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Protect your shoulders and gain speed with these at-home exercises

January 05, 2024
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The role of the shoulders in the golf swing is an important one. Obviously, it's a junction between two parts of the body—the arms and the torso—that need to move in coordination if you want to hit effective shots. But more importantly, the shoulders are key to creating swing speed.

Just not how you might think.

First, a quick anatomy lesson: The shoulder joint (glenohumeral) is a ball-and-socket joint formed between the scapula (shoulder blade) and the head of humerus (upper-arm bone). Several ligaments are attached as are the muscles of the rotator cuff. When you throw a baseball, swing a tennis racquet, roll a bowling ball or flush an iron shot, it's the muscles of the rotator cuff that keep your arm from disconnecting from your body (ouch).

While you might think larger muscles provide the real power of your swing—and they do—it's these smaller muscles in your shoulder socket that play a key role in how fast you can swing. Why? Legendary pitching coach Tom House can explain.

House famously said you can only accelerate what you can decelerate. The golf translation: You can only swing a club as fast as you can stop it. And without strong, functional shoulders, you're going to either be limited in swing speed or you're going to try to push past that limitation and get hurt.

Knowing this, we asked Golf Digest Certified Fitness Trainer Andrea Doddato to demonstrate two of her favorite exercises to protect the shoulder capsule without needing any gym equipment (though you might want to grab a mat).

You should do them as often as possible, she says, as you'll also strengthen your core and correct some postural issues.

Stir-the-Pot Planks

Helps with: Core stability, ankle mobility and shoulder strength/mobility to control the golf club at higher swing speeds while remaining in posture.

Helps prevent: Rotator-cuff issues, a loss of arm-body coordination and poor golf posture.

From a modified plank position with your forearms set inward, hands laced together, make circles with your upper body in both directions. Keep your spine in a neutral (flat) position and your core muscles tight as you do these for as long as you can until you become too fatigued to do them properly.

Prone Shoulder T Rotations

Helps with: Shoulder-joint mobility and scapular stability to control the golf club better.

Helps prevent: Rounded "C" posture at address and rotator-cuff injuries as a result of swinging too hard or steep.

From a prone (face down) position with your arms extended to your sides as if forming the letter T and the hands thumbs up, make half circles over your head and back down. Allow your torso to lift off the ground to help complete the movements. Make sure your shoulder blades stay pinched. After several reps, flip the hands into a thumbs-down position and do several more reps.