Back pain is something that most people, let alone golfers, deal with all the time.
Most recommendations are to do nothing. A lot of times this can be a good way to see if the issue is a real issue. I always joke that you should wait two weeks before calling your doctor because it seems like that is the common advice.
There are a lot of reasons why back pain is such a confusing topic. There is not a lot of good information on it accessible to the masses. It is also really misunderstood.
Back pain does not exist in just one type. There could be a lot of different things that one person in pain can do but another would not.
Training around back pain can be done with a simple premise- reduce the amount of loading on the spine, while providing as much support as possible.
The low back is supposed to have a lot of stability. We get stability from bones, tendons, ligaments, and muscles. Muscles are the most important part here.
The more muscular control you have over the low back the less likely you are to experience pain. Core stability training is the best way to activate those muscles to provide support for the low back.
The goal here is to resist as much movement as possible. This is the reason planks are so effective. You are supposed to get in a good position and hold it there.
Exercises that produce movement are going to be risky choices that do not provide a ton of benefit.
The glutes work with the core to improve low back stability. Often, both are grouped together.
When the glutes do not get much use it becomes harder to activate them. Instead, we look to the muscles of the low back/hamstring to get the job done.
Practicing good glute activation is a great way to support the low back. Try the following exercises to activate the glutes.
Glute strength is more important than glute activation because this where we make more permanent change. Strong glutes do not have trouble activating.
Admittedly, they do need to be activated before they get trained so be sure to warm up with activation exercises.
I like using glute bridges and hip thrusts to improve glute strength without loading the back. These exercises allow for good resistance training without putting unnecessary risk on the body.
Vertical pulling exercises are typically a good upper body exercise that does not force a lot of core stability. Reducing the demands on the torso is really helpful.
Adding in kneeling variations also locks the low back into place allowing for a lot of stability.
Single Leg Strength
When someone’s back is bothering them, I still want them to train as hard as their body allows. Single leg training is almost magic here.
Single leg exercises do not load the torso as much as bilateral exercises. They do load each leg greatly more than bilateral. There are some athletes doing single leg work with 150 lbs but they would not be able to squat 300.
Great exercises for this are any lunge variations using any equipment. Go heavy with dummbells or kettlebells. Use reverse lunges or Bulgarians. There are a lot of options.
This is where golfers can make a lot of progress around pain. Never train through it but around it when possible.