps your hips stationary) rotate away from the down knee – see if you’re able to touch  both hands to the wall at the end position. Perform this stretch 20 times and switch sides, hold 2-3 seconds on each stretch

See you all on the 1st tee in Spring 2023.

Dr. Kampfer, D.C, T.P.I Certified

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