Table of Contents

Off the Cuff: Shoulder Mechanics

Can you shoulder the load out on the golf course? In today’s vastly sedentary lifestyle, the answer is: Not likely. 

“Sit up straight!” our parents and grandparents would bark at us when we were kids. But they were mostly concerned with our general health and well-being — they weren’t exactly worried about the way our poor posture would eventually affect the way we could swing a golf club, but they should have been.

Many of us spend too much time hunched over while sitting at our computers or while looking at our mobile devices, a rounding of the shoulders is often the price we pay for the benefits of modern technology. Right now, for instance, think about your posture as you read this article. Are you sitting up straight? I didn’t think so.

In golf, this is the beginning of condition known as C-posture. Not only is there curvature of the spine (kyphosis), but there also is a rounding of the shoulders, which along with overdevelopment of shoulder internal rotators, could limit shoulder mobility.

We tend to focus on the rotator cuff because the shoulders are highly susceptible to injury among golfers, ranking third behind the back and wrists (McHardy, Pollard & Luo 2006). The rotator cuff is comprised of four small muscles, all located on the scapula.  All these muscles will contribute in their own way toward the stability and mobility of the shoulder.

Rotator Cuff Muscles > Function

  • Infraspinatus > External Rotation
  • Teres Minor  > External Rotation
  • Subscapularis > Internal Rotation
  • Supraspinatus > Abduction




Swinging a golf club requires 90 degrees of external rotation in both the lead and trail arm. Though it is possible to manufacture a swing with less than a 90 degree range of motion, the motion has to come from somewhere, often leading to alteration of the swing mechanics and placing an increased strain on surrounding joints.

Looking just off the cuff, you can see where tension caused by the internal rotators can create an imbalance with the external rotators, and mobility may be compromised.

Here is a look at muscles that are affected while in a C-posture.

Tight or Shortened Muscles: Weak or Inhibited Muscles:

  • Pec Major & Minor • Serratus Anterior
  • Upper Trapezius & Levator Scapula • Deep Neck Flexors & Lower Trapezius
  • Latissimus Dorsi & Sternocleidomastoid

In trying to remedy this problem, workouts often are focused on the weakness of the infraspinatus and teres minor (external rotators). Although the weakness certainly may be present, trying to strengthen these muscles without addressing the true problem of the tight and shortened internal rotators could create a bigger problem. Shifting the focus to releasing the tension of the internal rotators — the subscapularis, pec major and latissimus dorsi — will help bring balance and order back to the rotator cuff.

It is important to recognize the relationship between a rigid thoracic spine, which is associated with C-posture, and the shoulders. When the body is balanced, the scapula will remain attached to the thorax. When the thoracic spine lacks mobility, combined with weakness of the serratus anterior (shoulder stabilizer), scapular winging could occur to maintain the mobility of the shoulder.

So how can you help avoid this pattern altogether? For one thing, Sit up Straight! Posture is important and creating new habits will take time.  Spending a little time with your physical therapist and golf performance specialist is a choice place to start. You can also perform some self-myofascial release exercises targeting some of the bigger muscles such as the latissimus dorsi with a foam roller and using a lacrosse ball to “attack” muscles such as the pec major.  Spending less time hunched over your computer and more time out on the golf course would be a good idea — but only after you finish reading all of the information this website contains!

Marc Beeber
Intern, Spring 2017


Begelman, B. (2009, April 2). [C – Posture]. Retrieved February 9, 2017, from https://

Mchardy, A., Pollard, H., & Luo, K. (2006). Golf Injuries. Sports Medicine, 36(2), 171-187.

Sechrest, R. C., MD. (1998). [Muscles of the rotator cuff]. Retrieved February 9, 2017, from

Westerdal, M. (2016). [Thoracic and forward head flexion]. Retrieved February 9, 2017, from


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