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Fitness Friday

Feeling tight in your upper back? Skip the massage—do this instead

October 13, 2023


Tightness in the shoulders and upper back is a common issue for golfers, especially ones who spend a good portion of their non-golf time in a seated position. In fact, it's not uncommon to see massage chairs set up at tournaments and golfers getting worked on like stock cars at a pit stop.

Here's the thing: While a massage certainly feels great, it's not going to make the issues go away long term, says Golf Digest Certified Fitness Trainer Lauren McMillin, who works with golfers in the Madison, Miss., area. McMillin is a yoga and movement specialist.

"I see a lot of golfers dealing with shortened anterior muscles and weaker posterior muscles and what they experience is tight and tense shoulders," she says.

"Instinctively, they seek movements or techniques to help stretch those areas without realizing that they may already be overly lengthened. Stretching and massage might provide temporary relief, but the root of the problem remains."

The root problem is often something known as "upper crossed syndrome." Czech Dr. Vladimir Janda introduced the concept in 1979 as a way of explaining what happens when someone develops headaches and chronic tightness in the upper back. As it relates to golf, in addition to creating further discomfort, UCS may contribute to C-Posture, potentially limiting spinal rotation, shoulder turn, distance and clubhead speed.

How to solve your UCS

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"If, however, golfers consider stretching and opening the front of the body while adding movements that strengthen their upper back and shoulders, they can effectively address muscle imbalances, improve posture and alleviate tension and tightness."

In other words, skip the massage and work on opening up the front side of your torso, such as the pectoral muscles, etc. Here, McMillin offers some exercises to help take stress off the upper back and improve overal mobility on the front side of the body. She also demonstrates a bonus exercise for golfers short on time. Click on the video below to see them. And for more on Golf Digest's Fitness Trainer Certification program, click here.