Playing golf without my back exploding is something that I deal with constantly.
About 2 years ago, right about the time that I started getting into the golf season, I was unracking the bar for a squat and felt a shooting pain go from my back to my hamstring.
I gave it about 4 days and I felt good enough to play again and played Ok. Next week when it was time to lift again, the same thing happened (not as bad the second time).
So what was the issue? It was actually 3 things.
- Weak core
I was not doing enough stability exercises in general. What I also noticed is that I was not giving them the appropriate attention either.
Doing them is one thing but actually paying attention and focusing on stabilizing is another. Core work requires the intent from the person and not just getting through it.
Since then I have shot for about 2 dedicated core exercises and 1 unilateral lift that requires stability in the workout.
- Hanging out in extension
Whenever it came to any exercises, I was basically just arching my back hard to develop stability. This is what I used to think was a neutral spine.
I was holding a lot of tension in the low back and (what I didn’t know at the time) was that my performance was suffering for it.
The spine almost acts as a connector between the lower body and upper body. When it is in neutral we have a smooth and stable link.
When we arch or flex the spine, losing neutral, the link is now broken and it is hard to transfer energy. This is important for both golf and lifting. The legs will not be able to do as much work if that link is broken. The legs are huge muscles and they will not be free to do the work when the body does not allow it.
The golf swing works in a similar fashion. Too much extension, or S posture, and the body cannot effectively rotate. The energy coming from the legs into the upper body will also be lost since the connection is broken.
The fix for excessive extension, more core work. See point 1.
- The reverse spine swing characteristic
Reverse spine and early extension are two ways to really injure the back. I still struggle with both of them when I swing.
When I eliminate the reverse spine I actually have a chance to hit a decent golf shot. Reverse spine looks like this.
Basically what happens is that we laterally flex the spine away from the direction of the turn (probably with some extension) and then rapidly laterally flex the other way in order to try to hit the ball. This can do some real damage to the discs of the spine.
It also means that the club is going to get dug into the ground and the ball doesn’t go anywhere. I cannot express in words how frustrating and disappointing that actually is.
Getting away from Reverse Spine
Step 1 is to get a coach that can watch you swing and provide feedback on it. I got lessons last summer and the pro did a great job of focusing on what he wanted me to do instead of the things I was doing wrong.
After that we have to work on T spine mobility. Being able to rotate through the upper spine is essential to avoid reverse spine. The club is going to get into the backswing somehow, someway. Rotating through the upper back is the most efficient way.
When we lack T spine mobility, we are asking for some weird stuff to happen in the swing. Try a side lying T spine rotation to help with it.
Improving hip rotation will also help. The T spine is the most important for the turn, but the hips have to move too. Without the rotation of the hips then the backswing would probably have to shorten since the T spine can’t get you all the way there.
Also working on core stability will help provide that stable platform to rotate through. The ability to hold steady while the upper back rotates will be important. A side stance anti rotation chop practices rotating through the upper back without any involvement of the hips.