“Latissimus Dorsi” in Golf
The Latissumus Dorsi Muscle as the name suggests is situated in the dorsal region, originates from the spinous processes of the vertebrae T6 to T12, iliac crest, thoraco-lumbar fascia and the last 4 ribs, acting as an adductor, internal rotator and extensor of the Upper Limb, and maintaining its flexibility is very important for a quality golf swing.
There may be several reasons for shortening on the Latissumus Dorsi muscle, as an example, it can happen due to daily life activities or due to prolonged excessive physical training, but the golf itself may also cause this shortening due to the asymmetrical nature of the technical gesture or even becasue of prolonged golf bag transportation on one shoulders. But perhaps, the biguest influencer for this shortening of Latissimus Dorsi to happen is related to the player’s posture in the starting position (address).
The golfers grip in the initial position forces the player to present a hand lower than the other when holding the club, this position of the hands forces the lateral bending of the trunk (lateral flexion) related to the ball (away from the target). The golfer is thus predisposed to the acquisition of posture issues, especially when he does not use caddy who transport his golf clubs and also when he does not perform any type of physical training to avoid these postural deviations.
The “Golfer Scoliosis” exists and may be a permanent or temporary issue due to muscular imbalances caused by this initial position and will also interfere with the body alignment to the target as I explained in the article “How your posture can interfere with your target alignment!”. The more lateralized the trunk is in relation to the ball (laterally flexed), the more “open” (shoulder rotation left of the target) will be in relation to the target.
In golf, the Latissumus Dorsi plays a very important role, and this muscle requires a good degree of flexibility so that the player can swing without faulty postures and other compensatory movements. However, limiting the flexibility of the Latissumus Dorsi muscle in golf is a complex issue, and we can say with a great degree of confidence, that any golfer having a postural imbalance as referred to, in this case, one shoulder lower than the other in a permanent or temporary condition, there is a strong likelihood of a shortening of the Latissumus Dorsi muscle to the right or left (depending on manual predominance).
Limitation of flexibility of the Latissumus Dorsi may lead to any of the following “symptoms” during the golf swing, each of which may arise by itself or associated with each other:
X-Factor limitation (‘separation’ of the shoulders over the pelvis) and X-Factor Stretch (additional stretching of the pelvis plus ‘separation’ between the shoulders and pelvis at the start of the downswing).
With the X-Factor and X-Factor Stretch decreasing, it will be very difficult for the player to start the downswing correctly with the pelvis. There will certainly be issues related to coordination, timing, timings and lags between body segments and often leading to pain and discomfort at the level of the dorso-lumbar hinge (T12-L1).
Raise or lower your head on the backswing and impact (through trunk movement).
During backswing and impact, a player with a shortening of the Latissumus Dorsi muscle tends to move out of position due to the tension exerted by the shortened muscle when the shoulders are rotated over the pelvis.
Excessive lateralisation (sway) of the head in the backswing and impact.
When the golfers is prevented from rotating his shoulders over the palvis, the player tends to sway over the head during backswing and impact instead of rotating.
Elevation of the pelvis to the right and / or lateral flexion of the trunk (on the side of the concavity). When the two moves occur together it gives rise to a situation called the “crunch factor”.
The “Crunch Factor” is the biggest cause of pain, discomfort and low back injury in golfers. It is characterized by an approximation of the pelvis and trunk during the impact phase and resulting in the compression of discs and lumbar structures. Players with shorter Latissumus Dorsi tend to exacerbate this dangerous move.
Limitation of left upper limb rotation (glenoumeral) on the downswing and impact.
When the limitation of flexibility or shortening occurs on the left side, since the Latissumus Dorsi has an internal rotator action of the upper limb, it may limit the external rotation of the left shoulder, and in impact position, the external rotation may be insufficient and the player may be fall into a technical fault called “Chicken Wing”.
The situations described above are those that I believe are the main ones when there is a Latissumus Dorsi limitation on Flexibility. However, in addition to these, other limitations may be found, such as the inefficiency of movement resulting from this lack of flexibility. It is very important that the golfer can get their assessments with someone skilled and with advanced knowledge in golf.
Obtaining the golfer physical limitations as well as the biomechanical data from his golf swing, will give us exact information about what the player is doing and why he is doing, being very important and necessary information to reduce or manage injury and injury risk, increase the golfer´s performance and allow golf coaches to get the correct knowledge about his student, developing his work based on evidence and confidence.