Golf is a game seen by many as sedentary, although those who play the game know the physical strain it can place on the body. The last thing any golfer wants is to have to sit out a few rounds of golf every year because of pain or injury. Anybody who watches golf on TV or follows the current PGA players throughout their career can tell you that gone are the days when players were out of shape and overweight. Nowadays on the tour, each player follows a rigorous off-season and even in-season training regimen to stay at the top of their game throughout the season. Pioneers like Tiger Woods have shown that staying physically strong is a key component to not only winning, but winning consistently over the years.
Low back pain is consistently the number one injury that golfers suffer/play through every year. Typically, the pain is right sided with a right handed player, and vice versa for lefties like Phil Mickelson. During a proper golf swing, a player must rotate through their upper back (thoracic spine) and hips, while maintaining low back posture. By doing this a player can harness the most power and consistency from their swing. However, when done improperly, the golf swing can turn into a violent motion, and when performed over the course of 70-120 strokes a round, can turn into pain. When looking at all golfers, the cause for back pain can be typically attributed to by two factors;
- A lack of movement, or mobility throughout the swing coming from a player’s hips and upper back or thoracic spine
- A lack of core and abdominal strength, causing too much movement in a player’s low back
Simply put, a player’s low back is built for stability, while a player’s upper back and hips are meant to give a player their movement throughout the swing. Too often a player’s hips and upper back remain tight, causing them to compensate by getting movement elsewhere such as the low back. When addressing factor number one (or lack of movement in a player’s upper back and hips) it is important for any golfer to include a certain amount of stretching/mobility training into their daily exercise routine. Some of the key muscle groups a player may want to stretch during their daily fitness routine are their obliques, hamstrings, hip flexors, and glutes. By stretching these groups of muscles during an exercise program a player can help to ensure proper body mechanics throughout the entire golf season.
The second factor, lack of core and abdominal strength, also can also be addressed through a regular training/fitness program. As mentioned prior, the low back is meant for stability throughout the golf swing. If a player lacks the core strength/power to stabilize this key area of the body throughout his/her swing, it usually translates to low back pain during or following the round. When addressing this area during a fitness program it is important to train not only the abdominal (stomach) muscles, but also the ones on the sides and low back. Starting off with exercises such as a plank, side planks, or bridging can get any golfer started without any equipment.
The most important thing that any golfer can do, which can lead to shaving a few strokes off of their game is to warm up properly prior to playing a round of golf. By stretching and warming up prior to playing a round, the body is able to increase blood flow to key areas of the body and also prepare muscles, tendons, and ligaments for the constant stretching and shortening that happens throughout a swing. When a player does not warm up prior to playing, body tissue is less elastic and more prone to injury. Even taking 5-10 minutes before any round of golf can significantly lower a player’s chance for injury.
By following these tips for fitness, any golfer can ensure that their golf season remains pain and injury free. As we all know and as any golfer can tell you, more time on the course makes for a much more enjoyable year of golf.