This might not look like a stretch but IT IS!
Right now I’m using this mostly with golfers but their is practical application in many other athletic activities. Some form of torso #ROTATION occurs during almost every sport, including running, swimming, volleyball, baseball and martial arts.
As we age the natural rotational ability of the spine is often reduced because we just dont move as much and if we do it’s often repetitive motion in the same plane of movement. Even if you do move in many planes there are often improper patterning/sequencing issues that have developed over time. ALL athletes can benefit from this stretch!
Golfers if you want to improve “lag” this is one stretch you can try.
1) While lying down put one arm straight over head.
2) Reach as far as you can across your body with the other arm as if you were trying to roll over using only your upper body.
3) Let the hips lag behind as far as you can and keep reaching with your upper body for about 60 second
4) Repeat on both sides.
Everyone I’ve had try this says it feel so crazy! Test it out and let me know what you think!
From TPI (Titleist Performance Institute):
“Lower back pain is by far the most common ailment suffered by golfers of all ages. Based on data collected at TPI from over 31,000 golfers, 28.1% of all players deal with lower back pain after every round.”
Types of Back Injuries
There are a variety of back injuries ranging from damage to the nerves, herniated discs, degeneration of vertebrae, stenosis, arthritis, bulging discs, sprained ligaments and or muscles, inflammation…and the list goes on. Severe injuries may need surgery or other medical intervention whereas others like disc degeneration and arthritis often result in chronic pain that is managed under the care of a medical professional. Less severe (but sometimes equally as painful) injuries like muscular and ligament inflammation or strains and sprains can come and go with activity or flare up under certain conditions.
It’s important to know the source of a back injury – don’t ignore pain! Having an understanding of where your pain originates allows it to be managed correctly. Arthritic, nerve and disc injuries should be managed under the care of a medical professional who gives you guidance and restrictions (if needed) so your injury is not further exacerbated.
Causes of Lower Back Pain – General
In the absence of one of the previously mentioned severe forms of injury, the pain you may experience in the lower back is often “referred” pain. Remember, in the body everything is connected. If you imagine the human body is like a chain; each link is connected and impacted by the others. If one part of the chain is deficient, the others parts of the chain experience more stress. and do more work than when all links in the chain are doing their job. Referred pain is the result of reduced flexibility, mobility or strength or an imbalance in another part of the body that manifests.
Limitations in one part of the body lead to compensations in other parts of the body..often the lower back. The most common limitations related to back pain are weakness in one set of muscles combined with tightness in the opposing set of muscles. This combination of weakness/tightness can lead to recurrent injury and severe pain that can feel unbearable – even when the injury does not need a surgical intervention. And while this type of pain may come and go without the need for intervention, it can result in scar tissue and adhesions which can further limit your mobility and often lead to chronic pain (now your back pain doesn’t seem to ever really go away).
The best plan is to understand the origin of your pain and have a plan for either eliminating it permanently or managing it using the guidelines of a medical professional.
Causes of Lower Back Pain In Golfers
Muscular Imbalances– Tightness on one side of the body combined with weakness on the opposite side. Lower Cross Syndrome (LCS) is a medical term used to describe an extremely common source of back pain in the L4-L5 area. LCS is the result of tightness on one side of the body (hip flexors and thoracolumbar extensors) combined with weakness on the opposite side (deep abdominal muscles and glutes).
Posture Deficiencies – Poor posture in daily life often translates into poor golf posture. Often the result of weakness in the glutes, core, neck and upper back.
The most common postural deficiencies are the “C” or “S” pattern in the spine. Both of these posture can result in rotational movement in the lumbar spine instead of the hips and thoracic (mid) spine which is where it is supposed to occur (too much movement at the wrong link in the chain because of a restriction in another). Rotation of the lower back causes pain because the lumbar spine is not designed to rotate, only to flex and extend.
Poor Motor Patterns– There is an ideal order for muscles to fire to move body parts but alternate patterns can also develop as protective mechanism or a limitation in mobility. When a new pattern occurs, the lumbar spine moves differently (less than ideal) because different muscles are firing or they are firing out of order.
Poor Swing Mechanics– The three previously described causes of back pain often result in compensations during the swing. Physical training, and treatment that allows for the management and healing of injury can restore proper motor patterns and allow you to implement proper swing mechanics that keep you free from golf related back pain.
Managing Back Pain
Muscular injuries such as strains, pulls or chronic soreness should focus on controlling inflammation and allowing time for healing. Once healing takes place, you can work to restore proper function. If you have disc or nerve issues, I encourage you to seek the help of a medical professional. Typical treatments include some combination of:
Manual Therapy – Chiropractic, physical therapy and massage to reduce recovery time and stimulate the healing of muscle and ligament strains and sprains.
Cold Therapy – Apply ice to reduce inflammation and potentially relieve muscle spasms.
Heat Therapy – Apply heat to increase blood flow and temporarily reduce stiffness, pain and spasms.
Acupuncture – A professional treats various points using the insertion of thin needles.
Rest & Recovery – Often, muscle strains just need a few days of rest. Be aware, unless it is excruciating to move, you should not remain 100% bedridden. Light activity (e.g. walking) while avoiding shoveling, lifting or anything else strenuous will facilitate the body’s healing mechanisms.
Medications- Anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxant medication should be regarded as a last resort. While these medications can be helpful in reducing inflammation and muscles spasms (and therefore pain), they do not fix the damaged tissue that resulted from the injury.
Exercises For Preventing Back Pain
If you are someone that deals with chronic or golf specific back pain it’s likely there is an explanation for why this problem re-occurs. You have likely developed a habitual way of moving joints, ligaments and muscles in a different manner than they were designed for, and this has lead to a chronic issue. This is called an altered movement pattern.
Core Strength Exercises
- transverse abdominis activation
- side plank
- hip rotations
Lower Body Flexibility
- single leg to chest
- pretzel stretch
- hamstring stretches (standing & lying hamstring/downward dog)
- piriformis stretch
T- Spine Flexibility & Mobility
- Twist stretch
- Reachbacks – Quadruped with ER
- A-frame stretch
- Helicopters, Standing Reachback & Windmills
Glute Activation Exercises
- hip lift
- figure 4 hip lift
If you’ve been following along with many of my posts, you have probably noticed that I have a specific way of teaching golf fitness (and regular fitness for that matter!). I use what I call “the bullet point teaching method” to help people understand which areas they need to focus on and why. Once I share the bullet point with you, I like to reinforce the lesson in many different ways so it sinks in. In today’s post, our topic of focus is core strength for golfers. We have already covered the importance and value of the core to the golf swing in the past, but today I thought I would add some reinforcing educational material for you…not to mention I thought you might enjoy some additional information on core strength.
Even though the terms “core” and “core strength training” are popular buzz words, the true definition of “core” remains somewhat ambiguous. The term is used quite loosely in the fitness industry because the definition often varies based on the area of focus and background of the fitness professional or enthusiast you are talking with. Athletes and coaches tend to look at core exercises as a method of improving athletic performance while general fitness enthusiasts often refer to it as the “mid-section” and body building oriented people tend to think of the core as a means to develop the look of six pack abs.
While these definitions are all somewhat correct, none of them is specific and the general nature of these overlapping definitions can cause confusion when it comes to choosing the right exercises to strengthen your core for golf.
To say the general fitness enthusiast is “wrong” isn’t totally accurate because the core is located in the “mid section” of the body; and for the bodybuilder…the core does include rectus abdominus (six pack ab area) so ‘working the abs’ is a part of core strength training. As we dive further into what core strength training means to the athlete and for golfers, you will learn what it means to utilize the core during athletic movement and see these definitions from a different perspective.
Core Strength for the Golfer
When training your core for improved athletic performance in golf, your goal is to choose exercises that activate the core muscles similar to those used during the swing. As we have learned in previous emails this includes muscles used to stabilize the spine, hips, and pelvis and those used to rotate the trunk. Training your core to stabilize the spine and hold it in the neutral position during rotation is the crucial part for golfers. Having this type core training and strength provides a strong link in the kinetic chain and allows the power created by moving the lower body to be transferred to the upper body.
Abdominals: Rectus Abdominis, Transverse Abdominis, Internal and External Oblique’s
Spine: Erector Spinae, Quadratus Lumborum, Iliopsoas, Psoas Major, Trapezius
Similar to the various definitions of “the core”, if you have done any reading on the subject of core strength, you will likely find each author lists slightly different muscles as being important to the core. The muscles I’ve listed above are not the “only” muscles referred to in core strength training but they are the main muscles that work together to stabilize the spine. For those of you not so anatomically inclined, another even more general reference I’ve seen used is to consider the core: “anything below the ribs and above the hips”.
General Benefits of Core Strength Training
- Effective transfer of power between the lower and upper body
- Improved proprioception (body awareness)
- Improved balance & stability
- Increased total power output
- Reduced risk of injury
Benefits of Core Strength for Golfers
During the golf swing, the whole body works as one unit to complete its intended task of contacting the ball with speed and power. Golf specific core strength trains the muscles to hold their position and utilize the core to maintain a neutral spine during rotation. A golf specific routine will differ from traditional weight training routines because it emphases functional, rotational and stability oriented movements that teach the lower back, abdominals, and spinal stabilizers to work in proper combination during strength movements of the upper and/or lower body instead of focusing on moving heavier and heavier weight.The benefits of a solid core strength program include:
- Hold posture during the swing
- Transfer power from the lower to upper body
- Protect the lower back from injury
- Increase rotational power
Core Strength Training Exercises for Golfers
If you would like to use core strength training to improve your performance for golf, I recommend the following:
- Golf Requires:
- Rotational power
- Maintaining neutral spine
- Transfer of power from lower to upper body
- Exercises recommended:
- Hip rotations
- Side Plank
- Cable wood chop
- Push ups and squats on the BOSU ball (moderate difficulty)
- Rotational med ball throw (advanced)
Productive core strength training begins by first teaching your nervous system to properly engage the muscles during movement. Once the nervous system understands which muscles to activate to maintain position throughout the swing, you can focus on the progressive strengthening of these muscle groups through core focused exercises and coordinated movements. By replicating rotational movements in the gym, the athlete trains his/her nervous system and musculature to fire the appropriate muscles in the appropriate sequence, with more strength and power than before.
To learn more about core strength training, stay in touch with me by becoming a Facebook fan.
If you would like to:
- Create your own core strength training program
- Sign up for a golf fitness class
- Set up a TPI screen
I’ve been getting some very positive feedback about golf fitness class and though you might like to see how one of my students benefitted from just a few classes. Over the last few years of teaching golf fitness, I’ve learned a lot…but one thing I’ve learned more than all the others is that there is some confusion out there as to whether golf specific fitness actually makes a difference to the average golfer.
I thought I’d share this email I received from my client Done who took part in my Golf Fitness class. After just a few classes our schedules fell apart but Don was already working out regularly on his own so he implemented the exercises he had learned into his routine. Here is what Don had to say:
Name: Don McGee
Years working out: 36
Years playing golf: 25
Why did you decide to take Jes’s golf fitness class?
I’m getting older and less flexible and I know that is why I was loosing distance,so I went to Jes for help in her golf fitness class.
What type of things did you learn in class?
Exercises that helped me with my hip turn and flexibility. Jes showed me some things that helped me improve my lateral stability and increase my ability to turn on an axis point without losing posture.
What type of result did you get from using the exercises in class on a regular basis?
I am happy to say that I am now hitting the ball 20 to 25 yards longer with every club!! Thanks to Jes!
As you can see, Don can already jump pretty high…lol!
It’s these type of emails that motivate me to keep giving presentations and putting out content that can help people improve their swing. If you want to hear more about how fitness has improved my clients games, check out Doug’s testimonial…he is a great cheerleader for me!
Would you like to sign up for golf fitness class or set up a TPI screen? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to see if any of our times work with your schedule! Not in the local Ann Arbor area? Check out the Get Golf Fit Video Subscription and The Golf Fitness Fundamentals manual to get started working on your own!
Even if you aren’t ready yet…stay with me for these motivating updates! We are just getting started!!!!
Remember, your body is YOUR MOST IMPORTANT piece of equipment! Have a great day! Jes
The most effective form of golf fitness includes both physically preparation in the gym and and practicing the various movements that are part of the swing so you can train your nervous system and muscles to execute the proper motion when playing. This is a drill Sandy Wagner showed us during practice club to help us get feeling and control over where the right arm is during the swing. This can also be repeated the exact same way using the left arm. It’s a helpful drill for indoor practice at home or at the range when you’re hitting a bucket! Enjoy!
|Step 1: Take a club and set up as you normally would, release left arm and grasp right elbow.
||Step 2: Begin take away as you normally would while keeping left arm braced against the right.
||Step 3: When you reach full back swing take notice of where your arm is in space.
|Step 4: Start downswing normally and notice the angle of the club at impact.
||Step 5: Continue your follow through to the finish point of the swing.
||Step 6: Take notice of your body and arm position at the finish point.
If you would like to learn more about golf fitness, think about signing up for the JRF 30 Day Golf Fitness Calendar and Free 5 Day Course!
***NOTE: This post was originally written in February of 2013***
Recently I gave a brief golf fitness presentation designed to help people learn various fitness practices that would improve their swing and consistency throughout the round. The presentation was a lot of fun and I think the participants found it to be pretty helpful. I’ve summarized the points below into 5 easy tips you can implement into your workout routine that will improve your golf game.
A golf presentation was the perfect setting for me to reinforce my obsession with posture! I even have proof! The Titleist Performance Institute agrees with me (yep they called and asked 🙂 ) read this:
From TPI: “When viewing your posture at address on video, trace the curve of your spine. If you’re a right-handed player, and you see an S, it’s time to get to work. A C-posture can be the result of having tight pectoral or chest muscles and having weak scapular muscles (i.e. muscles in your upper back between your shoulder blades). An S-posture has those elements and also includes hypertonic (or tight) low back muscles, tight hip flexors, and weak abdominals.”
NOTE: That photo down and to the right is me practicing at the range in 20 degree weather…with my GREAT posture that I learned from working out correctly! 😉
- Ideal posture is the best way to generate power, speed, and fluidity during any movement, especially a golf swing.
- Promotes healthy back during the swing, minimizing risk to the low back
- Joints are used properly when lined up correctly which reduces risk of injury and allows you to have proper swing mechanics
- Muscles are used properly when lined up correctly which allows you to generate the most power
- Practicing posture while exercising will help you incorporate it into your golf swing!
Being inflexible can inhibit your swing mechanics and therefore the power & club head speed you are capable of generating. That’s why including a regular stretching routine can improve your swing. You’ll be able to rotate more effectively, transfer your body weight from back to front, and finish well. During the golf swing there are a lot of different muscles used, a basic home stretching routine would include stretches for the:
- IT Band
- Hip Flexor
- Lower & Upper Back
Core strength is crucial for generating rotational power, maintaining posture, and transferring lower body strength to the upper body and through the club. Developing core strength can be tricky as sometimes people unknowingly use their lower back muscles instead of their abdominal muscles (deep and surface). Some basic core exercises you can do are:
- Crunches with a twist
- Crunches on a ball
- Side Plank
- Plank with a twist
It seems obvious that overall strength will improve power and club head speed generated during your golf swing. Focus should be first on developing strength in the large muscle groups such as the glutes, quads, hamstrings, chest, and lats. Strengthening the forearms will also help you generate power and maintain proper position with the club throughout the swing.
Having cardiovascular endurance is the secret key to consistency throughout the round. Being in good cardiovascular condition will:
- Reduce general fatigue that can cause your swing mechanics to degrade
- Improve mental focus and stamina throughout the round by reducing distractions caused by fatigue
- Allow you to play more consistently for a greater number of days in a row
If you would like help developing any of these areas and would like to focus specifically on golf or if you are interested in joining a newly forming golf fitness group, send me an email to email@example.com and we can set something up!