WHY LOW BACK DISCOMFORT
IS COMMON AMONG GOLFERS

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


If you play the game long enough, it's bound to occur.  Low back discomfort and pain, it's almost synonymous with golf.  The nature of the beast is the one-sided, repetitive nature of the game.  Start young enough and/or play it often enough and you're sure to join the nearly half of all golfers who suffer from some type of low back ailment.  You need look no further than both the men's and women's tour. 

There are two main reasons why golfers experience chronic low back discomfort and/or acute injury.  The first has to do with muscle imbalance and the other poor swing mechanics.  Either one, by itself, can be a problem, but combine the two and you’ve got the perfect storm!

Anatomically, tight hamstrings (back of the thigh) or tight hip flexors (front of the hip) are major factors that contribute to low back discomfort.  They are both what are known as tonic or postural muscles that are working all the time to help maintain posture.  Tonic muscles have a tendency to become shortened if they are not intentionally stretched. 

hamstring tightness.jpg - 10.55 KB

Can you touch your toes without bending your knees?  If not, your hamstrings are tight.  Tight hamstrings, which appears to be more prominent in men, may rotate the hip posteriorly (toward the back) causing the low back muscles attached to the top of the hip bone to stretch and become chronically tight.  Early signs and symptoms of this occurring include tightness in the lower back after sitting for a prolonged period of time and/or stiffness the day or two after a round of golf or other physical activity such as working in the yard. 

anterior_pelvic_tilt.jpg - 29.68 KBTight hip flexors, seen mainly in women, causes the hip to rotate anteriorly (toward the front) causing an arching or swaying of the lower back.  This lumbar lordosis often times, by itself, causes discomfort and pain in the area. 

In golf, lordosis shows up as the all-too-common swing fault known as S-posture (photo right).  It’s fairly easy to identify as the arching in the lower back is usually accompanied by a protruding out of the butt while over the ball at address.  This position also will cause the abdominals to relax, which can lead-up to reverse spine (more about this below).  S-posture is very common in young golfers and women, and a big reason why so many suffer from low back pain! 

If left untreated, these two imbalances will more than likely progress into more serious low back ailments such as slipped or ruptured discs and sciatica.  Even so, a targeted exercise program is required to fix the mechanism of injury, that being the muscle imbalance, or reoccurring back pain will more than likely persist even after interventions such as surgery. 

Weak glutes, the buttock muscles, will also play a factor in low back discomfort.  When a particular muscle group is weak, the neighboring muscles usually take the hit in trying to compensate for the weakness.  In the case of weak glutes, the low back muscles take on the extra load, especially while standing.  This additional stress eventually takes its toll creating low back discomfort and pain.  What's noteworthy is the fact that many of the golfers I’ve tested do not do well when assessing for glute strength.   

A factor that plays a huge part in all of these scenarios is sitting, which unfortunately many of us do too much during the day.  This posture does not bode well for our bodies nor our golf game as it shortens/tightens hamstrings and hip flexors, and elongates/weakens glutes and quad muscles, which are in the front of the thigh.  Think about a typical day and if it involves too much sitting, you’ll need to focus on rectifying the damage done. 

First and foremost, get up every hour and move around.  It doesn’t matter for how long, just do it.  The next thing is you’ll need to stretch those muscles that have been shortened during the day (hamstrings and hip flexors) and strengthen the muscles that have been elongated (quads and glutes).  Being proactive and following a regular exercise routine that includes these areas will go a long way in preventing the occurrence and/or reoccurrence of low back injury.

Good hamstring stretches include the seated hamstring stretch and the dynamic hamstring while the hip flexor stretch (photo right) and kneeling hip flexor stretch should be considered for tight hip flexors.  

For strengthening, the ball squat, the bridge, and bridge with leg extension are all very good.  The single leg squat, walking lunges, and front lunge with dumbbell crossovers are also good advanced exercises.  A certified golf fitness instructor can help with exercise program design and progression.

From a swing mechanics perspective, there are a couple of common faults that can increase the potential for low back issues.  First on the list is the reverse spine (photo left).  This is identified by a leaning of the upper body back toward the target during the backswing.  Not only does this swing fault place the golfer in a poor hitting position at the top of the backswing, it increases tension in the lower back due to an inhibition of the abdominal muscles.

Some of the more common physical deficiencies that correlate to reverse spine include lack of external shoulder rotation on the trail side, limited range of motion in the T-spine or mid-back, and C-posture.

Incidentally, this poor hitting position generally results in the upper body controlling the downswing as opposed to the hips leading the way.  That usually produces an over-the-top swing path and the dreaded slice.  It also can result in a casting of the club, which adds loft to the club at impact and a loss of distance.  This combination will definitely not add to your enjoyment of the game!    

A close second fault is early extension (photo right) or a moving of the hips toward the ball usually during the downswing.  As this occurs it traps or blocks the golfer’s hands and arms behind him typically causing him to push or hook shots.  If the hip extension is excessive, the head and shoulders will rise up increasing the likelihood of fat or topped shots. 

Awareness plays a tremendous role in alleviating and/or eliminating low back discomfort and injury among golfers.  Identifying the particular swing faults and/or muscle deficiencies allows for the development of a personalized exercise program that will isolate and correct the mechanism(s) causing the pain.  This, essentially, is the key to pain-free golf, regardless of how chronic or acute the low back condition is or has been.

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