The goal of "stretching" exercises - or as I like to call them, mobility exercises - is to increase the function of a joint and the tissues that surround it.
It's not to increase the length of a muscle.
It's not to remove scar tissue.
It's not to increase the "pliability" of a muscle.
It's to increase the function of the joint and the tissues that surround it.
But what is FUNCTION?
Function has to do with the intended purpose.
What is the purpose of the joint? What is the purpose of our bodily tissue?
In my opinion, it's to contribute to our more holistic motor patterns and the completion of motor tasks.
The motor tasks you request it's function for is fairly contextual.
A golfer's function will be slightly different than an offensive lineman's.
A ballet dancer's different than a marathon runner.
Fortunately, a central purpose of those within this community is to produce a fluent and functional golf swing.
So we can speak a similar language when it comes to functionality.
Today's article is going to focus on the FUNCTION (mobility) of the SPINE.
The Spinal Joints
As in, plural.
There are many of them running up and down your back.
During the golf swing they all serve a functional role in creating the movement of your golf swing.
Together, they allow the trunk to rotate, extend and flex. By doing so, we can load and unload muscles such as the obliques, the various abdominals and the spinal erectors - which will assist in force production and velocity creation!
Myth Busting 101
There is a myth that exists in this world that the spine needs to be IMMOBILIZED in order to keep it healthy and strengthen the surrounding core musculature.
Practitioners say you should complete all exercises WITHOUT moving your spine - specifically your lower spine.
While this may offer some truth for heavier lifts such as back squats and RDLs, it certainly is not true for all exercises.
In my experience, moving the spine is necessary if we want to develop core musculature and build resilience in the spinal joints running up and down our backside.
Just like we complete squats through a full range of motion.
Or push ups.
Moving the core muscles that serve to stabilize and strengthen the spinal joints through a full range of motion is critical to their development in terms of both strength and mobility.
If you want to read more of my thoughts on the spine and building resilience, check out the articles linked below!
4 Exercises to Mobilize Your Back!
Our spine moves three dimensionally. Therefore, we need to be sure that our mobility protocol does the same.
First, the lateral flexion wall touch challenges the frontal plane motion of our spine.
In my opinion, this is OFTEN the toughest plane to move the spine through as we simply don't expose ourselves to it much.
Watch the video above to learn more!
The rotational wall touch challenges our ability to move through the transverse (rotational) plane of motion.
The wall can function as an external focus of attention, forcing us to reach for new positions that we previously haven't been exposed to.
The cat-cow exercise challenges the final of the three planes of motion which is the sagittal plane. It forces our spine into massive amounts of flexion and extension!
If you look back at the images of Tiger above, you see in the second picture he is utilizing spinal flexion to speed up his downswing. In the third image, his spine is undergoing massive amounts of extension in order to help stop the golf swing.
Your spine moves when you play golf... let's prepare accordingly.
This exercise challenges our spines ability to drive hip and shoulder separation.
It is an advanced exercise that places stress (good stress) on the spinal joints and requires our muscles to actively contract and absorb large ranges of motion.
I had my collegiate athletes complete this exercise this past summer and it exposed them to positions they had never seen. They learned to thrive within the novel positions and their spine's function was increased as a result.
If you think you're ready, give it a try.
Wrap it Up
Move your spine in training - often.
Expose it to greater magnitudes and quantities of movement.
Watch spinal health and function thrive.
And join the SCRATCH Community to get training programs that prioritize spinal health and function!
Founder and Head Coach - SCRATCHGolfTraining.com
Carter is a strength and conditioning coach out of the Milwaukee area working with athletes, in-person and virtually. Having helped hundreds of athletes, ranging from the middle school to the professional level and beyond, Carter brings a breadth of experience and knowledge to every athlete he works with. He launched SCRATCHGolfTraining.com in the summer of 2021 to help empower golfers to greater performance and longevity.
Carter believes ALL golfers are athletes, and they should be training accordingly.
Become a SCRATCH Athlete today, and start training like the ATHLETE you are!