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Tai Chi

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Tai Chi & Rotational Sports 

These 4 simple routines are a good example of how certain Tai Chi principles can be applied to improve any rotational sport practice, including the Golf Swing. 

1) Tai Chi/Golf Warm Up - Hip Joints

   

This Tai Chi/Golf warm up routine focuses on the fascia/musculoskeletal structures in the hip area.

  1. Sit on a chair with your feet placed on a step shoulder width apart. The angle between thighs and trunk should be less than 90˚ (60˚-75˚ would be ideal), this is absolutely crucial to the prevention and rehabilitation of lumbar pain/strain/injury. A rotatory chair works perfect, otherwise, make sure the surface of the chair is not too grippy.

  2. Place your arms  beside your trunk, flex your elbows 90˚, palms should be facing each other and fingers pointing forward. 

  3. Activate "The Thread" and maintain it throughout the whole routine. A proper activation of The Thread is very important to keep you sitting as tall as possible and to help you engage certain postural muscles. You should be sitting on your sit bones (aka. ischial tuberosity), and since The Thread will help you improve body and spine alignment, your body weight should be equally distributed on each one of them.

  4. If you are on a chair, move one thigh backwards as the other one goes forward. As a result, your contact with the surface of the chair (your buttocks) will glide, one backwards and the other one forward. If you are on a rotary chair, perform the same movement, but in this case, your buttocks will not glide, the chair will rotate instead.

  5. Allow your thighs to move in this way, back and fourth, like a pair of skis. Check your knees, you should see them also moving back and fourth. Be aware of any restrictions and asymmetries, perhaps one hip has a better/worse quality of movement or range of motion? 

  6. Once you have warmed up the hip joints in this way, maintain the same seated position and continue with the next routine. 

 

NOTE: This routine targets the Hip joints, not the T-spine rotation (this will be addressed later). Thus, do not rotate the spine. In other words, maintain "trunk unity". As you can see on the video, moving the skeleton thighs causes movement within the hip joints, and as a result, the spine "seems" to rotate. However, the spine is not rotating, nor the trunk-upper body is actually "moving". In reality, the trunk-upper body is being moved by the movement in the hip joints. Maintaining "trunk unity" contributes to increased stability, grounding, proper muscle activation and prevents strain/injury in the lumbar spine. If you need further explanations please go to Tai Chi Foundations (seated routines) and Tai Chi FAQ.

2) Thoracic Rotation 

   

This routine addresses the spine and myofascial structures in the thoracic and scapulothoracic areas. Please become familiar with the previous routine prior to practicing the Thoracic Rotation.

  1. Sit on a chair with your feet placed on a step shoulder width apart. The angle between thighs and trunk should be less than 90˚ (60˚-75˚ would be ideal), this is absolutely important. It is necessary for the prevention and rehabilitation of lumbar pain/strain/injury.

  2. Activate The Thread and maintain it throughout the whole routine.

  3. Hold a light, rectangular object. This, will help you maintain the arms/shoulders in alignment. 

  4. Rotate the T-spine while keeping the lower body stable and immobile. Maintain the arms aligned to the rectangular object. To help you maintain the lower body immobile, place objects between and around your knees.

NOTE: If your Thoracic rotation and/or your rib cage mobility is restricted, I suggest you practice the Gentle Traction & Mobility (Home Routine). The gentle spinal traction followed by the thoracic cage release will allow for a greater range of motion and a better quality of movement. It will also help prevent unnecessary stress to the facet joints (between the vertebrae) in the T-spine area.

3) Hip-Thoracic Mobility w/Scapular Stability

   

This routine improves hip-thoracic mobility and scapular stability while preventing strain/injury at the level of the lumbar spine. Please become familiar with the previous routines prior to practicing the Hip-Thoracic Mobility w/Scapular Stability.

  1. Start with the same body position as in the previous two routines.

  2. Activate "The Thread" with hands in a prayer position. Maintain "The Thread" at all times.

  3. Place fingers of the right hand behind the ear. Maintain the arm (humerus bone) horizontal.

  4. Glide your thighs (thigh-hip joint motion), as far as possible to the right. Then, continue by rotating the T-spine as far as possible. Hold for one or a few seconds. Are the muscles between the spine and right scapula (aka shoulder blade) activating? If not, you can hold for longer and imagine that you are forcefully tucking your scapula in a "back pocket" (back and down motion).

  5. Come back to neutral, both hands in a prayer position. Recheck The Thread, if necessary, reactivate it and try to maintain it during the rest of the routine.

  6. Alternate side. 

A more challenging option: 

  1. Instead of positioning the fingers behind the ear, hold an elastic band (start with an extra light band). Allow the elbow to drop a little compared to the easy version of this exercise. Maintain this arm position.

  2. The band should be attached somewhere in front and at a high level. To avoid injuries, make sure the band is properly attached.

  3. Just like in the easy configuration, rotate (hips, T-spine and Shoulder movement) this should take around 1 second.

  4. Hold the position for one second, make sure the scapula is maintained "tucked" and as close to the spine as possible. 

  5. Come back to neutral as sloooowly as possible (4-5 seconds). The amount of reps and sets will vary, according to your condition. As an example, if the right scapula "wings" more than the left one, then I would suggest you focus on this side to improve asymmetric muscle activation and overall musculoskeletal imbalance.

NOTE: You will probably feel an “after work out” type of pain between the scapulae and perhaps at the posterior aspect of the shoulder. This feeling should get better as your muscles become stronger.

4) T-Spine Rotation w/Punch

(core activation)

   

This routine improves core activation, hip-thoracic mobility and shoulder girdle stability while preventing strain/injury at the level of the lumbar spine. Please become familiar with the previous routines prior to practicing the Lumbar Locked T-Spine Rotation w/Punch.

  1. Place a Swiss ball or something "punchable" lateral to your body (see video).

  2. Start with the same body position as the easy configuration on the previous routine (one hand praying, the other one touching the back of the ear). Remember, the angle between thighs and trunk should be less than 90˚, preferable between 60˚ and 75˚.

  3. In a slow motion, rotate as your praying hand aims to and finally punches the ball. Continue this slow-mo punches until you feel your body is ready for a faster movement. Gradually, increase the speed of your punching movement.

  4. It is important to feel your core activating while you are practicing this routine. If you are having troubles "feeling" your core activating I suggest you practice the Activation of the Postural Muscles (Home Routine).

  5. And finally, a standing Punch routine! 

   

This standing routine will improve your Golf Swing by improving core activation, hip-thoracic mobility and scapular stability while preventing strain/injury at the level of the lumbar spine.

  1. Place a Swiss ball or something "punchable" lateral to your body (see last part of the video). 

  2. Stand keeping the feet shoulder width apart (or slightly wider), a soft quality in your knees (slightly bent) and the upper body positioned as in the previous routine. Activate The Thread.

  3. In a slow motion, rotate as your praying hand aims to and finally punches the ball. Continue this slow-mo punches until you feel your body is ready for a faster movement. Gradually, increase the speed of your punching movement.

  4. It is important to activate your core (this includes your abs and your pelvic floor muscles) while you are practicing this routine. If you are having troubles "feeling" your core activating I suggest you practice the Activation of the Postural Muscles (Home Routine).