Not sure about you but I have never really given the neck (or neck strength) much thought in terms of exercise in developing a sound golf swing. But due to my recent golf mechanical assessment, I have realized just how important the neck is is a number of ways. We’ll look at some of those in today’s piece and also include a number of exercises*
This is straight from The Golf Biomechanics Manual, by Paul Chek, of the well known C.HE.K. Institute.
“The neck is often overlooked as a key link in golf performance. The importance of this vital link exists in the fact that the head carries instruments vital to golf success, such as the eyes and the balance mechanism in the inner ear. The point at which the head attached to the neck, the upper cervical spine, is well known to provide a great majority of the information needed by the brain to sense movement. The movement sense is called Proprioception**”
It’s funny, I was speaking with a friend and sort of humorously remarked that I have never done any “thoughtful” neck exercises. Sure I’ve stretched it from side to side and front to back just to get out the tension but certainly not in any structured sort of way. So this is all new to me, too.
I picked up a lot of information from the above book and also from my certified CHEK instructor, Becky, whom I mentioned in both these posts: My Golf Biomechanics Assessment Revealed and Off to the Biomechanics Doctor
Now it’s important to not only keep the neck flexible but also strengthen it as well. I bet (and this is just a hunch) that most average golfers tend to have weak neck muscles and this is absolutely critical as the more your head protrudes from your neck the more you have your candle apple (your head) leaning way out over your stick (your body)
This can cause all types of swing mechanical problems. Tight shoulders and neck that can lead to a tight torso, tight jaw, tightness in the arms and hands and eventually tightness into the legs and ankles. Remember, we want everything in alignment.
These neck problems are (not just for golfers) seeming to become more and more prevalent nowadays. Could be the result of many things but inactivity is a big one. I also work in the IT space for my day job and am often guilty of sticking my head to close to the screen on a regular basis. This causes imbalance and weakness.
As far as a total neck stretching and strengthening program I recommend you get the Golf Biomechanics Manual mentioned above. It’s very thorough and has a number of exercise that include both flexibility and strengthening. I included a pic of one of the strengthening exercises below.
What you are going to do is hold gentle (I repeat GENTLE) pressure on Swiss Ball (a 45cm Swiss Ball is recommended) for NO MORE than 30 seconds. Do one set from the side (Side Neck Flexion) One set with Rotation. Start from the side position and gently rotate your neck so it’s now slightly behind apex of the ball (see 1st image in the set of 3 below).
You’ll also do Neck Extension which is placing your back of the head against the ball and gently assume pressure for up to 30 seconds. And finally Neck Flexion in which you place your forehead against the ball. Use one (or both hands) to grasp trim around the doorway (see pic #3) and pull yourself into the ball. Make sure to keep your alignment!
Now another way to do these exercises above which my biomechanics instructor showed be is to lean into a towel on the wall with your head against the wall. It takes a slight amount getting used to it but you can do it by leaning your forehead into the wall (with your feet about 3 feet away) then the back of your head and finally each side. I have been doing these and have noticed the difference in beginning strength to current strength and it’s pretty amazing. The neck can be strengthening quite quickly!
I was going to include a number of flexibility stretches but found an excellent YouTube video that shares some excellent neck strengthening and flexibility exercises that are very much “in alignment” with the Golf Biomechanics Manual. A good way to test your new found neck strength is to hold a dowel on your back and back sure it goes from your butt to your head in one line and even hold it (while in your golf posture) for 30 seconds. Try to do it in front of a mirror so you can really begin to “feel” what good posture is.
Finally, one note of caution. The neck is a complex juncture so be gentle with it. It’s not like doing bicep curls or bench presses where you can really dig deep for the last couple of reps. You want emphasize posture, alignment and gentle pressure. The neck will strengthen (and quite quickly) but you need to give it time. It won’t happen in one session.
*GolfDash Blog cannot provide medical advice or assume responsibility when sharing information on exercise. Please use caution when doing these exercises and understand you assume risk when attempting to do certain exercises. Please discuss with your doctor or physician any new exercise program before you begin.
**Proprioception is the awareness of posture, movement and changes in equilibrium and the knowledge of position, weight and the resistance of objects in relation to the body.
Here’s a few other online resources I came upon regarding Neck Strength: