The pandemic gave me an opportunity to renew my passion for golf. I grew up playing it sporadically with lessons from my grandfather and father, who were close to scratch golfers themselves. In my 30’s and 40’s, golf took a back burner to life and reduced to an annual tournament with my alumni Sigma Nu brothers. Now as I get back into it, and have become the author of Athlete in the Game of Life and a Corrective Exercise Specialist, the importance of building mobility into your fitness and wellness regiment is crucial for a proper golf swing.
To hit a golf ball where you want and the distance you want is almost counter-intuitive. It’s not a baseball swing requiring a massive amount of swing speed and torque. With technology, golf clubs can be purchased to match your natural swing speed to hit the ball competitively regardless of age and gender. Obviously getting lessons from a professional is a big help, yet that can only take you so far if you have back pain, neck pain, and poor mobility to execute even a fundamentally sound swing.
Working from home and being more sedentary since the pandemic started, has created more problems for older adults, executives, and golf enthusiasts. While golf courses have been deemed essential and a “safe” activity, preparing yourself to execute a good golf swing has become harder. Everyone thinks about working your rotational muscles as the only way to hit the ball farther. If your posture, grip, and address aren’t right, it doesn’t matter how good your rotation is. I’m going to share three exercises to help with your posture.
- Dumbbell scaption – Being able to retract your scapula and keep your upper back straight in address sets your rotation up for success. Most people bent over a laptop all day have a weak upper back because your shoulders are rounded. You can’t bring the club around into its on-plane position in a full back swing with rounded shoulders. The dumbbell scaption strengthens and mobilizes your upper back and shoulders to stay retracted and in position to bring the club up to parallel to the ground, and positioned with your lever arm straight. To perform, stand up tall with your shoulders retracted. With or without light dumbbells held in a thumbs up position, raise your arms in front of you at a 45-degree angle from your body. Bring them to shoulder height and lower in a controlled manner. Perform 2-3 sets of 15 repetitions.
- Glute-hamstring bridges – Sitting lengthens and weakens your glutes and hamstrings, contributing to low back pain. Addressing the golf ball with proper posture requires strength and mobility in your hamstrings and glutes to generate the power you need. Your upper body hinges at your waist with knees slightly flexed depending on the club you’re using. If your low back is in constant pain because it’s weak, you can’t even address the ball properly, and no golf lesson can fix that. Lie flat on your back with your feet flat on the floor and knees bent as you would for doing a sit-up or crunch. Your arms are at your side palms up to prevent them from helping you perform the movement. Push your feet into the floor and raise your hips to fully extend them. Keep your knees in line with your feet and don’t let them flare out or rotate inward. Slowly lower your hips to just above touching the ground and repeat the motion. Perform 2-3 sets of 15-20 repetitions.
- Straight leg/Romanian deadlifts – For the same reasons mentioned with weakened hamstrings, the ability to hinge at the hip is vital to maintaining proper posture in your stance. Performing straight leg deadlifts requires you to practice hinging and strengthens your hamstrings, glutes, low back, and abdominals. This exercise brings the benefits of dumbbell scaption and glute-hamstring bridges into harmony. You can use a barbell or dumbbells, I suggest a broomstick or PVC pipe for beginners and I’ll explain why. To perform the movement properly, you must half a straight back with retracted shoulders, knees slightly flexed (I call it soft), head in neutral alignment with your chin tucked, and push your hips back allowing your weight to be on your heels. Hinge your upper body without bending your knees more into a 45 to 90-degree angle. You will feel this in your hamstrings and possibly calf muscles if they are tight. Raise your body up into full upright position again after the hinge. For those beginners, hold a broomstick behind you with the back of your head, between your shoulder blades, and at the bottom of your back all touching it. Keep this contact on all 3 points and hinge. If any of the points come off the broomstick, adjust your range of motion or posture. Once you master this, move to a barbell or dumbbells for more resistance. Beginners practice the hinge for 3 sets of 15-20 reps, more advanced lifters do 3 sets of 8-10 reps with resistance.
You can integrate these exercises into your regular workouts if you’re not doing so already. The golf swing is about tempo and rhythm, not raring back and being out of control. Unfortunately, most of us rare back with poor posture at address and we’re doomed to only be lucky when he hit a good shot. Putting everything together: lessons, mobility, strength, and practice, yields you the results you want.
To learn more about preventing injuries, increasing mobility, reducing joint pain, and getting more out of life, please go to my website, mattpeale.com. I offer group and personal instruction via Zoom weekly sessions to help your tennis, golf, workouts, and lifestyle hobbies. Download my free report, 3 Tips to Reduce Back Pain Your Doctor Doesn’t Know. Guaranteed to open your eyes and give you a new direction on staying healthy and active you didn’t know possible!