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Wednesday's with WVPT

October 26th, 2016

Hi everyone!  My name is Ryan Hubbard and I am the Titleist Certified Physical Therapist at Willem Verweij and Associates Physical Therapy in Rochester, NH. Welcome to the first edition of our fall/winter series “Wednesdays with Willem Verweij”. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share my knowledge with the NHGA community. After sponsoring two NHGA events this year, we were able to see and meet a lot of great golfers.  After chatting with some of you, there are some aches and pains (perhaps physical and mental) that are affecting your golf swing. I thought it would be worthwhile to shed some light over the winter on some common problem areas I see with a lot of my clients. Not only tell you what they are, but how to fix them.
From what I have found working with golfers, using the Titleist physical screening tool, is that they have poor mobility of their thoracic spine. The thoracic spine is your upper back and where we achieve most of our back rotation.  All rotary sports such as baseball, track and field, and yes golf, require this part of your back to be able to contribute a certain amount of rotation. If this area is tight and immobile, then other parts of your body have to compensate in order to complete your swing, one of these areas being your low back. Your low back is not meant to be a point of excess rotation due to the orientation of its bony anatomy and potential added compression of your discs. A study by Hosea et al. determined compression at the low back during the golf swing is about 8 times the compression of your body weight (in comparison, running is about 3 times your bodyweight). If this is already occurring, why add more strain on the low back than you have to? Alternatively, there are many reasons why someone may have low back pain during the golf swing, but I have seen in many cases that thoracic spine and hip (topic for another day) mobility or lack thereof; tend to be contributing factors.
Our upper back gets tight for many reasons, one of the main reasons is due to our posture. Don’t worry, I tell many of my clients that I am the president of the bad posture club, which is something I am constantly working on as well. Most of us have forward flexed posture due to the fact we are sitting 90% of our day. We sleep in a flexed posture, drive to work, sit at our desks, drive home, eat dinner at the table, and then start the cycle all over again. This causes our upper back to be in a position of flexion and stay in this position of stiffness. Once in this position, it is difficult for us to move into an upright position (extension) and ROTATE.  Think about it, how many times have you driven to the golf course within 15 minutes of your tee time, maybe hit a few putts, took a few half-hearted practice swings, and miss-hit your first tee shot? You’re already setting yourself at a disadvantage, even before you set your ball on the tee.
Now, I’m not saying you have to arrive an hour before your round to warm up because who has time for that? What I am alluding to is that I can get your upper back moving more freely in two minutes time. Below you will find a few of my favorite golf warm up exercises for the upper back. Try them out before your next round, on your lunch break, or before bed to counteract all the sitting you may do throughout the day. I promise you’ll see a difference in the way you feel when you swing.
Upper Back Turns with Side-Bending in half Kneeling x5, each side    
Bend down on your right knee to assume the half kneeling position with your left foot forward.  Interlock your hands behind your head and rotate your upper trunk to the left side as far as you can.  Side bend towards the left with your upper trunk while maintaining the left rotation maximally. See if you can rotate more to the left.  Repeat to the left five more times, then switch legs and repeat to the other side
Reverse Fly x20    
Start with your arms out front and palms together. Keeping arms parallel with floor, open arms out to side to pinch your shoulder blades together and then return to the starting position.

Sometimes, mobility can be affected by excessive joint tightness or pain.  This can be helped with manual therapy and exercises performed in our clinic.  If you are experiencing pain and would like to be examined by a physical therapist.  Please contact us at (603) 335-4700, we would be happy to help you.

Ryan Hubbard is a Titleist Certified Level 1 Instructor. He can be reached at