I just finished in the last two weeks explaining to you what about the hip flexors, Lower Cross Syndrome and how they affect your golf game. I also gave you exercises you can do on your own to combat these issues.
Now we will move on to the upper body. Unlike where I specifically looked at the hip flexors with Lower Cross Syndrome, I will not be focusing on one main group here. I will just look overall at Upper Cross Syndrome.
So what is Upper Cross Syndrome?
Just as with Lower Cross Syndrome, it is a series of tight/shortened muscles opposing a set of weak/inhibited muscles around the neck and upper back.
The main tight/shortened muscles include the pectoralis major and minor, upper trapezius and levator scapula. These oppose and cause the rhomboids, lower to middle trapezius and the deep cervical neck flexors to all be weak and inhibited.
When this happens it causes your upper body to become more kyphotic (rounded shoulders) and as this happens you also get a more exaggerated curve in your cervical spine (neck) causing more torque to be put on the spine in and around the neck. This can generally give people headaches and add a lot of tension to the top of the shoulders for the extra work they now have to do.
A more lengthy description is …
Upper-Crossed Syndrome (UCS) is also referred to as proximal or shoulder girdle crossed syndrome. In UCS, tightness of the upper trapezius and levator scapula on the dorsal side crosses with tightness of the pectoralis major and minor. Weakness of the deep cervical flexors ventrally crosses with weakness of the middle and lower trapezius. This pattern of imbalance creates joint dysfunction, particularly at the atlanto-occipital joint, C4-C5 segment, cervicothoracic joint, glenohumeral joint, and T4-T5 segment. (Janda 1988)
A lot of people have these issues and more are on the way. This comes from what many people do on a daily basis. Sitting at a desk to work, sitting and watching TV, and looking down at our phones… way too much. The era of the cell phone as they are now is only exaggerating the problem. We are even set up for the as a kid sitting at a desk all day studying.
So how does having this issue affect your golf swing?
Upper Cross Syndrome has a lot to do with thoracic rotation (upper body / rib cage area). When your chest (pectoralis major and minor) and tight and shortened they restrict how far back your arms can rotate. As you try to rotate one arm back you chest should relax while the muscles of your upper back (middle and lower trapezius and rhomboids) contract to pull the shoulder blade (scapula) back. When this doesn’t happen because the upper back is too weak to contract against the chest you get less rotation.
Another issue that comes into play here is chicken winging. If your chest is tight your lats (latissimus dorsi) also start to tighten up and together they internally rotate the arm at the shoulder joint (glenohumeral joint). The arm needs to be able to externally rotate to allow the club to swing fully though. Sometimes with chicken winging you may feel like you just can’t get enough rotation and feel blocked during your follow through.
Besides Upper Cross Syndrome affecting you ability to rotate it also affects the amount of power you can generate and handle. If the upper trapezius is pulling the shoulder blades up too high it causes a destabilization of the shoulders. When there is a lack of stability in the shoulder they cannot produce enough and cannot handle enough power. So even if you are capable of producing enough power from your lower body and get it to fully transfer up the body you cannot get it through your shoulders because they are not stable enough. Worse yet is that if enough power gets to this joint without the ability to handle it, that is where you get an injury.
As you can see being able to get the most out of your golf swing requires a mobile upper body and sitting at a desk or in a car all day is restricting your ability to do this. Make sure to watch for next week’s article to get stretches, mobility and strengthening drills to combat Upper Cross Syndrome.