It’s been a while, but I finally had a client ask why we don’t do more rotational exercises each session considering we are at a facility called Golf Fitness Los Angeles. Sure, I have most clients chop, lift, and windmill, but rarely will these ever be the focus of any one session in particular for a client.
I answered his question with one of my own. “How often do you play a round or go to the range each week?”
“Usually, three to four times.”
Exactly. Three to four times a week is the average answer I hear when I ask this question. Add in the time at the range before rounds and we are talking about hundreds, if not thousands of swings each week. That is possibly thousands of repetitions of spinal rotation. Now, most golfers don’t really know about the anatomy of a spinal disc beyond the rudimentary explanation that “it’s like a jelly donut”.
I like to explain a little further. The outer portion of the donut is made up of layers (are we talking about a cronut here?). When rotation is applied, these layers begins to delaminate or separate (1). It can be argued that a little of this is no big deal, but ultimately it can lead to altered structural integrity of the spine (1) and future issues such as disc desiccation (think of taking your spinal disc and making it explode). Besides this outer ring (annulus) of the discs, the joints between the vertebrae (facets) are not designed to accept continual repetitive rotational stresses under load as well (2 – I swear it’s within those pages). These joints come into contact with one another when the spine, particularly the lumbar spine, reaches the limits of rotation in each segment (only 2-3 degrees or rotation between segments meaning 10-15 degrees of rotation TOTAL in the lumbar spine, 3). When load or speed is also applied to these joints while they are “closed” or in contact, microtraumas and pain may occur (3, 4)
After reading all this I do not feel the need to add repetition upon repetition of loaded spinal rotation to our golfers’ lives. But, if I’m not doing rotational exercises, what do I have our clients doing? I have them prevent rotation!
Anti-rotation exercises such as paloff presses, crawling, single arm kettlebell swings, single leg deadlifts, and unilateral loading exercises like single arm military presses, and single arm racked front squats are also a great way to tax the core/rotary stabilization systems while preventing excessive repetitions of spinal rotation. Preventing rotation continues to use these same rotational muscles, allowing for them to get stronger, and the minimal amount of actual rotational exercises we do perform will use this strength through range of motion, allowing for carry over to the golf swing.