By Pam Owens, Special to Lone Star Golf
More than all of
the other joints used in the golf swing, your shoulders move in extremely broad
ranges to allow the arms to create speed through impact. It’s important that
you understand the crucial shoulder positions needed in both the backswing
(loading phase) and downswing (exploding phase).
World-class golfers are able to flex
either arm across their chest, as well as achieve around 110 degrees of
external shoulder rotation. When you notice clubface and path issues in the backswing
or downswing, the problem could be your shoulders’ lack of mobility and ability
to control the club’s position and swing arc. Limited shoulder flexibility,
control and strength leads to overuse of the spine, which leads to standing up
in the swing or chopping at the ball with the upper body to gain speed.
Mobility in the golf swing means
flexibility and control plus strength. Mobile shoulders are a deciding factor
in shot accuracy and distance. Strength, not just flexibility, is required in our
shoulder positions of backswing, impact and follow through in order to: 1) achieve
power, 2) avoid injury and 3) consistently shape shots.
SWING LOADING PHASE: When moving into our backswing,
our trail arm externally rotates to reach up and back. Meanwhile, our lead arm
internally rotates and flexes across the chest. These two very different
shoulder motions must coordinate with the elbow and wrist to gain the greatest
width possible in preparation for the transition.
SWING EXPLODING PHASE: When transitioning into the
downswing, our shoulders for a split second should maintain their fully loaded position
while the hips and trunk begin to unwind towards the target zone. This is very
important for gathering more speed to release at impact. It’s also very
difficult to accomplish if you lack strength or stability in the shoulder
blades or shoulders. In this phase, the shoulders reverse roles at and after
impact to allow the lead arm to externally rotate and trail arm to internally
rotate and horizontally flex across the chest.
The first of two
exercises to help with shoulder strength and flexibility is called “Shoulder
Reach Through Stretch, Load & Lift Off.” It addresses the horizontal
flexion and internal rotation of the lead arm in the backswing and trail arm in
the follow through. The second exercise is “Shoulder External Rotation Stretch,
Load & Lift Off,” which improves your trail arm in the backswing and lead
arm in the finish.
We will use a
wall and possibly a towel or very light weight. Also, do not move into any
painful ranges or force your shoulder into deep ranges you cannot control.
Place your wrist
on the wall at chest height with shoulder in internal rotation. You should feel
a slight stretch across the back of the shoulder. You may need to close the
angle slightly by positioning your body closer to the wall. Leave a little room
for movement and be careful to not overstretch in this position. Use deep
breathing as you maintain this stretch for 2 minutes.
completed the full 2 minutes of the stretch, your shoulder is now prepared to
load on both the chest and the rear sides. Using an isometric contraction, gradually
press your wrist into the wall for 10-20 seconds, then quickly lift the
wrist off the wall by closing the angle on the front side of your shoulder for
a 10- to 20-second isometric contraction. Repeat the loading phases for a total
of 1-3 times on both shoulders.
Pro Tips: Eliminate compensatory movement from
the elbow or torso, as they will try to replace the work from the shoulder.
Cramping in the contracting area on the front side of the shoulder is common
and just means that you are working in a new or weak range. You may also hold a
1- or 2-pound weight to advance the load portion of the exercises.
Position your forearm against a
door jam or corner of a wall at chest height. Rotate your trunk open until you
find a gentle stretch across the front of the shoulder. You may need to pad the
space between the wrist or elbow and wall. Hold this stretch for 2
minutes. Reposition your trunk about halfway through this stretch to carefully
deepen the angle.
After you’ve completed the full 2
minutes of the stretch, your shoulder is prepared for loading. Using an
isometric contraction, gradually press your wrist into the wall for
10-20 seconds for the internal direction of force. Then quickly lift
your wrist/forearm off the wall to achieve more external rotation of the shoulder
for another 10-20 seconds. Keep the elbow connected to the wall. Repeat the
load and lift off phases for 1-3 times on both shoulders.
Pro Tips: You might achieve an additional 3-8 degrees when
lifting off. If you achieve much more, then re-position your trunk to golf
posture so the load and lift off phases will be closer to the outer limits of
your current external shoulder.
Since shoulders move in such
great range and are more vulnerable to injury we need to train with consistency
and caution. With mobile shoulders you’ll have
way more fun playing consistently and strategically shaping your shots. I look
forward to your questions or comments on how these exercises work for you!
Pam Owens is the Director of Fitness for
Royal Oaks Country Club in Houston and the owner of Pam Owens Fitness. A
two-time Golf Digest Top 50 Fitness Professional, Pam helps golfers all over
the world get lean, bendy and powerful with online or in person coaching. For a
free golf warm-up and for more resources, click here.