A Stronger Back Will Increase Your Swinging PowerPosted on March 23, 2017
We’ve already discussed upper body strengthening, but today I want to focus specifically on the muscles of the upper back. The upper back muscles that control your shoulder blades and arms are active throughout your swing. Aside from the pectorals, the upper back muscles have the biggest capability for harnessing the power developed through the legs and trunk and transferring that energy into the ball. Here are the muscles that I’m talking about when it comes to the upper back:
- Rotator Cuff – This is a group of 4 muscles that contract to internally and externally rotate the upper arm in the shoulder socket. They are highly active throughout the entire swing, allowing your rear arm to rotate externally and your front arm internally in your backswing and vice versa in your downswing and follow-through.
- Trapezius – The traps are often characterized into 3 parts. The upper fibers elevate and rotate the scapulae. Middle fibres retract the scapula, or pull it towards the spine. Lower fibres depress and rotate the scapulae. The upper and middle traps play a big role in your rear shoulder in the backswing, as that scapula has to rotate and retract in order to get your arms and club up and back. At the top of the backswing, the middle fibres of the front shoulder become stretched and loaded, allowing for their powerful contraction to contribute to initiation of the downswing.
- Rhomboids – This muscle contracts to retract the scapulae, pulling them towards the spine. This function is almost identical to that of the middle traps, so they are active in the rear shoulder in the backswing and play an important role in the front shoulder at the initiation of the downswing. Another key function of the Rhomboids is to stabilize the scapula on the spine and ribcage, creating a stable base for movement of the arms.
- Latissimus Dorsi – Last, but not least are the lats. These broad muscles cover much of the mid and low back and attach the upper arm bones directly to the spine. Their contraction adducts the arms, bringing them towards the body from a raised position. In your golf swing, the front arm lat plays a huge role in initiating the downswing from a stretched and loaded position at the top of the backswing. Because of its size, it creates tremendous power and acceleration in the forward direction. Since it’s connected from your arms directly to the mid/low spine, it is the major back muscle responsible for harnessing the power developed through your trunk and transferring it to the arms.
There is a wide variety of exercises you can do to work on your upper back. Below, I’ll explain why these are beneficial and watch the videos on this page to learn how to do them properly.
- Row – There are a ton of different row exercises that are great for targeting all of your upper back muscles. You can do narrow-grip, wide-grip or single-arm using a band, dumbbells, cables or barbell. Bent rows will have the added benefit of working your spinal erectors while single arm rows will also work your spinal rotators; both of which are key muscle groups for adding power to your golf swing.
- Shoulder Rotation – These are isolation exercises targeted specifically to the rotator cuff muscles. They’re great for developing rotational strength through the shoulder joint and for making your shoulder girdle stable and injury-free.
- Pull-Up – This is definitely an advanced exercise that requires a high degree of strength, but is excellent for strengthening all of your upper-back muscles. It has the added benefit of challenging your core muscles as well. Pull-ups are particularly effective for your golf swing as they allow your lats to stretch under gravity at the bottom of the movement, mimicking what happens at the top of the backswing. If you are unable to perform one repetition to start, try jumping up to get your chin above the bar, then lower yourself slowly back down. Just make sure you’re on a stable bar when doing this!
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