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Improve Your Golf Posture To Prevent Back Pain Reduce Your Handicap

Written by: Nick Jack
Category: 2014
on 28 April 2014
Hits: 7904

Golf posture and your set up position is one of the first things that any golf professional would look at when assessing your golf swing. They know that when you are in good posture, your potential to hit straighter and longer golf shots is much improved.  They also know the danger of poor posture to the spine during a golf swing and potential for disc tears is very common to golf. Knowing how to prevent this injury is vital if you want to enjoy your game and reach your true potential. When addressing the ball with a straight spine, the golfer allows him/herself the potential for making a better turn in the backswing. The better the shoulder turn, the more clubhead speed the golfer should be able to generate. And in addition to that, having good postural stability will provide you with sustained endurance to be able to play a consistent game from the 1st hole to the 18th hole. Because if there is one thing a golfer really wants, more than just driving longer, it is the ability to play consistently well.

Posture Is Everything To The Golfer

For the past 15 years I have worked as a trainer specializing in helping people rehabilitate their body from serious injuries, and one of the most common injuries I see is the bulging disc. A bulging disc can commonly be referred to as a slipped disc or a protruding disc. However, when the disc bulge is significant enough for the disc nucleus to come out of the annulus, it is known as a herniated disc.

We often associate this injury to lifting something heavy, but this type of injury is very common to golfers. Why?

It all has to do with the posture they use when playing golf. The poor posture that many golfers do nothing to correct, creates incredible stiffness at the thoracic spine and the hips. When this happens it forces the lumbar spine to find extra rotation during a drive that was lost from those two joints. Twisting of the lumbar spine is very dangerous as this joint is more or less just a hinge joint and has no capacity to do this movement. Hence, the use of the thoracic and the hips that are primarily designed for rotational mobility.  

This is why this must be the first thing you work on when you play golf. 

I met a young golf pro Dan Harrington who came to see me for help with a bulging disc that was not only affecting his golf game, it was affecting his entire life. He was struggling to sleep and do everyday activities in daily life as his pain continued to worsen. During my initial assessment I got him to show me his posture during his set up and his swing and it was instantly evident where his problem lied. Every time he bent over he would use his spine to take the load, and he never used his hips. He had used this movement strategy for so long he also bent over like this to do simple things that were not golf related. Most back pain episodes, and in particular bulging disc injuries are the result of everyday activities, postures and sports movements, involving repetition and small to moderate forces.

Success with any rehabilitation program requires removing the cause. If you fail to do this, you will just end up where you started. As much as removing pain is important, there is no point to leaving the cause of the pain unchecked. Leading back pain researcher Stuart McGill refers to this as "picking the scab". This was going to be very difficult to change for this could drastically change his game. If his problem was from sitting that is easy we could change the chair or tell him to use a stand up desk. But in his case the problem was how he addressed the ball. 

Fortunately, we were able to make some small changes and he never looked back once we did this as you can see in the video below. The second video to the right shows another guy with a different type of posture how was suffering with neck and shoulder pain.

Read this article to see more about finding the cause - Bulging disc treatment is all about how you move

Back in 2014 I was lucky enough to meet Ken Druce, a former PGA Professional player who had won the 1999 Victorian Open and 1999 Singapore Open, during a training course with the CHEK institute for golfers. I formed a good friendship with Ken and convinced him to come down to Melbourne and help me run a Golf Conditioning Workshop with my clients. One of the best things that the workshop participants noted to me afterwards was how much Ken emphasized posture during their set up.

What people fail to realize is that a golf game may take 2-3 hours to complete and the bent over posture they need to address the ball requires significant endurance strength. If they fatigue, problems will begin to arise with stability of the lumbar spine, and even the neck and shoulder. It is important to build up your strength endurance to the exact level you require so your body does not exceed its stability threshold. As each person differs a lot in their set-up, and especially how long it takes this can be a bit challenging to define.

A simple test we use to work this out works like this.

We record the time it takes you to address the ball and multiply the number by how many shots on average you need to take when you play. For example 10 seconds is your address time and you take 80 shots in an average game = 10 x 80 = 800 seconds. This means that your Postural Endurance training program must have exercises that train all of your movements in the Bending pattern and extension pattern to last for 800 seconds or roughly 13 minutes.

Watch the video here to see what exactly how we tested Ken Druce and what exercises we use to achieve his stability threshold this.

This is critical information for the golf player to know in order to get the most out of their training program. And as we suggested at the start of the article Postural endurance and stability training is critical if you want to achieve consistency in your Golf game.

However, maintaining a good set up is often times not a simple task and you will need to assess your posture.

How To Assess Posture

Assessing your posture is critical to do first when designing a corrective exercise program as it defines exactly where to start. Whenever I do meet a person I have never met before, I begin to look at how they move, the way the stand, and the various positions their body is held in. Not all things are obvious to the naked eye and you need to use a more comprehensive testing procedure to expose where potential problems might be hiding.

Assessing your own posture is very difficult and I suggest you get the help of a skilled trainer or therapist to do this for you. There are some great apps these days you can use with IPADs that are also very effective. Watch the video below to see an example of this app in action.

When it comes to golf the most common postural fault we see is what is called the C-posture as seen in the picture below. The C-posture is seen when your shoulders and upper back are hunched forward when addressing the ball. There can be many causes to this position but it is generally the result of a lack of mobility in the upper back (thoracic spine), tightness through the chest and shoulders, and weak or inhibited muscles in your back extensor muscles. The bowed or bent spine posture is becoming extremely common in all sports but more so in the golfing world. This set-up position is called a C-posture, because it looks like the golfer forms a “C” when viewed from the side. This is the perfect recipe for a bulging disc.

Apart from the potential bulging disc caused by the posture the other thing it ruins is thoracic mobility. And thoracic mobility is critical to the golfer for this is what provides you with full rotation with the backswing and the follow through. Any loss of rotational mobility will produce a swing fault in combination with pain as your body constantly tries to compensate around this stiffness. 

We need rotation to do the simplest of tasks such as walking, turning to look over your shoulder when reversing the car out the driveway, or looking to cross the street. But because we have taught the body how to stiffen the area that is the only area that can do this, we now have to cheat, we have to find another way. We also lose power with our arms without rotation. Think of throwing a ball with your feet standing still. How far can you throw? Not far right? This is because you have no rotation. Your legs and your hips are definitely needed, but the thoracic region also plays a pivotal role in rotating the trunk for efficient power transfer.

The other area that works in tandem with the thoracic region is the hips.

A lack of hip mobility can cause a multitude of problems especially in the lower back and the knee, as a result of these structures attempting to compensate for the lack of movement at the hip joint. This is more common in non-sporting people who sit too often behind computers and generally do not move around enough.

What can you do about it?

Postural Exercises To Regain Your Posture

The best tip I can give you for creating an exercise program to correct your posture is to let the results of the assessment guide you on what to do. What I mean by this is never follow a template or assume that everyone needs to do a certain exercise. Some of the exercises that I show you in this article may be perfect for you and work really well, and others may not. There is not one single way to fix your problem, only the way that is specific to you.

We are all unique and the various causes behind it will vary from person to person. Even though you may look the same, the reason for it may be completely different and as a result the solution will also differ.

To help you out I have provided some great videos below of a postural workouts you could use

I would highly suggest to read the article - How to correct a dowagers hump to see a very detailed article with many exercise variations you could use.

Learn How To Bend Correctly

We have spoken at great length on the importance of learning to use your hips to hinge, and not bend your spine. For some people, this can be very confusing and often takes a bit of coaching to get it right. In the gym world, this is known as the deadlift and it is a critical exercise for developing strength for lifting objects safely and being able to bend correctly. This is something I spent a lot of time with Dan Harrington earlier to help eradicate his back problem. 

The deadlift is a great exercise to strengthen the muscles that hold you in an upright tall posture. This is rated by many as the king of strength training exercises as it requires incredible mobility at the hips and the thoracic region while simultaneously strengthening your glutes, core and upper back muscles! It simply improves many of the things we try to do separately all at once.

In terms of improving posture this is simply the art of standing up tall and learning to use your hips to bend correctly. This exercise if performed correctly will address any weakness at the core and hips that could be contributing to the the C-posture that causes back pain. There are many versions of the deadlift and I like to use all of them, but it is always wise to start with the easiest versions first that have more of a focus on timing and posture, than brute strength.

Below are two great videos to watch that explain how to do this.

These exercises will give you plenty to get started with but it is wise to seek guidance from a qualified trainer or therapist who understands postural correction. If you currently have an injury or dealing with pain I suggest to refer to the resources below as these provide much more detailed information to help you work on your specific problem.

Additional Resources to Help You

There obviously is a lot more things to consider and if you are someone suffering with back pain, neck pain, or shoulder pain I would encourage you to get it diagnosed by a qualified health therapist. There is some great programs below you can you instantly download that provide you with all of our assessments and corrective exercises to restore your body back to good health. Click the image below of the program you require.

     

For more ideas and information on specific topics I may not have covered in detail be sure to check out our INDEX PAGE on the website that has over 250 of our best articles. These are all sorted into categories for quick reference so you can find what you are after more easily.

Summary

I hope this article provides you with a greater understanding of the factors behind postural problems that ruin a golfers game, and over time develop into injuries and pain. People devote hours and hours to learning the skills of the golf swing and putting but rarely put any time in improving their body mechanics and movement strategies. The benefit to working on your body will pay off in buckets if you really dedicate yourself to trying to move better. You will enjoy the game so much more and most importantly be free of pain.

If you live in Melbourne and would like to know more about our personal training or core strength programs click the image below to request a free consultation and I will get back to you within 24 hours to schedule time.

About The Author

Nick Jack is owner of No Regrets Personal Training and has over 15 years’ experience as a qualified Personal Trainer, Level 2 Rehabilitation trainer, CHEK practitioner, and Level 2 Sports conditioning Coach. Based in Melbourne Australia he specialises in providing solutions to injury and health problems for people of all ages using the latest methods of assessing movement and corrective exercise.

References:

  • Golf Biomechanics - By Paul Chek
  • Movement - By Gray Cook
  • Corrective Exercise Solutions for the Hip & Shoulder - by Evan Osar
  • Back Pain Mechanic - by Dr Stuart McGill
  • Diagnosis & Treatment Of Movement Impairment Syndromes - By Shirley Sahrman
  • Low Back Disorders - by Dr Stuart McGill
  • Ultimate Back Fitness & Performance - by Dr Stuart McGill
  • Core Stability - by Peak Performance
  • Athletic Body in Balance - by Gray Cook
  • Anatomy Trains - by Thomas Meyers
  • Motor Learning and Performance - By Richard A Schmidt and Timothy D Lee
  • Assessment & Treatment Of Muscle Imbalance - By Vladimir Janda
  • How To Eat, Move & Be Healthy by Paul Chek
  • Scientific Core Conditioning Correspondence Course - By Paul Chek
  • Advanced Program Design - By Paul Chek