Why Neck Mobility May Be Limiting Your Backswing
Fri Oct 23, 2020 by Paul Gozbekian
We are seven months into this pandemic and most of us are spending a lot more time working from home, on our computers having all of our interactions via zoom in a seated position. Let’s face it, this is killing our posture and our golf swing.
Many golfers have limited range of motion with the back swing. There can be numerous contributing factors to this. Limitation with external rotation with the lead hip, limited internal rotation of the trail hip or limited right thoracic rotation (right handed golfers) are common culprits.
In my training environment, when I run golfers through the Lower Quarter Rotation Test on the TPI Movement Screen, the golfer will often demonstrate 60 degrees or more of internal and external hip rotation bilaterally. However, when I analyze the swing on video it still shows limitation in the back swing. This will often lead me up the kinetic chain to the thoracic spine.
Then, when I assess thoracic rotation in Seated Trunk Rotation there should be 45 degrees plus of right rotation present. When I don’t see this, the initial thought is that there is limitation with thoracic spine mobility. The client who demonstrates C-Posture at set up can often experience limited thoracic extension and rotation. If the TPI movement screen indicates this, that is where I will begin my corrective exercise strategy with the client.
However, if there is any restriction and/or pain with cervical rotation, thoracic will be compromised as well. During the backswing there should be 45 to 50 degrees of right thoracic rotation and at least 70 degrees of left cervical rotation for right handed golfers. This will reverse by the time you get to your finish position.
I check Cervical Rotation using both the TPI movement screen, as well as the Top Tier SFMA. When my golfers demonstrate limitation with active cervical rotation, this can sometimes be a joint mobility dysfunction/restriction.
This is where I will break out the pattern following the SFMA and test them in an unloaded supine position to assess whether the pattern is dysfunctional due to a joint mobility restriction or stability motor control. If they suddenly have full range of motion, this indicates that it is more of a core/postural stability motor control dysfunction. Therefore, correctable in my training space.
For right-handed golfers, the muscles involved in left cervical spine rotation include left levator scapula, left splenius capitis, left rectus capitis posterior major, left longus colli, left longus capitis, left longissimus capitis, left Iliocostalis cervices, upper fibers of the right trapezius, right sternocleidomastoid, all three scalenes on the right side and the right multifidi. Any of these can be in play causing stability motor control dysfunction (SMCD) in the neck.
If a SMCD is present, it tells me that one or more of these cervical spine rotators are now acting as stabilizers due to lack of core stability. There is a breakdown with how the brain’s motor cortex is communicating with the muscles, in this case the deep core stabilizers, and getting them to fire prior to movement occurring.
We immediately start working on these motor patterns to get the correct afferent signals going to the brain’s somatosensory cortex and the correct efferent signals leaving the brain’s motor cortex.
The following are corrective exercises to improve cervical rotation both with and without pattern assistance. They progress starting in an unloaded prone or supine position, moving to quadruped, then to half-kneeling/kneeling and eventually up to standing. Following the progression of demonstrating the pattern without pattern assistance, we would add in resistance with pattern assistance and complete the movement with resistance and no pattern assistance. The idea is to progress through the 4x4 matrix all the way to standing and make certain we are able to integrate this back into your golf swing.
Paul Gozbekian has been a trainer and coach for over 20 years working extensively with golfers at all levels and ages. Paul has presented at the National Golf Expo for the past several years and has been a regular guest on 98.5 The Sports Hub Golf Club in Boston. Paul is seminar junky and loves learning new coaching techniques and cutting edge training methods. He is certified with TPI as Fitness Coach Level 3, Junior Coach Level 3, Power Coach Level 2, and holds minors in Medical Level 3 and Golf Level 2. He also maintains additional certifications through USA Triathlon, USA Cycling, RRCA Run Coaching, National Academy of Sports Medicine, American Council on Exercise and numerous others. Paul lives in Massachusetts with his wife and 5 year old daughter and works as a fitness and performance coach. Paul is available for 1-on-1 live and virtual/online coaching. He has numerous program options available. You can contact him at his email: firstname.lastname@example.org, his website or on social media at Instagram or Facebook.