In order for golfers to hit the ball, they have to swing their club in an angular motion while standing at the side of the golf ball. This motion of swing utilizes several muscles in the body such as the chest muscles (for rotational movement), and the glutes that helps to stabilize the body as the individual rotates into a backswing and follow through.
But those aren’t just the only muscles involved in the golf swing. The back muscles especially are the driving force behind the swing. These back muscles include the rotatores, the external abdominal obliques and the multifidus.
Is Golf Bad For Your Back?
Due to the fact that golf is a low impact aerobic exercise, it generally doesn’t cause severe back pain as long as you warm up properly. Nevertheless, the constant repetitive motion of a golf swing can actually lead to minor strains in the back as rotation and twist cause added stress on the facet joints in the back of your spine.
A golfer’s posture will change each time with variable length irons. When this happens, the golfer starts moving his or her muscles in a different way than the one that he was accustomed with. The muscles have molded to be comfortable with a certain position or angle. Therefore, the lower back becomes more susceptible once the golfer changes position.
Nevertheless, it is important that you perform necessary workout routines that will prevent you from developing back pain injuries on the golf course.
Here are 5 great tips that will help protect your back on the golf course:
1. Do Core Exercises
Strengthening the core of your body is a great way to reduce the pressure placed on the lower back when hitting a shot.
When you develop and use the core muscles instead, you are less likely to get back pain injuries. The stiffer your core, is the more you’ll be able to overcome the rotational forces placed on the body when swinging. This allows for better posture throughout your golf swing.
A simple core exercise is the bridge position that involves lying on your back with your knees bent. Your back should be kept in a straight and neutral position without arching. Tighten the abdominal muscles and raise your hips off the ground so that it aligns with your knees and shoulders. Hold the bridge position for 10 seconds to 1 minute.
2. Shorten The Backswing
The back swing begins the moment when you lift the club away from the golf ball to start the swing (also known as takeaway).
Shortening your backswing will help decrease the rotational and side bending movement on the lower back. This is because the extent of the backswing corresponds with the amount of power needed to hit the ball. The longer your backswing is the more you will have to twist and turn to follow though your golf swing.
Therefore, it’s best to keep the backswing short.
3. Stand Closer to the golf ball
Another good tip to prevent back pain injuries on the course is to stand closer to the golf ball. When you stand too far away from the ball, it increases your spine flexion and rotation during the swing. This will not only have a negative impact on your shot, but also on your back.
Standing too far away can cause discomfort as you’ll end up having to force to reach for the ball with your club. It’s best to stand as close to the ball as possible, then make small adjustments until you reach a position that is comfortable for you to make your swing.
You’ll be able to keep an upright posture that will increase your chances of making a nice and easy swing.
4. Thoracic Extension Exercises
This type of exercise involves motion of the spine. In doing so, the spine’s movement is kept balanced when you swing your golf club. Thoracic extension exercises will reduce pressure on the lower back,
By incorporating this drill in your workout, you are helping to prevent not only lower back pain, but shoulder pain and overhead positional issues.
There are many thoracic extension exercises, but one that I found most eeffective is with a roller and bar.
- To begin, set up a bar and roller on the ground.
- Place the roller on your thoracic spine.
- Reach out and grab the bar with your arms overhead.
- Make sure your hands are positioned close together that will help to stretch the lats and teres major which are major muscles in the back.
- Breathe in and out to help you relax during the stretch.
The cat-camel drill is another great thoracic exercise that improve flexion and extension of the thoracic spine, thereby resulting in a smoother golf swing.
It starts in a quadrupled position, and slowly move from a fully flexed position to a fully extended position.
Remember to take deep breaths in and exhale out as you perform this workout.
5. Active Warm Ups
You should do about 2 to 3 workout exercises before you play a round of golf. Like in every sport, you must warm up properly to prevent unexpected pains and injuries.
Toe touches is perhaps one of the most simple but effective workout exercise that you can perform to prevent future back pain while on the course.
All you need to do is to stand upright then reach overhead, extending your spine through your mid-back. Hinge from your hip and try to touch your toes. To get a deeper stretch, remember to inhale and exhale on your way down.
Body weight squat is another quick exercise you can perform on the course before playing. It’s similar to regular squat but you will hold your golf club overhead with your two arms in the air while squatting.
Just lower your hips as if you are going to sit down onto a chair, and go back up with your knees into the standing position while holding the club overhead. Do about 10 reps to complete the exercise routine.
Golfers Who Have Suffered Back Pain Injuries
You’d be surprised at the number of professional golfers who develop back injuries on the world stage. We are talking some of the world’s best players like Tiger Woods and Fred Couples, just to name a few.
In March 2014, Tiger Woods had to withdraw from the Honda Classic golf tournament as he reported to have developed back spasms. This is a sudden tightness and pain in the back muscles that occurs from overuse or injury.
One month after, he had to undergo surgery for a pinched nerve in his back and had to miss the Masters tournament.
2015 saw him walking off the golf course after completing 11 holes of his opening round at the the Farmers Insurance Open, citing that he had back injury which he blames on his glutes that are unable to “activate”
Tiger Woods suffered many other back pain injuries throughout his career, and even met into a car accident in 2021 as he suffered significant injuries to his right leg and ankle.
Now, while some golfers develop severe back injuries, there are some who have played the game without developing serious back pain. Phil Mickelson, who you may know as one of the best left handed golf players is one such player that has never been plagued with serious back pain.