THE CAUSES AND CURES FOR A LIMITED BACKSWING

Bob Forman, MS - Exercise Physiology
Certified Golf Fitness Instructor, Author, Speaker

One of the biggest killers of distance is the golfer’s inability to make a good backswing.  Logic has it that the further back the club travels the more speed it will be able to pick up on the way down.  For every 1 mph of clubhead speed, you can expect 2 to 3 more yards.  A limited backswing, though, is a common swing fault that reduces speed and yardage.  The good news is that it's relatively easy to cure.

Now don’t get me wrong.  A big backswing is not a must-have for distance, as I’ve seen quite a few golfers with short takeaways boom the golf ball down the fairway.  A textbook swing sequence also has a lot to say about distance and as long as you lead with the hips and maintain a good wrist hinge, you can certainly make up for backswing limitations.  Most amateurs, though, are in need of help with sequencing and combining that fact with a restricted takeaway is a formula for frustration. 

The golf leaders have tried to help by encouraging golfers to “tee it forward” to make up for lost ground.  This would allow golfers to once again hit greens in regulation and have those birdie attempts, bringing back the enjoyment factor.  It’s been my experience, however, that many are not taking advantage of this initiative.

The physical deficiencies that you frequently see with a limited backswing include a C-posture at address, a lack of external rotation in the trail shoulder (right shoulder for a right-handed golfer), the inability to disassociate the upper body from the lower body (X-factor), and/or tightness in the mid-back/lats on the target side.  Once identified, a targeted exercise program can work wonders in correcting these power-robbing flaws in a relatively short period of time.

C-posture is an epidemic in golf.  You see it more and more thanks to the fact that we’re glued to our chairs hunched over computers.  It results in a tightening of the muscles across the chest and a weakening of the muscles across the upper back, known as Upper Cross Syndrome.  All the dentists I’ve worked with have it.  It’s bad for your health as it crowds out the internal organs in your chest and it’s bad for your golf swing for the simple reason that you can’t rotate around a bent spine.  The result is usually a limited backswing.  If you desire to bring the club back further, you will need to stand up as you do so.  This is called dynamic posture, which will have an impact on swing plane and ball striking.

To offset the muscle imbalance that develops from sitting over your computer, patient and/or workstation, you’ll need to stretch out the tightness in front and strengthen the weakness in back.  A simple, yet effective exercise is the Shoulder Pinch.  Lie on a stability ball or foam roll and place your arms out 90 degrees with elbows bent 90 degrees.  From this position, pinch or squeeze the shoulder blades together and hold for a 10 to 15-sec count.  Your forearms will move slightly toward the floor as you do.  Relax and repeat 5 to 10 times, remembering to breathe normally throughout.  This will work on both areas at the same time.  A small weight (1 to 2 lbs.) held in each hand will also aid in improving external shoulder rotation, which is our next flaw.     

The inability to rotate the forearm back while giving the scout sign is an indication of limited mobility in the shoulder.  Not being able to get into the 90/90 position is a significant limitation.  Should this occur in the trail shoulder, there’s a good bet that the backswing is going to be negatively impacted.  Tendonitis in the elbow is also a concern.

A great exercise to help is the Open Book.  Lie on your side in the fetal position with shoulders, elbows, hips and knees at 90 degrees.  A small weight (1 to 2 lbs at most) can be placed in each hand.  While maintaining the angles, slowly rotate the upper arm over to the other side of your body as if you were opening a book.  The head will stop looking at the ceiling.  Go as far as comfort allows and then let gravity do the rest.  Hold for 10 to 15 secs., close the book, and repeat 2 more times before rolling over and repeating on the opposite side.  Remember to breathe normally throughout.

Another exercise to help with external shoulder rotation is Arm Wipers.  Take a light weight in each hand and place your elbows against the sides of your body with forearms parallel to the floor.  Slowly rotate the hands out and back, like windshield wipers, to each side while keeping the forearms parallel to the floor and elbows in contact with your body.  Don’t overdo this exercise.  Just rotate out as far as comfort permits.  Exhale on the effort.  Do 10 to 20 reps.

Not having the ability to independently move your upper body or your lower body (X-factor) will more than likely create some swing issues that will impact swing plane, distance, and ball contact.  To assess your ability to disassociate, get into a golf stance with your arms folded across your chest.  Now keeping the belt buckle nice and still, try to rotate your upper body back and forth.  Easy to do?  OK, do it again, this time keep your shoulders quiet while rotating your hips back and forth.  How did that work out?

Many golfers have no problem rotating the shoulders and upper body, but have a tough time when it comes to isolating the hips and lower body.  Several physical factors come into play like tightness in any one of the three main muscle groups attached to the hip (hamstrings, hip flexors, and/or internal hip rotators).  In addition, tightness in the mid-back, which I’ll address below, can influence rotation as can lower back tightness.

One of the exercises I often recommend to help with separation is the Dishrag and a good drill is the Separation Drill.  For the Dishrag, lie supine on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat.  Cross your right leg over your left and then gently pull the left knee down to the right till a gentle stretch is felt.  Hold for 10 to 15-secs, cross your left leg over right and gently pull the right knee to the left.  Continue to alternate side-to-side until you’ve done 3 repetitions on each side.  If crossing the legs causes too much discomfort, start with knees together while rotating left and right.  Your arms can be either at your side, up overhead on the floor, which will engage more of the upper body, or rotated toward the opposite side of the knees (shown in photo). 

For the Separation Drill, place a stability ball between your knees and get into your golf stance with arms folded across the chest.  Slowly go into your backswing as far as comfort allows and hold for 3 to 5-secs.  Return back to the starting position and repeat.  Do 10 to 15 total reps. then repeat to the opposite (follow-through) side.  The stability ball will stabilize your lower body while rotating the upper.  Be patient and persistent as your range of motion will get better.  A good drill to do in combination with the Dishrag stretch.

If tightness in the mid-back and/or lats on the target side is identified, it may restrict your ability to make a good shoulder turn in the takeaway.  A real good stretch that you can do both on and off the golf course is a Lat Stretch, which can be found in this short video on golf cart stretches, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=siobIuBPrHw.  Stretching out on the golf course while waiting to hit your next shot is an excellent use of your time and the golf cart is a good stretching apparatus. 

Increasing your ability to get the club back will have a positive return on distance and bolster your pride.  Much of the shortcomings mentioned above are due to lack of a consistent stretching routine that would offset the poor body alignment we place ourselves in on a daily basis.  A few minutes is all it takes to improve your game, but you’ve got to put a little effort into it.  Not only will your game improve, you’ll feel better, too.  Find a local Golf Fitness Professional and go through a golf fitness assessment to identify and correct your distance-robbing deficiencies.             

EXERCISE OF THE MONTH

Static Hamstring Stretch

 One of the main factors for low back discomfort is tight hamstrings, which can also affect hip mobility in the golf swing.

 

 

Check with your physician before starting any type of exercise program.

IMPROVE YOUR GAME

GOLF FITNESS
ASSESSMENT & TRAINING


A quality, customized golf fitness program will. . .
  • Enhance swing efficiency
  • Increase distance
  • Improve playing performance and satisfaction
  • Identify and correct golf-specific injury triggers

    All for much less than what another brand new driver that's going to "fix my game" would cost
     
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The golf exercises are going great.  I am hitting the ball the best I have ever hit it.  My back pain has gone away also. 
 
David R. 

more testimonials

HOST A WORKSHOP

If your Club or organization would like to host an informative golf fitness workshop, contact Bob at bob@golfitcarolina.com or 336-509-4610.

Bob came to my club and did a hour long session on the basics of his teaching and philosophy of fitness and how it relates to the golf swing and its performance.  My members thoroughly enjoyed the hour and wanted more.  I was impressed with his content and explanation.  My members were floored with his Q&A and his personal adaptation to their issues.  I was impressed with his interaction with attendants of the seminar.  If you are looking for someone to integrate your fitness program with the golf program, Bob is the guy to do it!  We will be booking Bob to come back to our club next spring.
Shannon Howell, PGA Head Golf Professional
Country Club of Sapphire Valley, Sapphire Valley, NC


"Bob Forman was fabulous!  He is a great presenter who shared some extremely valuable information related to how anatomical deficiencies such as: poor posture, flexibility, and balance impact our golf swing.  He not only shared what they are and how they impact the swing, but also demonstrated exercises to help correct them."
Ellen Gregory
EWGA-Wilmington, NC chapter

“Westchester is one of the Country’s largest private clubs with a membership that has high expectations for service and performance.  Bob Forman’s seminar on golf specific fitness and flexibility was extremely well received and motivated many of my members to begin a program of evaluation, exercise and follow-ups.  I highly recommend Bob for his knowledge, energy , and ability to connect with amateurs concerning golf fitness.” 
John Kennedy, Director of Golf
Westchester CC, 
Harrison, NY

Bob has a fantastic ability to understand and combine his expertise of the physical complexities of the human body with the PGA Professional’s trained eye with respect to the complexities of the golf swing.  Bob offers a refreshing angle that most amateur and professional golfers can understand and embrace.  Many times, a golfer will have physical limitations that prevents him or her from moving the way the PGA Professional is trying to instruct.  Bob can take the golfer’s weakest physical traits and focus a training program to better overcome those obstacles and allow the golfers to ultimately improve their swing. 
Dennis Nicholl, PGA Head Golf Professional
The Dunes Golf & Beach Club, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

IMPROVE YOUR GAME

Functional Golf Fitness Training is a comprehensive player improvement resource for golfers of all ages and levels, teaching professionals and coaches.  
A great manual for golf teams as well.  

Dedicated chapters on:
- how to identify and correct the common physical deficiencies most golfers have that are impacting their swing and injury potential
- over 40 golf-specific exercises and drills

- preventing/alleviating the #1 injury in golf, low back injury
- how to fix the more common swing faults

Amazon reviews:

"Very clear explanations of causes and fixes for main physical deficiencies affecting golfers. Easy to follow instructions. While other books may give a whole laundry list of exercises that end up not being used, Forman has selected a few for each issue and puts together a program that doesn't take long to do"

"This book not only tells you what to do but also why you need to do and what results you can expect.
I have every book in print about golf fitness and this book is by far the best."


Available in print at TheBookPatch

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or as an ebook on Amazon

Go to
http://www.amazon.com/Functional-Golf-Fitness-Training-ebook/dp/B00FH88Q0Q

SWING FAULT PHYSIOLOGY

Swing mechanics are often influenced by physical deficiencies in the golfer's body.  Below are some of the more common swing faults, their physical causes and how to correct.

GOLF POSTURE

S-POSTURE AND LOW BACK PAIN

EARLY EXTENSION

SWAY & SLIDE

REVERSE SPINE

While correcting the deficiencies, you also need to rewire the brain-body connection in order to break out of the inefficient swing pattern.  

REWIRE THE BAD SWING HABIT

RADIO / PODCASTS

 

 

November 11, 2017
The top 10 fitness must haves for better golf.  Click on the pic and then "podcast."  
My segment starts at 1:10:30.

 
June 22, 2017
(go to 1:10:00 into the show)
golf posture, muscle imbalance, improving distance, stretching, hydration, Tiger and specialization, Rory and weight lifting



March 14, 2015
(go to 1:08:00 into the show)
fitness vs. golf fitness, strength training and slowing down the aging process, C and S-postures 


scroll down to 9/9/2013
(go to 23:15 into the show)
back injury