I am a big fan of this Mike Boyle statement:
"Bad golfers rotate from the low back, good golfers rotate from the hips and the thoracic spine"
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Indeed, Mike has been largely responsible for bring the thoracic spine to the attention of golfers. In short, increasing t-spine rotation will allow you to increase shoulder turn in your back swing, stay more stable in the lower body and protect your lower back.
Happily, many golfers are now working on t-spine mobility, exercises such as the open books and half moons (video below) have been increasingly popular. However, I can’t help but feel golfers are missing part of the picture.
Most of us have horrible posture (blame your boss as it’s all that time you spend at a computer or driving that’s at fault!). This leads to a rounded (kyphotic) posture of the spine which means the t-spine is locked in a flexed position.
If you’re trying to do an open book mobilisation starting with this type of spine you will never get the rotation you are looking for. Developing t-spine extension and normal spine position is essential to proper rotation, t-spine extensions on a foam roller (explained in the video below) are your best option.
These exercises are great for increasing t-spine mobility however they do so in a manner in which we are supported and stabilised by the floor.
With most mobility drills, there should be a progression to coming off the floor into a more vertical position so that the body is required to support/ stabilise the moving joints, load bearing is a manner more applicable to that required in the golf swing increasing the usability of that mobility.
Following that idea of moving from a ground based position to standing, we look to progress through a quadruped, to half-kneeling, to standing and golf posture positions.
Here’s a few of my favourite progressions:
QUADRUPED T-SPINE ROTATION
This introduces some shoulder and core stability elements, whilst the quadruped position does increase the load demands somewhat. Be sure to keep the core tight and make sure the movement comes from the t-spine not lumbar spine (lower back). Be sure to follow the moving elbow with your eyes.
HALF-KNEELING BANDED THORACIC ROTATIONS
This movement relies on core control to develop hip and thoracic spine rotation, plus some extension of the spine to accommodate the arm movement. Try to reach the arm as high as possible and get the biceps as close to the ear as possible.
The band provides some assistance with this so removing the band would actually represent a progression.
GOLF POSTURE T-SPINE EXTENSION/ROTATION
Similar to the half kneeling thoracic rotations this movement relies on core control to develop hip and thoracic spine rotation, but as you are now standing, also introduces the knees, ankles and feet to the stability equation. You are also now required to express thoracic spine mobility in a motion much more specific to the golf swing.
If you're struggling for shoulder turn in your swing, or unable to see the mobility gains you make in t-spine exercises like open books actually carryover to your golf swing, give these progressions a try over the course of a few months and I'm sure you'll notice a drastic improvement.