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Why your desk job is ruining your golf swing

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I imagine that most of you reading this are doing so while sitting at a desk, hunched over a computer. If you’re not, there’s a good chance that you spend considerable amount of time in that position. Our increasingly sedentary lifestyle, mixed with our heavy use of computers and wireless devices, has made this position more common than it should be.

Bad posture

Maybe you’re aware that your seated posture can and should be improved, but what you may not know is that it has numerous effects that will carry into your golf posture and your golf swing.

They include:

  • Forward hip tilt: Also know as anterior pelvic tilt, it’s associated with tight hip flexors, which are a group of muscles on the front of your hips that pull the knee upward. Tight hip flexors can prevent the glutes (butt muscles) from firing and cause them to become weak. Strong glutes are essential to hip stability in the golf swing, as stable hips provide a platform to turn against in the golf swing and eliminate things such as slide and sway. The glutes are a major factor in developing power in the golf swing, too. If you want to hit it a long way you need strong glutes! Inactive or weak glutes also force the hamstring muscles to become overworked and excessively tight. If you have tight hamstrings, the root cause may be tight hip flexors and/or anterior pelvic tilt.
  • Hunched upper back and forward shoulder posture: Sitting hunched over a computer screen forces chest muscles to tighten, which can cause excessive curvature of the upper back (thoracic spine) and postural muscles in the upper back to weaken and loosen. The thoracic spine (T-Spine) also becomes stuck in flexion, and the ability to extend and rotate the T-spine becomes lessened. Limited T-spine mobility will radically reduce the amount of shoulder turn you are able to make, and ultimately the power you are able to create in your the golf swing.
  • Weak anterior core. Core strength is essential for efficient power transfer and maintaining good posture in the swing. The weaker your core is, the more difficult power transfer and good posture becomes.
  • Forward cervical spine position: Although the head stays still during the golf swing, the shoulders rotate, so golfers experience large degrees of cervical rotation both the left and right in the golf swing. Similar to a rounded upper back posture, a “forward head position” limits your ability to rotate at the cervical spine. Consequently, this limits shoulder turn or causes you to lose posture in order to complete a full backswing. Further, a forward cervical spin position can also cause the posture muscles in the upper back to shut off. Who knew your neck was so important in the golf swing?

So, what can you do about it?

Movements in the gym are used and repeated to improve postural issues, which occur over time. Since any repetitive movement will affect posture, however, you need to be sure you are selecting the right movements and performing them in a proper manner. If you don’t, you won’t be getting the full benefits of postural correction. And if you use the wrong exercises, they can even feed into your postural deficiencies.

Here a my top 5 strategies to help you correct that posture

1. Get back to neutral alignment of the spine with appropriate mobility exercises.

The Exercise: Get into a half-kneeling position with hand outstretched in front of you touching a wall. Make sure your front foot and back knee are not too close together or too far apart. Grab hold of your back ankle with your free hand, keeping your head and spine in neutral alignment with your core engaged and rock back and forth. You should feel a stretch in the hip flexor of the leg you are holding.

The Exercise: Lie with your back on the floor with your knees bent and feet on the floor and flatten out your lower back so it is in contact with the floor. Keep it there throughout the movement. With your chin tucked and core engaged, raise your arms overhead. Next, slowly pull your elbows down toward your sides, keeping them in contact with the ground. When you can no longer keep contact with the floor or your lower back arches off the floor, push back up again. 

2. Develop more thoracic extension.

The Exercise: Lying on the floor with your upper back on the foam roller, perform five crunch-like movements on the roller, trying to curl your back around the roller more and more with each rep. Then move slightly down so the roller is higher up on your spine and repeat. Move the roller up the spine two or three more times until you reach a point just below the base of the neck, and repeat the process at each new position. 

3. Improve anterior core strength

Exercises that promote anterior core strength and don’t involve spinal flexion are your best bet. The deadbug is my absolute favorite here. There are so many variations, and it does a nice job of teaching the hip disassociation we need in the golf swing, too.

The Exercise: Lie on your back and raise your arms and legs so your arms and upper leg form right angles to the spine. You will feel the lower back flatten to be in contact with the floor when you do this. Lower the arm and opposite leg, exhaling as you do so. Make sure to stay in neutral spine (i.e. don’t let lower back arch as you lengthen). 

4. Program twice as many pulling exercises (think rows and chin-ups) as pushing exercises (bench press, shoulder press and dips).

Most people (particularly men) do the opposite; heading to the gym to do way too many sets of bench presses and bicep curls. This further compound the effects of sitting all day. A 2:1 pull-to-push ratio will redress the back strength issues this often creates and help re-adjust shoulder positioning.

Further, the upper back is also somewhat of a complex structure comprised of a number of different muscle groups, including the rhomboids, serratus anterior and lower traps that often times need to be activated with more specific work. The face pull is my favorite way to hit these often neglected muscles. See the video below.

5. Get strong glutes!

The single-leg glute bridge is a nice way to feel glute activation and build some glute max strength when you start adding external load. Make sure you feel the glute doing the majority of the work, however, and not the hamstring.

The Exercise: Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor with your knees and feet together. Extend one leg from the knee and lift the pelvis off the floor, fully extending the hips until your body forms a straight line. Try to feel the contraction in the glute as much as possible, rather than the hamstring. Shoot for a percentage of 80 percent glute and 20 percent hamstring as a goal. Just touching your hamstrings or your glutes can serve as great reminder as to where you need to feel the movement and where you shouldn’t be feeling it. 

Lateral band walks primarily work the glute medius, the muscle primarily responsible for resisting hip rotation, and a therefore great for developing stability.

The Exercise: Keeping the shoulder blades retracted (think about pulling them down and back), chin tucked and core engaged, step to one side. Make sure to not over-step, as this will result in loss of balance on the toe of the landing foot, turning it too far out and reducing glute engagement.

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Nick is a TPI certified strength coach with a passion for getting golfers stronger and moving better. Through Stronger Golf he uses unique, research based training methods to create stronger, faster, more athletic golfers. Golfers who are more coachable, achieve higher levels of skill mastery, play injury free, and for longer as a result of improved physical fitness.

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. christian

    Sep 20, 2015 at 12:15 am

    “Most people (particularly men) do the opposite; heading to the gym to do way too many sets of bench presses and bicep curls”
    It’s just that biceps curls IS a pulling exercise, and not a pushing one.

    • Nick Buchan

      Sep 25, 2015 at 8:08 am

      Christian, technically bicep curls are a pulling exercises yes but it only works the biceps not the lats or muscles of the upper back, nor does it give the benefits of scapular retraction and improving shoulder posture that are important with pulling exercises so for this reason I don’t count it as a pulling exercise when balancing pushing and pulling ratios. Additionally the standing position, with weight out in front, most bicep curl from and insertion of the bicep means they tend to negatively affect shoulder position in a similar way to pressing exercises. If you want to do curls, may i suggest doing incline bench curls as these negate many of the problems with standing curls.
      Thanks for reading,
      Nick

  2. Large chris

    Sep 18, 2015 at 7:47 am

    Great article, but seriously please don’t start doing foam roller movements etc in the squat rack as per the video above. Just find an empty floor and wall space. Be considerate.

    • Nick Buchan

      Sep 18, 2015 at 5:16 pm

      Haha totally agree Chris! In my defence it was a quite day and very early in the morning, you can get away with it when there are only two people in the gym!

  3. Craig

    Sep 17, 2015 at 2:33 pm

    Nick, great article and interesting for biomechanics/physical therapy lovers. Under the forward hip tilt section wouldn’t tight hip flexor create lengthened and weak hamstrings? Lower crossed syndrome would have tight hip flexors and tight back extensors with weak/lengthened hip extensors and weak core. Just wanted your thoughts, thanks!

    • Nick Buchan

      Sep 18, 2015 at 5:27 pm

      Craig, The reciprocal inhibition effect of the hip flexors does effect the strength of all hip extensors yes, so hamstrings, glutes, abductors, etc, but I find most peoples biggest problem in this regard is weak glutes. You are correct that tight hip flexors pull the pelvis into anterior tilt and as such the distance between the origin and insertion of the hamstring (basically the knee and the hip) is greater so from an anatomical point of view the hamstring has been lengthened. However this lengthening means the hamstring is effectively slightly stretched already so when you try and lengthen it further, by hip flexion, the hamstring will feel tight, despite technically being lengthened! Most people who complain of tight hamstring it is probably actually anterior tilt and tight hip flexors that are the problem rather than the length of the hamstring. Not sure I’ve explained that all that well but hope it makes sense!? Thanks for the question!

  4. Scott

    Sep 17, 2015 at 9:27 am

    the videos really help. thanks for the article!

  5. Nick Buchan

    Sep 16, 2015 at 11:39 am

    Thanks for the comments guys! Appreciate it!

  6. Nick Randall

    Sep 15, 2015 at 9:54 pm

    Nice article Nick – love your work!

  7. Golfraven

    Sep 15, 2015 at 2:54 pm

    Great article. I like the home excersised or those that don’t require further equipment. I might get a mat for my office space and do some of those during working office hours. Currently I stand away from my desk regurlarly and do either putting or swing excercisea but guess this is not helping my core muscles. would be great to see some excercises you can actually perform at the desk or office chair.

  8. Tim

    Sep 15, 2015 at 8:52 am

    great piece – I have just been given many of these exercises by my fitness trainer and physio to counter many of these issues from sitting at a computer all day.

    So far they are helping but given I spend 10 hours a day at the computer and only about 30mins doing the exercises not sure if its enough to really help.

  9. Nathan

    Sep 15, 2015 at 7:14 am

    Yep, certainly need more of this!

  10. Tanner

    Sep 15, 2015 at 6:36 am

    Like the short vids

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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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