Golf requires a combination of skills for performance including balance, flexibility, co-ordination, body awareness, power and timing; all of which can be trained to improve your golf swing. But you need to know how to do this. Trying to improve your golf swing when your flexibility or movement is impaired can be frustrating.
The Shoulder joint is commonly injured playing golf, one reason shown in research is overuse, and actually occurs more on the left shoulder of a right handed golfer, and the right shoulder of a left handed golfer. More shoulder injuries also occurred in amateur females than males. Other shoulder conditions do happen like impingement of the shoulder or a bursitis where movement of the shoulder joint can be limited or painful in a specific arc therefore affecting your golf swing. Out of interest it was also found that lower backs were injured more often in amateur golfers than professionals, however, wrist injuries occurred more in professionals (Metz, J.P, 1999). It is therefore important to keep the shoulder in good working order as playing golf requires good technique. A functional exercise training programme it is also very important to get enough rest and recovery.
If we look at the research and isolate the shoulder joint, then the main shoulder muscles used in the golf swing were found to be the rotator cuff muscles, which sit on the back of the shoulder. It was previously thought that the main muscle was the deltoid muscle but Jobe, Moynes & Antonelli, (1986) showed that this was not the case.
One action of the rotator cuff muscles is to stabilise the shoulder joint, they are also key in helping to transfer power in the golf swing. Any restrictions in movement around the shoulder or any weakness in the rotator cuff muscles are therefore going to affect your swing.
Over the last few years there has been a shift from training just the shoulder muscles to integrating and synchronising shoulder movement with the rest of the body. Much of the original rehabilitation routines had been centred on improving rotator cuff function for the shoulder using resistance bands or light dumbbells which can help in getting some improvement in the shoulder function but further investigation showed that shoulder function may also be affected by what’s happening with scapular function, spinal mobility, hip mobility and core muscle function which can put a strain on the shoulder movement if not functioning correctly. These areas also need to be assessed and trained in a complete training program.
Using screening tests can help to give valuable information to start a training program by showing any dysfunction.
Here are two simple tests we might use for shoulder mobility
1. Can you stand up straight against a wall lift your arms up above your head and touch the wall behind you?
2. And then from the above position, can you slowly slide your arms out and down the wall so that your elbows form an L- shaped position level with your shoulders, do both of your elbows and hands touch the wall or just your elbows, if you find these tests difficult you need to be doing some exercises to improve your mobility.
Remember any injury or pain in and around the shoulder may require diagnosis and treatment before attempting to follow an exercise program.
Metz, J.P. (1999) Managing Golf Injuries, Technique and Equipment Changes That Aid Treatment The Physician and sports medicine, Vol 27 (7).
Jobe, F.W. Moynes, D.R. Antonelli, D.J. (1986) Rotator cuff function during a golf swing. American Journal Sports Medicine, 14 pp.388-92