3 Easy Exercises to
Improve Your Golf Swing

3 Easy Exercises to Improve Your Golf Swing

Mark Wahlen, Exercise Specialist 

12-March-2020

Improve Your Golf Swing By
Improving Thoracic Spine Mobility

If you’re like me, you’re probably pretty excited about the upcoming golf season. But you also probably need to improve your golf swing (don’t we all?) And while there are thousands of different people and programs out there that will tell you how to improve your golf swing, there’s a crucial underlying component to your optimal golf swing that’s sometimes overlooked: your thoracic spine mobility. This article will cover: what the thoracic spine is, why thoracic spine mobility is critically important to a good golf swing, and three easy exercises that will help you to improve your golf swing by improving your thoracic spine mobility.

What Is the Thoracic Spine?

The thoracic spine (or T-spine for short) is the longest portion of the spine and is the part of your spine that connects your neck (cervical spine) and lower back (lumbar spine). It consists of 12 vertebra bones and runs from the base of the neck to the bottom of the ribcage.

3 Easy Exercises to Improve Your Golf Swing

Why Is Thoracic Spine Mobility 
Important To Your Golf Swing?

During a golf swing, there are 3 primary phases: the backswing, the downswing, and the follow-through. During each of these phases, the thoracic spine plays a critical role in allowing optimal golf swing mechanics to be achieved. During the backswing, the hips and lower back do rotate some (roughly 35 to 50 degrees) but do so to a small degree in comparison to the rotation of the thoracic spine and shoulder girdle (approximately 90 to 100 degrees of rotation – twice that of the hips and low back). This rotation of the thoracic spine and shoulder girdle (which rotate together) allows for proper backswing mechanics, and the amount of rotation achieved via the thoracic spine during the backswing directly affects the quality and hit power generation (by increasing clubhead speed potential) of the downswing phase. When proper thoracic spine rotation is achieved during the backswing, it allows for more hit power generation during the downswing. Thus, you can significantly improve your golf swing by improving thoracic spine mobility.

“When proper thoracic spine rotation is achieved during the backswing,
it allows for more hit power generation during the downswing”

If thoracic spine rotation is limited during the backswing, it will restrict the clubhead speed and hit power generation during the downswing phase. Think of it like an airplane taking off from a runway: the airplane needs an adequate length of the runway to generate enough speed/power to create the lift required for takeoff. Your golf swing is similar in the sense that the greater the distance you can create between the clubhead and the ball via rotation during the backswing phase, the more runway you’re giving yourself to use to generate adequate clubhead speed and swing power during the downswing phase.

3 Easy Exercises to Improve Your Golf Swing

More rotation through the thoracic spine equals more “runway,” which equals more clubhead speed and hit power generation potential. Additionally, the downswing mechanics directly affect the follow-through mechanics, which are essentially the “cherry on top” of the golf swing that can affect both hit power and accuracy. If we stick with the airplane analogy: the follow-through phase of a golf swing is the ascension of the airplane immediately after takeoff. Keep in mind: it’s one thing to get the airplane off the ground initially, it’s another thing to get the aircraft up to the desired altitude for safe flying, and to get it to its end destination. In a golf swing, your follow-through is critical to achieving proper ball flight results after the “takeoff” phases of the swing. Proper thoracic spine mobility is needed in this phase of the swing as much as it is in the backswing and downswing phases, and should be examined in your quest to improve your golf swing.

3 Easy Exercises to Improve Your Golf Swing

How Is Thoracic Spine Mobility Lost?

Well, for many people (golfers and non-golfers alike), thoracic spine mobility is usually lost over time due to poor spinal posture, especially during seated positions. Many people sit with poor posture (head carries forward, shoulders roll forward and inward, and proper spine alignment is lost), which leads to chronic tightness in the thoracic spine. Specifically, the tightness comes from the muscles surrounding the thoracic spine. These muscles get tight because they become overworked in an attempt to support the spine when it’s in a mechanically disadvantaged position. Without correction, this can limit your golf swing by limiting your thoracic spine mobility and rotation potential. It can also lead to chronic back, neck, and shoulder pain (which would also be good to avoid in addition to improving your golf swing). You can learn more about your posture, and how it may be affecting your thoracic spine mobility by participating in a Functional Movement Screen (or sometimes referred to as a FMS test). You can learn more about FMS test’s here and here.

3 Exercises To Improve Your Golf Swing By
Improving Your Thoracic Spine Mobility

Here are 3 easy exercises that will help you to improve your golf swing by improving your thoracic spine mobility. 

“Page Turners”  

Equipment needed: foam roller & medium-sized pillow  

How often to perform? 1x every day, and 1x immediately before going golfing 

Focus: the focus of this exercise is three-fold; first, it improves thoracic spine mobility through rotation of the upper-mid back while keeping the hips relatively stable. This is especially great for golfers who want to improve their golf swing as it closely mimics the mechanics of a swing. Second, it focuses on improving the cervical spine (neck) mobility through rotation. Third, it stretches the pectoral muscles (chest), which are often tight in people with reduced thoracic spine mobility (often due to poor seated posture). Tight pectoral muscles can indirectly contribute to reduced thoracic spine mobility, so this exercise helps by working on thoracic spine mobility and stretching out the pec muscles simultaneously.  

How many reps? 5 to 10 reps 

How many sets? 1 set  

How long of a hold? 5 to 15 seconds during each rep 

“Thread the Needle” 

Equipment needed: foam rollermedium-sized pillow and something soft to put under your knees (such as a yoga mat, soft carpet, pillow, etc.)

How often to perform? 1x every day, and 1x immediately before going golfing 

Focus: This exercise is primarily focused on improving the mobility of the thoracic spine through rotation of the upper-mid back and shoulder girdle while keeping the hips relatively stable in a kneeling position. By keeping the hips relatively stable, it allows for the thoracic spine to become the primary source of rotation. As a secondary focus, it helps to improve the cervical spine (neck) mobility through rotation, which can help to improve overall spine mobility. All of these are essential components to address when trying to improve your golf swing. 

How many reps? 5 to 10 reps  

How many sets? 1 set  

How long of a hold? 5 to 15 seconds during each rep  

“External Rotation Retractions” 

Equipment needed: light resistance exercise band (preferably non-looped) or exercise tubing 

Focus: This exercise is different from the previous two by design. This exercise is focusing on strengthening the muscles of the shoulder and upper mid-back that are often too weak in people who have poor posture and limited thoracic spine mobility. When these muscles are too weak to maintain proper spine posture throughout the day, the resulting poor posture can lead to thoracic spine tightness. By strengthening these muscles, it will help to improve thoracic spine mobility and extend the positive affects/gains of the previous two mobility exercises.

How often to perform? 1x per day 

How many reps? 10 to 15 reps 

How many sets? 2 sets

How long of a hold? 3 to 5 seconds

What Else Can You Do To Improve 
Your Golf Swing & Thoracic Spine Mobility?

In addition to these exercises, one of the best ways that you can improve your golf swing by improving your thoracic spine mobility is to work with a licensed massage therapist. Specifically, you want to work with a sports massage therapist who has a thorough understanding of what you’re trying to accomplish relative to your golf game/swing. They can work on identifying the root cause of your thoracic spine tightness (or tightness elsewhere in your body that may be holding your game back) and can develop a specific plan of care for you that will address your particular needs.

And the best sports massage therapists will understand the importance of not only loosening up your tight muscles with massage and stretch therapy, but also in providing you with a home exercise program that includes stretches and muscle strengthening exercises that are aimed at supplementing the massage and stretch therapy work. This comprehensive approach is necessary because many times you will get tight muscles in an area of your body because other muscles elsewhere in the body aren’t doing their job correctly. Doing both of these things together (loosening what’s tight and strengthening what’s weak) will help you the most, and will get you positive results faster than just doing one component of the treatment independent of the other.

The best example of this kind of comprehensive work is what we do here at The Anatomy of Wellness. We have some of the best sports massage therapists in Holladay and in the Salt Lake City area who understand how to improve your athletic performance (regardless of the sport) through a comprehensive plan of care. Be sure to visit our website to schedule an appointment with us today, and to learn more about how we can help you improve your golf swing.

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The best example of this kind of comprehensive work is what we do here at The Anatomy of Wellness. We have some of the best sports massage therapists in the Salt Lake City area who understand how to improve your athletic performance (regardless of the sport) through a comprehensive plan of care. Be sure to visit our website to learn more about how we can help you improve your golf swing.

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