When you’re in-season with golf, it’s important to reduce injury risk while doing exercises to optimize your physical capabilities.
One particularly vulnerable area for golfers is the low back.
Improving strength in the abdominal core muscles and glutes while increasing flexibility in the low back and hip flexors is a proven way to promote adaptations that lead to success.
With the Masters this week, it’s officially the start of golf season. At Apeiron Life, we’re frequently asked what the best exercise plan would be to optimize golf performance and at the same time reduce injury risk.
When you’re in-season with your sport, there’s a balancing act between advancing your physical capabilities and avoiding injury. For our clients, we focus on injury risk reduction and tailor our exercise recommendations around that principle.
One particularly vulnerable area for golfers is the low back. A stable low back is essential to an effective golf swing but is easy to injure with the wrong exercise or doing too much too soon. This post focuses on reducing low back pain if you have it and avoiding low back pain if you don’t.
While there are many exercises you could do to improve your physical capacity to play golf, the fundamental areas to focus on are strengthening and improving mobility of the back. Performing exercises in these areas properly within your overall exercise plan will give you the most significant return in the shortest amount of time.
A Common Cause Of Low Back Pain In Golfers: The Pelvic Crossed Syndrome
In 1987, Czech physical therapist Vladimir Janda described a combined condition of tight hip flexors, tight lower back musculature, weak glutes, and weak abdominal muscles. He called this combination the
“Pelvic Crossed Syndrome” and felt it was a crucial factor in chronic lower back pain. This graphic, from physical therapist Mike Reinold’s website illustrating the Pelvic Crossed Syndrome.
For the golfer, the pelvic Crossed Syndrome components result in a forward tilt of the pelvis, and this causes an “S Posture” when viewed down the line, as in this photo from TPI’s excellent website.
S Posture limits pelvic rotation, and limited pelvis rotation is a power killer. It’s also a great way to cause low back pain. From an orthopaedic standpoint, the S Posture causes increased compression across joints in the back of the spine called facet joints, often resulting in low back pain. We will often find this in the right low back of a right-handed golfer.
While there is some controversy as to the exact role the Pelvic Crossed Syndrome has in low back pain (as there could be many factors such as disc injury or an old stress fracture), highly experienced practitioners such as Greg Rose (founder of TPI) hold the opinion that correction of the underlying factors will improve low back pain in those who have it, and decrease the chance for developing low back pain in currently pain-free golfers.
Key areas of your body on which to focus:
The basic idea is to reverse the causes of Pelvic Crossed Syndrome by improving flexibility in the low back and hip flexors and improving strength in the glutes and abdominal core musculature. Your Apeiron Life trainer can help you improve all of these areas, and of course, our golf program goes into more detail about your training in relation to your specific physical needs and swing.
For some basic at-home training to improve glute strength, check out this guide. If you’re doing this on your own and the exercises are new to you, we’d recommend a straightforward progression with bodyweight or light weights as follows:
Week 1: 2 sets of 8; Week 2: 2 sets of 10; Week 3: 2 sets of 12
Increase weight after Week 3
Week 4: 3 sets of 8; Week 5: 3 sets of 10; Week 6: 3 sets of 12
The body weight or light weight with a slow progression is important because when you’re in-season, you must avoid injury.
Avoid In-Season Injury!
The last thing you want to do is get started on some new exercises when you’re in-season, cause an injury, and then have to take many weeks or months off to fix the problem. That’s why we’d strongly encourage you to allow your Apeiron staff to assist in constructing a program that improves strength and flexibility while reducing your chance for an injury.
When we do your initial onboarding and subsequent re-evaluations, we know your orthopedic history and response to training. With that knowledge, we’re able to make modifications to your program, constructing a personalized plan that will work towards your goals with effectiveness and safety.
For those of you wanting to combine movement analysis, swing dynamics, and swing assessment, please consider our new golf performance enhancement program offered through a partnership with TPI. Reach out to your Apeiron Client Advocate for details.
Hit ‘em where you want to!