THE REVERSE SPINE SWING FAULT

Bob Forman, MS, Exercise Physiology
Certified Golf Fitness Instructor

One of the more common swing flaws is reverse spine or a leaning back of the upper body toward the target during the backswing.  It’s easy to spot; you don’t even need a slow-motion camera, and generally results in the notorious weak slice that can frustrate the heck out of you.  It can also lead-up to low back discomfort.

At address, the trail hand is placed lower on the golf club causing the spine to lean away from the target.  This secondary spine angle should remain intact during the takeaway in order to place the golfer in a good hitting position at the top of the backswing.  This ideal hitting position will set-up the golfer well, enabling him/her to initiate the downswing in the proper swing sequence.

When the proper swing sequence is mastered, better ball contact is achieved as is better distance due to an efficient transfer of energy up the chain from the hips, which should initiate the downswing, to the golfer’s trunk, then arms and finally club.  A lower risk for injury is also attained as poor mechanics is minimized. 

Reverse spine, on the other hand, does not facilitate proper sequence.  With the upper body leaning back toward the target, it’s much tougher to lead with the hips as they are essentially pushed away from the direction they are intended to move. 

As a result, the upper body tends to control the downswing causing an over-the-top swing path that forces the club out.  This out-to-in descent on the impact area cuts across the ball and typically produces a slice. 

The other consequence of the upper body dominated swing is a casting of the club early in the downswing.  This loss of the wrist cock or wrist hinge adds loft to the club through impact resulting in a higher trajectory ball flight off the clubhead.  In essence, the golfer is turning a 7-iron, for example, into an 8 or 9-iron.  The outcomes from casting are a reduction in the ability to generate power and a loss of distance.

Still another unwanted consequence of reverse spine is the force applied to the right lower back area (for a right-handed golfer).  As the upper body transitions from a left bend to an explosive over-the-top right side movement pattern, stress to the lumbar-sacral joints can become an issue causing inflammation and discomfort.  The abdominals, too, can become inhibited with this swing fault losing stability in the area, leaving the lower back vulnerable.

The correlation exists between tight lats and/or mid-back (thoracic spine) muscles and reverse spine.  This is especially true if the target side groups are tight as they are the ones being stretched as the club is taken back.  The limited range of motion, once reached, will either shorten the backswing or pull the upper body back toward the target as the golfer attempts to take the club further back. 

A second consideration for reverse spine is a lack of external rotation in the trail shoulder.  Again, once the limitation in range of motion is achieved, the golfer will either stop the backswing or lean back toward the target as a compensatory action to bringing the club back further.  Often times a swing plane change is seen with or without reverse spine if external rotation is restricted.

A lower body deficiency that can result in reverse spine is tightness in the trail side internal hip rotators.  This could limit rotation and instead pull the hip laterally as the club is brought back.  This excessive lateral movement away from the target, known as sway, is typically accompanied by a lateral bend of the upper body in the opposite direction.      

Still, one more physical flaw that can lead-up to reverse spine is the inability of the golfer to disassociate their upper body from their lower body (X-factor).  Several factors have been identified including lack of mobility in the upper body and/or lack of mobility in the hips.       

Keep in mind that if all reverse spine related deficiencies check out fine during the physical assessment and the golfer presents with the swing fault, it can be concluded that a bad habit has been formed.  This can actually apply to all swing faults and is another practical benefit of the golf fitness assessment. 

Regardless if the fault is related to a physical deficiency or not, a motor learning drill should be included into the golf fitness program.  This is necessary in order for the golfer to “rewire” the brain-body connection so that the bad technique can be replaced with good swing mechanics.  Such a drill, as it relates to reverse spine, would be the sequence drillIt should be noted that improving a particular anatomical deficiency does not necessarily carry over to better swing mechanics.     

An exercise to correct a tight mid-back is the reach thrus.  To perform the reach thrus, kneel on all fours and keep your weight slightly back toward your heels.  Take your right arm and slide it along the ground over to the left until a gentle stretch is felt in the back.  As you do this, keep the left arm straight, do not bend the elbow, and keep looking at the floor.  Hold for 10 to 15-seconds, return to the starting position, and repeat with the left arm sliding to the right.  Keep alternating and do 3 sets to each side.  Remember to breathe normally throughout and don’t force the stretch or injury to the back may occur.

A slight progression to this stretch is to move the left hand, in the description above, over to the right so that it’s situated directly below your face or left shoulder.  The further right you go, the more stretch you feel as you reach the right hand through.

For lack of external shoulder rotation, try the open book.  Lie on your side in the fetal position with elbows, shoulders, and knees bent at 90 degrees, and a light weight (1 to 2 lbs.) in each hand.  Without changing any of the angles, slowly rotate the top arm up and over, as in opening a book, until a gentle stretch is felt.  Keep the knees together.  If needed, hold the knees down with the stationary hand.  The head can roll until you’re looking at the ceiling.  Hold for 10 to 15-seconds and return to the starting position.  Make sure to breathe throughout.  Do 3 to 5 sets, roll over and repeat to the other side.


It’s important to mention that heavy weight should not be used when performing the open book as it may strain the shoulder and cause injury.  One to two pounds and gravity is all that is needed to offer a good stretch.

If the internal hip rotators are tight, the reverse clam is an exercise you’ll want to focus on.  Lie on your side with your head supported by your hand and knees bent so that your feet are about even with your butt.  Keeping the knees together, you want to internally rotate the top leg by slowly raising just the top foot as high as comfort permits.  Return the feet together and repeat raising and lowering the top foot 20 to 25x.  Roll over onto your other side and repeat with the other foot.

You should feel the gluteus medius (part of the glute group) on the side of your hip initiating the movement as the top foot moves up and down.  Your range of motion may be limited at first, but as the gluteus medius becomes stronger and hip rotators more flexible, you will notice an enhanced movement pattern.

The dishrag is a good stretch to help disassociate the upper body from the lower.  Cross the right leg over the left leg and slowly pull the knees down to the right (lower to the side of the top leg) until a gentle stretch is felt.  The shoulders should remain in contact with the floor.

Hold the stretch for 10 to 15-seconds and then repeat to the opposite side.  Continue each stretch by alternating the knees side-to-side for a total of 3 sets while breathing normally.

The arms can be either at your side or reaching up overhead on the floor.  Extending the arms overhead will provide a better trunk stretch as the muscles in the upper body are elongated.  A third progression would be to extend both arms toward the opposite side of the knees.  This can be accomplished by first raising the hands up toward the ceiling and then lowering them down to the opposite side.  This offers an X-factor component to the exercise.   

The reverse spine swing fault afflicts many amateur golfers and is a major reason why so many are frustrated with their game and/or injured.  External factors like the latest new driver and/or golf ball will not do much in solving the problem.  The focus needs to be placed on fixing your body.  Address the deficiencies to better your swing and your game.

EXERCISE OF THE MONTH

Quad-Hip Flexor Stretch

This is a progressive stretch for the quad-hip flexor area.  Be cautious as you lean back on the bench as it will challenge the knee if the quads are tight.  Avoid this stretch if you've had knee replacement.  Tight quads/hip flexors will impede hip mobility and that may rob you of power and distance.

 

 

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
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  • 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. 

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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:
- the common physical deficiencies most golfers have, how to detect and correct with 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 
- how to put together an inexpensive home gym

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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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

 

 
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,  


August 28, 2014
We talk about Shan's golf fitness assessment results

 


June 26, 2014


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