What Does Healthy Golf Shoulder Flexibility Look Like?

Healthy and properly working golf shoulder flexibility is crucial towards achieving a consistent swing. A commonly seen occurrence, the shoulders have proper range of motion when standing tall and performing everyday tasks, but the second that range of motion is assessed in golf posture – more of a hinge-based position – that golf shoulder flexibility is quickly decreased. Learning how to utilize your shoulder’s range of motion while in golf posture is crucial for producing consistent ball striking. With a few quick, daily exercises, you can find yourself utilizing your shoulders like they should be in your swing!

A crucial motion that is required of the shoulders within the golf swing is external rotation (ER). Shoulder ER is needed to separate lower body motion from upper body motion as you approach impact. Without the ability to separate shoulder and hip motion, consistency with ball striking, smash levels and overall scores during play can be greatly impacted. 

The following steps should be considered to improve your shoulder utilization in your swing: 

#1 – Loosen Up Your Shoulder Muscles

A commonly tight muscle that can decrease your shoulder’s ER is the subscapularis. The subscapularis is one of your rotator cuff muscles and assists the shoulder with stabilization within the shoulder socket and internal rotation (IR). When this muscle is tight, it will pull your shoulder into IR and limit your ability to move into ER. 

Figure 1. Common Subscap release exercise using a golf club.

This can be released with a golf club, as seen with Image 1. Using the golf club, find a tender spot on the subscapularis and hold it there for about 30 seconds. As you maintain contact with your grip on the subscapularis, you’ll find it may be pretty intense at first! Keep holding that spot and by 30 seconds, it will decrease in intensity.        

#2 – Activate Your Shoulders 

Now that we’ve loosen up the shoulder, it’s time to learn how to externally rotate the shoulder. This next exercise is used to activate your shoulder’s external rotators. 

Figure 2. Active shoulder external rotation.

Find a doorway or wall space to perform this one. As seen in Image 2, rest your forearm on the wall and apply a slight forward lean to stretch the front of the shoulder. Your elbow should be at shoulder height for this as well. Now that you’re in the starting position, lift your hand backwards, away from the wall while maintaining elbow contact with the wall. As you lift your hand, you should feel the back side of your shoulder and shoulder blade activated. Now you’ve learned how to train your shoulder to externally rotate!

#3 – Strengthen Your Shoulders

Lastly, now that the shoulders have been loosened up and activated, it is time to strengthen your shoulder. The exercise to use is called banded wall walks. To perform this exercise, you need a foam roller and a small exercise band. 

Figure 3. Wall Walks using a band a foam roller.

Standing in front of the wall, place the roller at about chest height and apply pressure against the roller with your wrists. Place the resistance band around your wrists and create some tension in the band. Slowly roll up the wall along your forearms to bring your arms up overhead. Refer to Image 3 for a visual representation. As you do this consider a few things:

1.     Keep your hands directly vertical over your elbows as you perform this exercise. This will force you to EXTERNALLY ROTATE your shoulders

2.     You should feel this exercise especially on the back side of your shoulder blade

3.     If the band is too difficult at first, then perform with no band until your shoulders are strong enough.

Conclusion

With these 3 considerations, you are bound to improve your shoulder ER and decrease your inconsistencies with your ball striking. Want to assess how your overall full body mobility looks? Try out our home assessment to learn more now!

Use this link: Adult/Senior Home Golf Fitness Assessmen

Will Barlock, PT, DPT, CSCS