Early Hip Extension in Golf
The topic we are going to discuss today is a very important one that is very common in golfers over 50 and senior golfers. I call it the “silent swing killer” because is goes largely unnoticed. If you are not taking lessons you probably have not noticed it either, but it is a really big deal.
The problem is early hip extension, or extending your hips in the downswing. Extending the hips in the downswing is essentially losing your golf posture and straightening up as you swing down. The consequences include a massive loss of power(not an exaggeration) and poor consistency.
In fact, better golfers tend to do the exact opposite in their downswing, they flex their bodies down more.
The Problem with Early Extension / Hip Thrust in Your Golf Swing
For golfers over 50 and senior golfers, the biggest problem is a huge loss of power. Here is a comparable example: Let’s say you want to through a baseball as far as your can.
Is the best way to throw the ball:
A: Using your body to sling your arm like a whip like Nolan Ryan did. Or…
B: Push the ball as far as you can like a shot putter does
Take as long as you want to think that one over (:
Golfers who are able to maintain their posture, or even squat further down, in the downswing are using their body to whip their arms and clubs through…like Nolan Ryan would throw a baseball.
However, if you are standing up (extending your hips) in your downswing, you are using your body to push your swing through like a shot putter would push a baseball.
That is a HUGE difference in swing speed and power!!
More Swing Problems Caused by Early Hip Extension in Your Swing
In addition to loss of power, when you extend your hips in your downswing you are moving your whole body closer to the ball. Your body will get in the way of a correct swing plane and you will have to re-route the swing or you will miss the golf ball completely.
Golfers with early hip extension commonly caste their swing and scoop the ball at impact. The result is a higher ball flight (lost distance) and inconsistent ball contact. I hope that you are getting the picture that this swing fault is a really big deal.
What Causes Early Hip Extension / Hip Thrust in the Golf Swing
In golfers over 50 and senior golfers, the problem is nearly always the loss of flexibility and tightness in your hamstrings, calve muscles, and sometimes your gluteal (butt) muscles and lead hip rotators. The rest of this article will cover exercises and drills that you can do to start swinging the golf club like Nolan Ryan threw a baseball!
Hamstring Stretches to Overcome Early Hip Extension
The standard hamstring stretch that everyone knows is to bend over and reach for your toes. You may already be stretching this way.
However, there is a very specific way that people over 50 should be performing this stretch and most people get it wrong.
The Wrong Way
This can be a very dangerous stretch for golfers over 50 because the amount of low back flexion(curvature) in the stretch. The correct way to perform this stretch is to do so with a flat back. However, we have found that this can sometimes be difficult to perform, so I prefer you perform the stretch below to improve your hamstring flexibility.
The Correct Way
A better and safer way to stretch your hamstrings, is by lying on your back and using a belt to raise your straight leg. The position is safer because the ground both supports your low back and keeps it in alignment.
Parameters: Perform 3 sets of 30 seconds each day for maintenance, 6+ sets to improve your range of motion.
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Lower Leg Stretches to Overcome Early Hip Extension
Tightness in the calf muscles causes tightness in your ankles. If your ankles are tight, they will be the ones responsible for kicking your body weight forward and extending the hips. If you are not sure if your calf muscles are tight, chances are that they are!
As we get older, we bend more at the waist and rounding the back to pick up things off of the floor and tie our shoes. Bending at the waist means that you do not squat down to reach for the floor anymore (stand up and reach for the floor right now, see which method you use). Bending at the hips relieves the ankles and knees from having to bend. The less they bend on a daily basis, the stiffer they will become.
This stretch is pretty straight forward. Stagger feet with toes facing wall and heels on floor. The leg to be stretched is in back. Gently lean forward until a stretch is felt in the calf.
Make sure that both of your feet are facing directly forward. Hold stretch for 30 seconds x 3 sets daily.
How to Fix Early Hip Extension in Your Golf Swing
You can do this drill on the driving range or in your home. Make sure that your bottom is against the chair or against a flat wall.
Cross your arms and make a normal “back and through” motion as you would in a golf swing. The key to the drill is keeping in contact with the chair as your rotate through your golfswing. If you extend your hips early, your tendency is to lose contact with the chair and straighten up your posture.
If you want to take real swings with a golf club, use the chair so you don’t swing your golf club into your walls.
I always do a lot of research before I write an article and I came across this video. It is a nice drill that compliments the standard drill to correct early hip extension and really helps you see and understand the correct motion.
Early hip extension and the hip thrust are big issues for golfers over 50. If you are struggling with distance and consistency, I would work on these drills. Simple mechanics can make a huge difference!
Please leave any comments or questions below,
Dr Ryan York, DPT CGS
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Certified Golf Performance Specialist