The following post is mostly a transcript for the video, so feel free to watch the video, the only difference in the written part is I’m going to show you how to test/re-test to see if you get improvement, and show you how limitations in the testing motion can affect your swing.
If you have pain in your upper body, please do me a solid and read this whole thing before attempting any of these drills!
The drills we’re going over are:
- supine overhead reach with the ball
- lumbar locked rotations
- kettlebell halo
To be frank there are 2 types of movement tests we look at in relation to these drills, but one of them is really tough to see with an un-trained eye so we’re going to skip that one and focus on the overhead reach.
First, to test your mobility, find some empty wall space and assume a wall-sit position (doesn’t really matter how low you sit), and then flatten your low back to the wall.
If you’re having a hard time flattening your low back, try standing up a little taller against the wall. If that doesn’t help we may have bigger fish to fry.
Then, what you’re going to do is point your thumbs forward, and lift your arms straight overhead while keeping your elbows straight (your thumbs will be facing the wall as you get overhead).
You should be able to A) touch the wall with both hands with straight elbows and without shrugging your shoulders, and B) your low back should remain flat against the wall.
If you can’t accomplish these goals, note which ones you have trouble with, because we’re going to come back to this move after the drills.
Believe it or not, an inability to accomplish this test correctly is consistent with golfers “losing their posture” during a swing (aka “standing up”), an “over the top” swing (FORE RIGHT!), and has even been linked to reverse spine angle – the leading cause of lower back pain in golfers.
For the supine overhead reach with the ball, you’ll be placing a soft ball in the middle of your thoracic spine (upper back). You can also use a foam roller, but I wouldn’t recommend using one with bumps or knobs.
It’s very important to note that you are “inhaling” as you reach overhead, and “exhaling” as you lower your arms to your side. It’s going to feel very counterintuitive. Focus.
Repeat the overhead reach ~10 times, and then shift the ball up a few inches and repeat the process again. Continue these repetitions until you get to the base of your neck – at the level of the upper traps.
The purpose of this drill is to accomplish a few things: unlock the upper back and gain some more mobility at the spine, loosen the lats, and stabilize the core with some diaphragmatic breathing.
Now, we “press save” on the improvement in freedom of movement with the lumbar locked rotation. This drill isolates the movement to your upper back, and forces you to rotate in both directions with control.
A lack of control during this drill is obvious, because you will compensate by either rolling to your side, or you won’t be able to rotate at all and will feel “tight.”
If you’re looking for a number of repetitions to shoot for, I’d say ~15 per side is safe, but practice the movement until you feel like you’re moving smoothly without resistance.
If you never reach the point of “no resistance,” well then maybe that’s something we should look at with a movement screen.
Finally, the kettlebell halo.
I think I mention this in the video, but you don’t have to have a kettlebell to do this video (although the kettlebell is probably my favorite type of exercise equipment available for a multitude of reasons and I think everyone should have at least 1). You can use a dumbbell, a weight plate, or even a golf club, but it’s preferable to have something with a little heft.
Standing tall with your feet around hips width apart, brace your core, ground yourself to the floor, anti shrug your shoulders and begin circling the weight around your head.
Once you complete a circle around the head, pause with the weight held against your chest and reset if necessary (i.e., brace your core, anti-shrug, stabilize at the hips).
Your shoulder should never touch your ear during this drill, there should be a little bit of space (about 2 fingers) between the shoulder and ear while the shoulder is directly overhead.
Control! Don’t just whip the weight around your head. Move slowly. You’re wasting your time if you rush through this.
Your hips and waist should never move, you should stay rooted in place as the weight passes around your head.
I typically do about 10 each direction.
This drill can be made more challenging by placing your feet closer together, or even by staggering into a split-squat or tandem position. General rule of thumb – the closer your feet are together, the more difficult the drill.
For instructions, return to the beginning of this post, but let’s re-check your ability to reach overhead with your low back pressed against the wall.
Did it improve?
If so, great! You’re one of the lucky ones.
If not, don’t panic, most people have to work at drills like this with some daily consistency before seeing improvement.
You have the test we use to determine progress. Use it to track yourself over time. Take videos if you need to keep yourself honest. Consistency is king!
For those of you who felt pain during the initial test, you are NOT to proceed with any of these drills if they also cause you pain. Don’t buy into the myth of no pain no gain.
These are a few of the drills we MIGHT use for rehab purposes but understand that you are in a different category of assessment and more must be done to determine the appropriate course of action to FIRST eliminate your pain.
If that’s something that interests you, you can learn more by applying for one of our phone consultations, where you will get to speak with a PT and determine the appropriate course of action given your symptoms:
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