Now that the weather is clearing up, everyone is gearing up to go out on the golf course and get a head start on the season. Due to this, it is important to be aware of very common golf-related injuries, including low back pain, shoulder pain (rotator cuff tendinitis/impingement) and elbow pain (tennis elbow/golfers elbow). A lot of these can be attributed to going from a period of prolonged inactivity or lack of training (no golfing in the winter), and immediately going into a routine of golfing 1-2 rounds per week in the Spring. A proper golf swing is a very complex motion that requires proper muscular activation and extensive joint mobility throughout your body. Therefore, it is important to properly train before getting a fast start to your golf season.
For this post, we are going to discuss the importance of strength in your hips, and how it can help you avoid onset of low back pain. One of the most important muscle groups you are going to want to work on are your gluteal muscles, which includes your glute maximus, medius and minimus. The main purpose of this group is to stabilize your hips and pelvis so that you can move your trunk and upper body freely. Without proper activation and sufficient strength of your glutes to stabilize your pelvis, the muscles in your low back will have to over-compensate resulting in excessive extension or rotation during your swing. This will lead to a breakdown of your lumbar joints, spasm/contractures of the muscles in your low back, and even nerve pain/impingement. Lack of glute activation is something that Tiger Woods struggled with for a lot of his career that resulted in significant low back pain and nerve pain that radiated down into his lead league. Without proper glute max activation, other muscles will pick up the slack and your body mechanics will break down because of it.
There are a few reasons your glute max may not be activating properly. The first may be due to excessively tight and shortened hip flexors, which stems from poor posture in sitting and standing. If your hip flexors are too tight, your hip extensors (glutes!) will not be able to get into a position to fire. Therefore, release and active stretching of your hip flexors might be something you need to add into your training program. Instruction on ways to release and lengthen your hip flexors are within the links below: Video Demonstration
- Hip Flexor Release
- Hip Flexor Lengthening/Active Stretching
Other reasons for why your glutes may not be firing properly could be due to over-facilitation of muscles around your glutes or excessive restriction within the glutes itself. So the release of these muscles may be necessary to get your glutes to actually turn on. To best solve this, it is important to perform the releases and then reinforce it by doing strengthening exercises that targets glute activation. Method to achieve this is listed below:
Active Release Techniques to the hip rotators and quadratus lumborum musculature (pics labeled below). You will want to spend at least 1-2 minutes on each to ensure proper release.
- Quadratus Lumborum (QL) Release
- Hip Rotator Release
Following the releases and hip flexor mobilizations, you will want to work on activating and strengthening your glutes. There are tons of different ways you can work on this, I will share three with you here that I use most often in early training (adjust number of reps as needed based on fatigue/difficulty levels):
- Bridges – Double or Single Leg: perform 3 sets of 8-10 with a 3second hold at the top focusing on activating your glute muscles.
- Single-Leg RDL – Perform 3 sets of 5 on each leg
- Glute Step Backs – Perform 3 sets of 6 on each leg