Monday 13 January 2014

Golf Posture: How to Help Correct Your Posture

Happy new year to all of my followers!  I apologize for the long delay between posts as there's been a lot going on since my last post in October.  On November 12, 2013, my wife, daughter and I welcomed the newest addition to our family...our baby boy, Adam!  As you can imagine, it's been quite the challenge getting used to life with two kids as well as going through the busy holiday season...we survived and things are getting back to 'normal'.

My latest post deals with golf posture, its importance to the golf swing and some tips to help you improve on your posture, if need be.  There are 3 known golf postures, the N, C, and S, but only one of these address positions is physiologically ideal for healthy, productive outcomes.  Do you know which one you are?

The N-posture is preferred by teaching professionals, but seems to elude many current-day golfers.  It’s characterized by a straight spine or back and is really the precursor to an efficient, textbook golf swing.  It also helps keep both the acute and chronic nagging injury to a minimum. 
When addressing the ball with a straight spine, the golfer allows him/herself the potential for making a better turn in the backswing.  This is a prerequisite for power golf.  The better the shoulder turn, the more clubhead speed the golfer should be able to generate.  That, in turn, increases the likelihood of hearing repeated acknowledgments such as “nice drive,” “that was smoked,” and “you spanked that drive” from the members of your foursome.

Give it a try.  Take your golf stance while standing sideways in front of a mirror to make sure your back is totally straight.  Now take a backswing and note how far you’re able to turn.  Next, bow (bend) your spine, like in the picture below.  Now try to make that same backswing.  Make sure your head doesn’t move.  Can you turn as much?  The answer is no.  That’s because it’s easier to rotate around a straight spine than it is a bent one.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of golfers out there that don’t set-up at address with a straight, N-posture, spine.  And it’s getting worse.  golf-c-posture.jpg - 12.50 KBThe bowed or bent spine posture is becoming an epidemic in the golfing world.  Technically, this set-up position is called a C-posture, as the golfer forms a “C” when viewed from the side, and it used to be more of an older golfer’s disease.  Today, however, we’re seeing more and more of it due to the fact that many of us are sitting hunched over a computer for a good part of the day, both at work and when we get home.  This static, round-shouldered position, results in a shortening (tightening) of the muscles in the chest and a lengthening (weakening) of the muscles in the upper back.  This causes the shoulder blades to fan outward and the spine in the thoracic region to bow out (known as kyphosis).  This combination does not bode well for the golf swing or your health.  The C-posture is showing up in all ages and in both genders.  It will limit your ability to get the club back and that’s going to rob you of clubhead speed and distance.  Yes, there are some C-posture golfers who do manage to get the club back, but this can only happen if the golfer stands up in the takeaway.  Lifting the head up in order to make a better turn alters the swing plane and can also throw off balance.  Either of these is deadly if your goal is to make consistent ball contact.  The other thing C-posture may produce in the backswing is a reverse spine or a leaning of the upper body back toward the target.  This common swing fault doesn’t position the golfer well for initiating the downswing in the proper hitting sequence. . . that being with the hips first.  As a matter of fact, the reverse spine often results in the upper body controlling the downswing, an over-the-top swing plane, and a casting of the golf club.  The sum of these is usually a powerless slice of the golf ball and a frustrating round of golf.

To physically correct the C-posture, you must stretch the tight muscles in front and strengthen the weak ones in back.  In doing so, you’ll allow the shoulder blades to move back toward the midline of the body pulling the shoulders back with them.golfweek 006.jpg - 3.14 MBgolfweek 005.jpg - 439.45 KB  A good exercise for this is the shoulder pinch and one you might consider doing daily to offset the negative consequences from sitting in front of that computer.  While lying supine on a stability ball or full-round foam, place your arms out to the side and bend the elbows 90 degrees.  Pinch or squeeze the shoulder blades together, which will lower the arms somewhat toward the floor.  Hold for 5 to 10 seconds and release.  Repeat 5 to 10 times.  Remember to breathe.  If on the stability ball, make sure to keep the hips parallel to the floor to engage the glutes (golf power muscles). MVC-posturedrillB.JPG - 35.77 KB
A drill to help improve the brain-body connection and break you out of the bad C-posture habit is to hold an iron club against your back, while standing, with the toe of the club resting on top of your head.  Slowly bend forward into your golf stance while keeping your head in contact with the toe (right picture).  This will ensure a straight back.  If the head comes off the club, you're bowing the spine and moving into a C-posture stance (bottom picture).  Like with all neuromuscular drills, the more MVC-C-posturedrill.JPG - 35.11 KByou repeat it, the greater the likelihood that the new movement pattern will become habitual.

The third identified posture is the S-posture.  It’s characterized by an arching of the lower back and a protruding butt, resembling an “S” when looked at from the side.  This posture is very prevalent in women and younger golfers. 
The arched or swayback posture, in itself, is a low back pain producer.  Combine it with the twisting motion of a golf swing and it's a pretty sure bet chronic low back pain will develop.  In most cases, the arched back posture is produced from the hip rotating forward.  This anterior tilt is often the result of tightness in the muscles in the front of the hips known as the hip flexors.
A simple assessmentgottagogolf 005.jpg - 2.05 MB is to sit on the edge of a flat bench or solid coffee table, carefully lie back on the bench/table and then bring one knee up to the chest and hug.  If the extended foot rises up off the floor, you’re hip flexor is tight to that side.  Repeat with the other leg as tightness can be unilateral or bi-lateral.
This knee hug action is also a great stretch to do for tight hip flexors.  Hold each leg for at least a 30-second count as you breathe normally.  If you’re unsteady on the bench, you can also do this stretch while lying on your back on the floor.  
One thing to consider if you do set-up in the S-posture is to pull in the belly button toward your spine while standing at address over the ball.  This action will flatten the lower back and take some tension off of the area while swinging the club.

Good posture is not a given and should be worked on for better, healthier golf.  In doing so, you’ll set yourself up for a more efficient golf swing, more yards down the fairway, and greater potential for a pain-free swing.  Over the winter, take the time to figure out what type of golf posture you have and spend some time each day doing the necessary exercises in order to correct your posture.  Trust me, this will pay dividends for you this upcoming golf season and you'll enjoy your time out on the golf course even more!

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