By Trent Malcolm
HAVE you ever noticed how often golf coaches talk about the importance of good posture in a golf swing?
Good posture is also very important in reducing the likelihood of injury, particularly to your back and neck.
Unfortunately for many people, their general lifestyle and/or line of work lend themselves toward poor posture, with too many hours spent sitting down, either watching television, working on a computer or driving a car.
Whilst some postural deterioration is expected with age, there are a number of exercises and stretches that can help rectify poor posture, which will improve your body for golf (and life).
Increased curvature of your low and middle back and rounded shoulders are all common postures that may contribute negatively to your swing mechanics (and increase potential for injury) and if unaddressed, over time can become very difficult to improve.
1. Increased forward tilt of your pelvis
This increases the curve of your lower back placing added stress on your spine and surrounding tissues. This added stress can create tightness and some restriction of pelvic movement, which is essential for good swing mechanics.
You can test this yourself by standing with your heels, buttocks, back and head against a wall.
Place your hand in the space between the wall and your lower back; you should be able to get your fingers and about half of your hand into the space. Any more than this and your pelvis is probably tilted too far forward.
[A side note…if you are carrying excess body fat around your stomach this will likely add to the stress on your lower back and compound the problem].
An effective strength exercise for this posture is shown in Figure 1.
Starting with your knees bent at 90 degrees and your thighs pointing skyward, pull your knees in toward your chest to lift your buttocks 5 to 10 cm off the ground (Figure 1). Pause for a second then slowly lower your legs back to the starting position.
Commonly, with this type of posture, golfers have tight hip flexors (muscles around the top of the thighs). We need to stretch these out and Figure 2 demonstrates this effectively. Use your buttocks to push your pelvis forward and try and straighten your trailing leg by pushing your heel back. Maintain a tall upper body position and hold onto a chair for balance if you are a little shaky.
Hold this stretch position for about 20 seconds.
2. Increased curvature of the middle back (kyphosis)
Increased rounding of the middle back places strain on the muscles and connective tissue around this area and can significantly limit your ability to rotate in the golf swing.
If you found it difficult to touch your head against the wall in the previous test, without lifting your chin up, there is a good chance you are too rounded through your thoracic spine.
Essentially we need to reverse this curve by stretching your spine in the opposite direction and increasing the strength of your back muscles surrounding this spinal segment.
To address this, lie on your stomach with your palms turned down. Softly draw your stomach in and raise your chest off the mat, keeping your chin tucked in throughout the movement.
Roll your shoulders back and down at the end position (Figure 3).
Now lie on your stomach and slowly push off with your arms to bend your spine backwards. Ensure your lower back muscles are relaxed, your chin is tucked in and your shoulders are down throughout the movement (Figure 4).
Caution: avoid over extending the lower back, as per Figure 4.
3. Rounded shoulders
If you found it difficult to get your shoulders back against the wall in the previous test it is likely your shoulders are too rounded.
This goes hand in glove with increased curvature of the middle back (kyphosis), and is typified by tight chest and shoulder muscles and/or weak back muscles.
Rounded shoulders can be linked to poor shoulder rotation and an arm-dominated swing. Figure 3 also demonstrates one way to increase the strength around your shoulder blades.
Stretching your chest and shoulders will also help.
In the position shown in Figure 5, ensure your hand is well behind your body and feel as though you are rotating your shoulders away from your hand i.e. your left hand is in a doorway, and your shoulders are turning to the right to increase the stretch.
Despite your age and level of postural deterioration, a commitment to the stretches and exercises just outlined could be enough to improve your swing mechanics (and your health and well being). This is the “THE POWER OF POSTURE!”
Trent Malcolm is an Accredited Exercise Physiologist, specialising in golf-specific strength and conditioning.
Visit Active One Golf for more information on the importance of golf-specific exercise
Before commencing any conditioning program it is recommended you consult a Medical or Allied Health Professional