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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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kneeling-hip-flexor-2

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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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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Why you are probably better at golf than you think (Part 2)

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Golf is very much a monkey-see-monkey-do sport. If you ever go to the local range, you are sure to see golfers trying to copy the moves of their favorite player. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it does not. While I understand the logic of trying to mimic the “secret move” of the most recent winner on tour, I always balk when the person trying to create their best impression fails to realize the physical differences between them and the best golfing athletes in the world.

Read part 1 here. 

In addition to most golfers not being at the same fitness levels as the best players in the world, they also do not have bodies that are identical to their favorite player. This single statement proves why there is not one golf swing; we all are different sizes and are going to swing the club differently due to these physical differences.

You have to understand your swing

The biggest reason I believe that golfers are better than they think is most golfers I meet do not understand what their swings should look like. Armed with video after video of their golf swing, I will always hear about the one thing that the golfer wishes they could change. However, that one thing is generally the “glue” or athleticism of the athlete on display and is also the thing that allows them to make decent contact with the ball.

We are just coming out of the “video age” of golf instruction, and while I think that recording your golf swing can be extremely helpful, I think that it is important to understand what you are looking for in your swing. As a young coach, I fell victim to trying to create “pretty swings”, but quickly learned that there is not a trophy for prettiest swing.

It comes down to form or function, and I choose function

The greatest gift I have ever received as an instructor was the recommendation to investigate Mike Adams and BioSwing Dynamics. Mike, E.A. Tischler, and Terry Rowles have done extensive research both with tour-level players as well as club golfers and have developed a way to test or screen each athlete to determine not only how their golf swing will look, but also how they will use the ground to create their maximum speed. This screen can be completed with a tape measure and takes about five minutes, and I have never seen results like I have since I began measuring.

For example, a golfer with a greater wingspan than height will have a golf swing that tracks more to the outside during the backswing and intersects the body more towards the trail shoulder plane during the backswing. A golfer with a shorter wingspan than height will have a swing that tracks more to the inside and intersects the body closer to the trail hip plane. Also, a golfer with a greater wingspan than height will have a more upright dynamic posture than a golfer with a shorter wingspan than height who will be more “bent over” at the address position.

Sport coats and golf swings

Have you ever bought a sport coat or suit for a special occasion? If so, pay attention to whether it is a short, regular, or long. If you buy a long, then it means that your arms are longer than your torso and you can now understand why you produce a “steeper” backswing. Also, if you stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and your middle-finger tips touching the top of your kneecaps, you will have perfect dynamic posture that matches your anatomy. If it appears that you are in a taller posture, then you have your second clue that your wingspan is greater than your height.

Translation to improvement

Using this and five other screens, we can help the athletes understand a complete blueprint of their golf swing based off their anatomy. It is due to the work of Mike, E.A., and Terry that we can now matchup the player to their swing and help them play their best. The reason that I believe that most golfers are better than they think is that most golfers have most of the correct puzzle pieces already. By screening each athlete, we can make the one or two adjustments to get the player back to trusting their swing and feeling in control. More importantly, the athlete can revisit their screen sheet when things misfire and focus on what they need to do, instead of what not to do.

We are all different and all have different swings. There is no one way to swing a golf club because there is no one kind of golfer. I encourage every golfer to make their swing because it is the only one that fits.

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How golf should be learned

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With the COVID-19 pandemic, golf is more popular than ever. Beginners being introduced to the game often find that golf is very hard, much harder than other sports they have played. To simplify the golf swing and make the game easier, it needs to start with a concept.

Golf should first be learned from a horizontal position. If the ball was placed four feet above the ground on a large tee, players would naturally turn in an efficient direction with the proper sequence to strike the ball on the tee.

Take for example, a person throwing a ball towards a target. With their eyes out in front of them? having an awareness to the target, their body would naturally turn in a direction to go forward and around towards the target. In golf, we are bent over from the hips, and we are playing from the side of the golf ball, so players tend to tilt their body or over-rotate, causing an inefficient backswing.

This is why the golf swing should be looked at as a throwing motion. The trail arm folds up as the body coils around. To throw a ball further, the motion doesn’t require more body turn or a tilt of the body.

To get the feeling of this horizontal hitting position or throwing motion, start by taking your golf posture. Make sure your trail elbow is bent and tucked with your trail shoulder below your lead shoulder.

From here, simply lift your arms in front of you while you maintain the bend from your hips. Look over your lead shoulder looking at the target. Get the clubhead traveling first and swing your arms around you. Note how your body coils. Return the club back to its original position.

After a few repetitions, simply lower your arms back to the ball position, swing your arms around you like you did from the horizontal position. Allow your shoulders, chest and hips to be slightly pulled around. This is now your “throwing position” in the golf swing. From here, you are ready to make a downswing with less movement needed to make a proper strike.

Note: Another great drill to get the feel for this motion is practicing Hitting driver off your knees.

Twitter: @KKelley_golf

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Why you are probably better at golf than you think (Part 1)

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Golf is hard. I spend my career helping people learn that truth, but golfers are better than they give themselves credit for.

As a golf performance specialist, I give a lot of “first time working together” lessons, and most of them start the same way. I hear about all the ways the golfer is cursed and how s/he is never going to “get it” and how s/he should take up another sport. Granted, the last statement generally applies to an 18-plus handicap player, but I hear lots of negatives from better players as well.

Even though the golfers make convincing arguments for why they are cursed, I know the truth. It’s my job to help them realize the fates aren’t conspiring against them.

All golfers can play well consistently

I know this is a bold statement, but I believe this because I know that “well” does not equate to trophies and personal bests. Playing “well” equates to understanding your margin of error and learning to live within it.

With this said, I have arrived at my first point of proving why golfers are not cursed or bad golfers: They typically do not know what “good” looks like.

What does “good” look like from 150 yards out to a center pin?

Depending on your skill level, the answer can change a lot. I frequently ask golfers this same question when selecting a shot on the golf course during a coaching session and am always surprised at the response. I find that most golfers tend to either have a target that is way too vague or a target that is much too small.

The PGA Tour average proximity to the hole from 150 yards is roughly 30 feet. The reason I mention this statistic is that it gives us a frame of reference. The best players in the world are equivalent to a +4 or better handicap. With that said, a 15-handicap player hitting it to 30 feet from the pin from 150 yards out sounds like a good shot to me.

I always encourage golfers to understand the statistics from the PGA Tour not because that should be our benchmark, but because we need to realize that often our expectations are way out of line with our current skill level. I have found that golfers attempting to hold themselves to unrealistic standards tend to perform worse due to the constant feeling of “failing” they create when they do not hit every fairway and green.

Jim Furyk, while playing a limited PGA Tour schedule, was the most accurate driver of the golf ball during the 2020 season on the PGA Tour hitting 73.96 percent of his fairways (roughly 10/14 per round) and ranked T-136 in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee. Bryson Dechambeau hit the fairway 58.45 percent (roughly 8/14 per round) of the time and ranked first in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee.

There are two key takeaways in this comparison

Sometimes the fairway is not the best place to play an approach shot from. Even the best drivers of the golf ball miss fairways.

By using statistics to help athletes gain a better understanding of what “good” looks like, I am able to help them play better golf by being aware that “good” is not always in the middle of the fairway or finishing next to the hole.

Golf is hard. Setting yourself up for failure by having unrealistic expectations is only going to stunt your development as a player. We all know the guy who plays the “tips” or purchases a set of forged blades applying the logic that it will make them better in the long run—how does that story normally end?

Take action

If you are interested in applying some statistics to your golf game, there are a ton of great apps that you can download and use. Also, if you are like me and were unable to pass Math 104 in four attempts and would like to do some reading up on the math behind these statistics, I highly recommend the book by Mark Broadie Every Shot Counts. If you begin to keep statistics and would like how to put them into action and design better strategies for the golf course, then I highly recommend the Decade system designed by Scott Fawcett.

You may not be living up to your expectations on the golf course, but that does not make you a bad or cursed golfer. Human beings are very inconsistent by design, which makes a sport that requires absolute precision exceedingly difficult.

It has been said before: “Golf is not a game of perfect.” It’s time we finally accept that fact and learn to live within our variance.

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