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Three post-round stretches for your lower back

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A round of golf is often enjoyable, but for many golfers lower back pain creeps in on the back nine. A good afternoon turns in to a struggle to finish your round. Even worse, low back discomfort will disrupt your consistency and ultimately drive your score up.

I call this the dreaded “Back Nine Fade.”

When you are tired or aching, it’s hard to deliver a consistent strike to the golf ball. Low back pain can be caused by a combination of a weak core, tight muscles and even overly strong muscles. A sedentary lifestyle (sitting at a desk all day) is most likely the cause of most golfers’ problems.

While some back issues require chiropractic care or surgery to alleviate pain, most low back pain can be fixed during the course of a few months. Performing the proper exercises, stretches and mobility drills can help bullet-proof your low back. However, be sure you talk to your doctor or chiropractor before performing any sort of physical exercise routine.

The best place to begin bullet-proofing your low back is by implementing an “after round” stretch to provide relief from stiff muscles. Not only will you get instant relief from the stiffness, you will actually be performing preventative maintenance.

It’s important to note that stretching is just one part of the total equation.

Proper Stretches + Proper Strength Training = Healthy Low Back

While the stretches (provided later in this article) will get you standing up straight after a long day on the links, you need to consider adding a consistent core fitness routine. In fact, Dr. Stuart McGill suggests that people who are able to hold a plank for two minutes are much less likely to experience any type of back pain.

Although we don’t cover a core strengthening program in this article, I felt it necessary to suggest it along with the following after round stretching program below.

The following routine can be done in the locker room or when you get back to your home. I recommend doing these exercises once you get home because driving home might cause your low back to tighten up again. Besides, doing a downward dog in the 19th hole won’t win you any friends.

Top three stretches to do AFTER your round of golf:

  • Butterfly stretch for 60 seconds
  • Downward dog for 60 seconds
  • Kneeling hip flexor for 60 seconds

Bonus Stretch

  • Backswing angel for 60 seconds

Perform the above circuit with no rest between stretches. Repeat if you wish or are feeling extra tight.

Butterfly Stretch

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butterfly-stretch-2

  • Sit on the floor with knees bent and feet together.
  • Hold your toes down with your hands.
  • Tuck your chin and pull your forehead toward your toes.
  • Feel your groin, but put emphasis on your lower back.
  • Hold for a count of eight.
  • Repeat for required number of sets.

Downward Dog

downward-dog

Really focus on calf muscles and try to get heels to touch floor. This may take time, but is integral in helping to create more power, length and tension in your swing.

  • Come to your hands and knees with the wrists underneath the shoulders and knees underneath the hips.
  • Next, curl the toes under and push back raising the hips and straightening the legs.
  • Spread the fingers and ground down from the forearms into the fingertips.
  • Outwardly rotate the upper arms broadening the collarbones.
  • Let the head hang, move the shoulder blades away from the ears toward the hips.
  • Engage the quadriceps strongly to take the weight off the arms, making this a resting pose.
  • Rotate the thighs inward, keep the tail high and sink your heels towards the floor.

Kneeling Hip Flexor

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Tight hip flexors cause bad backs, monkey butts and athletic inferiority. When flexors are tight, they do not allow your glutes (strongest muscle in the body) to exert themselves efficiently.

  • Kneel on floor and face forward.
  • Your torso and front shin should remain upright for the duration of the stretch and hips should remain squared.
  • Flex your abs to protect your back.
  • Once the tension is released you will begin to sag down.

Let’s take this a step further so you can see how this can impact your backswing.

  • Leaning forward, place your hands on your knee not letting your knee drift forward.
  • Begin to twist and look out, do not look down.

Backswing Angel

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stickup-2
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Muscles: Rhomboids (upper back), posterior deltoids (shoulders)

  • Stand with your back against a wall. Your feet should be six inches away from the wall and your butt, upper back and head should all be in contact with the wall at all times in the exercise.
  • Stick your hands up overhead. Try to keep your shoulders, elbows and wrists in contact with the wall at all times.
  • Slide your arms down the wall and tuck your elbows into your sides. This should bring your shoulder blades down and together. You should feel a strong contraction in the muscles between your shoulder blades as well as the shoulder muscles.
  • Again, try to keep everything in contact with the wall.
  • From the bottom position, try to slowly slide your arms up until they are straight and in a “stick-em up” position. Again, try to keep everything in contact with the wall.
  • Try to improve your range of motion in this exercise each week.
  • The goal is to improve shoulder mobility and postural control.

TIP: This exercise can also be performed laying flat on your back on the ground. It might be easier for you to start on your back at first and work up to the standing version.

Give this routine a try and please post a comment. I would love to hear from you and if these stretches helped you. In addition, feel free to suggest stretches or exercise that have helped minimize or eliminate your low back pain.

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Christian Henning is a professional golf fitness coach and president of GetGolfFit. Chris has embarked on a mission to help 1 million golfers by the year 2020 to improve their health and play the greatest game of them all longer. His golf fitness books and workout programs have sold thousands of copies on Amazon and directly through his getgolffit.com website. Currently, his Facebook page has over 12,000 fans and continues to grow. Typically, golfers who begin Chris's golf fitness workouts gain 10 yards on their irons within 30 to 45 days and improve overall mobility and health. My Mission - http://www.30yardsin30days.net/hit-ball-further/about_us.html Blog - http://getgolffit.com Fat Loss - http://www.shedpoundstoshavestrokes.com/ Distance - http://getgolffit.com/core-to-score/

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Vincent Frigon

    Oct 22, 2013 at 11:59 am

    Finally !! I’ve been searching around for that kind of exercises for a while now, since I know I got lower back problems from my golf and having to drive a lot for my job I knew it was a problem of tight muscles in my hips (illiacus) but nobody I was asking had real exercises to fix this. Will defenitely give it a try for the next couple of months ! A Strenght training to complete that article would be awesome !

    Thanks !

  2. callmehandsum

    Oct 11, 2013 at 10:57 am

    I’m short, 5’6″, and stiff, but fairly young (31). I cannot perform the Backswing Angel correctly due to my stiffness. I can’t keep my wrists flat against the wall throughtout the exercise. Should it be my goal to eventually be able to keep my wrists flat or just to do the best that I can?

    • tiger168

      Oct 11, 2013 at 3:57 pm

      Answer: Bikram YOGA!!!

    • PeavyDPT

      Oct 11, 2013 at 8:56 pm

      These exercises more often than not will be beneficial to most populations as they target muscle groups that are prone to decreased length/tightness. Kudos to Christian for hitting these muscle groups that are so susceptible to tightening up. I especially like the downward dog stretch as it targets the latissimus dorsi which ties the lumbar spine through its attachment to the thoracolumbar fascia to the shoulder complex. The muscle can limit shoulder external rotation and flexion (required of the full golf swing).

      Moreover, as positive as these are; they are general. I’m biased, but would highly recommend seeing a physio or physical therapist that can perform a thorough examination of your muscles and joints and give you a customized stretching program and/or provide joint mobilization/manipulation to restricted joints. After all everybody has a different body type and different tendencies throughout their mobility in a day both functionally and recreationally.

      Thanks for the post Christian, will be sure to try these after my round Sunday and recommend to some of my patients/clients next week.

    • Christian Henning

      Oct 22, 2013 at 9:05 am

      Yes, it’s just going to take time. Try to get a little more flat each day. You can also try this laying on the floor. Lying on the floor is a bit easier.

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Wedge Guy: Short iron challenges — and a little insight (hopefully!)

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In my experience, almost all golfers could benefit from better short iron play. The ability to hit it closer to where you are looking with your 8-, 9- and P-irons will do more for your scoring than most anything else you can do. So, why is it that so many golfers just don’t hit the quality shots with these clubs that they do and should expect?

I chose this topic in response to an email from Phillip S., who wrote:

“I’m hitting straight and consistent most of the time but I’ve got a big problem between my 8-iron and everything else below.  I can hit my 8-iron 140-145 fairly consistently every time.  I hit my 9-iron somewhere between 110-135.  My pitching wedge is a mystery….it varies between 85 -125 yards.  No matter how “hard” I swing, I can’t seem to hit my short irons consistent distances.  It’s maddening to hit a great drive followed by a pitching wedge short of the green from 110 yards away.  What am I doing wrong?

Well, Phillip, don’t feel alone, because this is one of the most common golf issues I observe. It seems that the lion’s share of technology applied to golf clubs is focused on the long stuff, with drivers and hybrids getting the press. But I firmly believe that the short irons in nearly all “game improvement” designs are ill-suited for precise distance control, hitting shots on the optimum trajectory or knocking flags down. I’ve written about this a number of times, so a little trip back in Wedge Guy history should be enlightening. But here are some facts of golf club performance as applied to short iron play:

Fact #1. Short irons are much more similar to wedges than your middle irons. But almost all iron sets feature a consistent back design for cosmetic appeal on the store racks. And while that deep cavity and perimeter weight distribution certainly help you hit higher and more consistent shots with your 3- or 4- through 7-iron, as the loft gets in the 40-degree range and higher, that weight distribution is not your friend. Regardless of your skill level, short irons should be designed much more similar to wedges than to your middle irons.

Fact #2. As loft increases, perimeter weighting is less effective. Missed shots off of higher lofted clubs have less directional deviation than off of lower-lofted clubs. This is proven time and again on “Iron Byron” robotic testers.

Fact #3. It takes mass behind the ball to deliver consistent distances. Even on dead center hits, cavity back, thin-face irons do not deliver tack-driver distance control like a blade design. In my post of a couple of years ago, “The Round Club Mindset,” I urged readers to borrow blade-style short irons from a friend or assistant pro and watch the difference in trajectories and shotmaking. Do it! You will be surprised, enlightened, and most likely pleased with the results.

Fact #4. The 4.5-degree difference between irons is part of the problem. The industry has built irons around this formula forever, but every golfer who knows his distances can tell you that the full swing distance gap gets larger as the iron number increases, i.e. your gap between your 8- and 9-iron is probably larger than that between your 4- and 5-iron. Could there be some club tweaking called for here?

Fact #5. Your irons do not have to “match.” If you find through experimentation that you get better results with the blade style short irons, get some and have your whole set re-shafted to match, along with lengths and lie angles. These are the keys to true “matching” anyway.

So, Phillip, without knowing your swing or what brand of irons you play, I’m betting that the solution to your problems lies in these facts. Oh, and one more thing – regardless of short iron design, the harder you swing, the higher and shorter the shot will tend to go. That’s because it becomes harder and harder to stay ahead of the club through impact. Keep short iron shots at 80-85 percent power, lead with your left side and watch everything improve.

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Clement: Easily find your perfect backswing plane with this drill

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When you get on one of these, magic will happen! You can’t come too far inside or outside in the backswing, and you can’t have arms too deep or shallow at the top of the backswing nor can you be too laid off or across the line either! SEAMLESS!!

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Wedge Guy: The top 7 short game mistakes

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I’ve written hundreds of articles as “The Wedge Guy” and I’ve made it my life’s work to closely observe golfers and their short games. So, I thought I’d compile what I see into a list of what I believe are the most common mistakes golfers make around the greens that prevents them from optimizing their scoring. So here goes, not in any particular order:

  1. Tempo. Maybe the most common error I see is a tempo that is too quick and “jabby”. That probably comes from the misunderstood and overdone advice “accelerate through the ball.” I like to compare playing a golf hole to painting a room, and your short shots are your “trim brushes”. They determine how the finished work turns out, and a slower and more deliberate stroke delivers more precision as you get closer to the green and hole.
  2. Set Up/Posture. To hit good chips and pitches, you need to “get down”. Bend your knees a bit more and grip down on the club – it puts you closer to your work for better precision. Too many golfers I see stand up too tall and grip the club to the end.
  3. Grip Pressure. A very light grip on the club is essential to good touch and a proper release through the impact zone. Trust me, you cannot hold a golf club too lightly – your body won’t let you. Concentrate on your forearms; if you can feel any tenseness in the muscles in your forearms, you are holding on too tightly.
  4. Hand position. Watch the tour players hit short shots on TV. Their arms are hanging naturally so that their hands are very close to their upper thighs at address and through impact, but the club is not tilted up on its toe. Copy that and your short game will improve dramatically.
  5. Lack of Body/Core Rotation. When you are hitting short shots, the hands and arms have stay in front of the torso throughout the swing. If you don’t rotate your chest and shoulders back and through, you won’t develop good consistency in distance or contact.
  6. Club selection. Every pitch or chip is different, so don’t try to hit them all with the same club. I see two major errors here. Some golfers always grab the sand wedge when they miss a green. If you have lots of green to work with and don’t need that loft, a PW, 9-iron or even less will give you much better results. The other error is seen in those golfers who are “afraid” of their wedge and are trying to hit tough recoveries with 8- and 9-irons. That doesn’t work either. Go to your practice green and see what happens with different clubs, then take that knowledge to the course.
  7. Clubhead/grip relationship. This error falls into two categories. One is those golfers who forward press so much that they dramatically change the loft of the club. At address and impact the grip should be slightly ahead of the clubhead. I like to focus on the hands, rather than the club, and just think of my left hand leading my right through impact. Which brings me to the other error – allowing the clubhead to pass the hands through impact. If you let the clubhead do that, good shots just cannot happen. And that is caused by you trying to “hit” up on the ball, rather than swinging the entire club through impact.

So, there are my top 7. Obviously, there are others, but if you eliminate those, your short game will get better in a hurry.

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