Did you know that there is a section in your back that should not rotate and is not made to rotate in your golf swing? Probably not, because golfers over 50 and senior golfers abuse this part of the back all of the time.
It’s the low back, and it is not made to handle rotation. However, as golfers lose flexibility in their hips and mid-back, golfers force this area to rotate and ruin their low back leading to pain and back fusion surgeries (a fusion surgery “locks” the spinal joints in place so they are not able to move at all!)
This is a really important article and one that I have always intended to write but was recently prompted by an email I received last week.
Dear Dr York,
The problem I have difficulties with is to complete a follow through, I get to a finish position through impact but I’m unable to follow through and get he grip of the club over my left shoulder.
I am a right handed golfer and my handicap is slowly creeping up I got to 7 and now it’s 11.6. I’m fit but I have a degenerated disc between 4 and 5 in my spine. This was very painful about 3 years ago and I didn’t play for 6 months….
Anything you could suggest would be Gratefully received.
If your low back is giving your golf swing problems, there are several things you can do to revive your youthful golf swing.
The first thing you should know is that the low back is not made to rotate very much. Many golfers develop low back pain if they are making their low back do the rotating in their golf swing. This occurs when a golfers hips or mid back are stiff.
So the first thing you want to do is improve the flexibility of your hips and mid back. This will help to lower the stress placed on the low back in the golf swing.
Back Flexibility for Golf
The mid back, also known as the thoracic spine, is made for rotation. However, it can be easy to limit these joints from rotating like they should if you neglect them. Joints need to be moved in order to retain their motion.
Like gears on a bicycle, if they are allowed to sit too long, they get stiff and rusty. I have written about how to get your mid-back mobile again. You can review that article by clicking here.
This is also a nice video that covers quite a bit of mid-back exercises you can try.
The other key factor of mid back motion is your golf posture. Golf posture is so important for rotation in the golf swing.
When you have good posture, you thoracic spine joints are in position for unrestricted rotation. However, if you are hunched over with a “c” shaped posture, the thoracic spine changes positions. they change to new positions in which rotation is limited.
In other words, if you have poor posture in your golf swing, you won’t be able to make a good backswing. Not only will this result in a loss of power, but will strain your lower back and cause a lot of inconsistency in your game.
Hip Flexibility for Golf
If you are a right handed golfer, you need to have good right hip flexibility to play good golf and reduce the stress on your lower back. If your hip stops rotating too early in your backswing, the next ‘victim’ up the chain is the low back. And like we mentioned earlier, the low back is not made to rotate. This is a recipe for back pain and surgery.
Your hips move in a lot of various positions, but to solve this particular issue, you can try these simple exercises.
Setup: Sit on the floor and cross your left leg over your right with the left knee bent.
Action: Twist your body around your left leg.
Key Action: To focus the stretch on your hip, use your RIGHT arm/elbow to pull your LEFT knee across.
Parameters: Hold stretch for 30 seconds. Perform on both legs 3-5 times daily if you want to improve hip flexibility.
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Even if you are not having back pain, these exercises are very important to improve your shoulder turn and reduce your risk of having the “old man” swing in your foursome. Mid back flexibility and hip rotation flexibility are the 2 essentials of a strong backswing shoulder turn which will add power and improve your rhythm and timing in your golf swing.
Correcting a Limited Golf Follow Through
Although poor flexibility is the primary cause of Bill’s difficulty, I wanted to give him another option that he could try.
For one, it takes time to correct flexibility and Bill wants to get out their and play better today! The best way to make sure you are getting all of the performance benefits of a good follow through, even if you don not currently have the flexibility to follow through, is to utilize the walkthrough method.
We frequently use the walkthrough drill to train the body how to weight shift correctly. But you can use this “drill” as part of your swing to conquer the limited follow through.
All you have to do, is allow your forward momentum in your swing to pull your back leg through…like you are walking after your golf ball. I have played golf with several single digit handicap golfers in their 60’s and 70’s who use this method. It really works.
You will need to practice the walkthrough a few times to get the feeling of your momentum pulling the leg through. You do not want to use your muscles to pick up the leg and step through. See if you can feel the difference.
Thanks for reading!
Dr. Ryan York, DPT CGS
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Certified Golf Performance Specialist
Age Defying Golf