The golf swing is a complex, full-body movement that uses muscles stretching from your calves to your arms and shoulders. But you get most of the power --and potential for injury -- from your core muscles, particularly your lower back and hips. This is why a stiff back can stop your golf swing in its tracks. With a regular routine of dynamic stretching exercises, you should be able to relieve back stiffness, increase your range of motion and even add some more power to your swing.
Back Muscles and Your Golf Swing
The golf swing is a compound movement that relies on a coordinated effort between several major muscle groups and joints, ranging from your calves, knees, legs, hips, glutes, back, shoulders and abdominals. The swing puts most of its stress on the lower back and hips, however. A stiff back will affect your normal range of motion, which will not only make your swing mechanics worse but also will likely start to cause pain in your upper back and hips as your body transfers the stresses elsewhere. There are three primary ways to fight this: by doing short stretches to loosen your back before a round, by performing exercises that increase your overall range of motion and help your swing mechanics and by doing exercises that increase your back strength.
Warm-up exercises designed to temporarily alleviate back stiffness can be performed just before or even during a round of golf. Examples of exercises you can do on the course include the overhead stretch, the kneeling hip flexor stretch and the warrior stretch. Because of the twisting motion that the golf swing puts your back through, one excellent warm-up stretch is the side bend. Begin by standing with your feet roughly shoulder-width apart and a club draped across your shoulders. Keeping your torso straight and without moving forward or backward, lean to your left by bending at the hip. Bend as far as you comfortably can, then hold that position for a few seconds before returning to your starting position. Repeat for your right side.
Exercises that improve your golf swing's range of motion can help with your swing mechanics and technique. Generally, these exercises, such as the kneeling hip flexor stretch, trunk and hip rotations or leg crossovers, will stretch the core muscles in your trunk and legs and better prepare them for the stresses induced by the golf swing. One excellent range-of-motion exercise that will prepare your neck and back muscles for a full round is the weighted club swing. Begin by using either your heaviest club or by holding two clubs together. Stand in your normal pre-swing stance and swing the weighted club as if you were swinging a regular club. Bring the club back to starting position and repeat 10 times, with no pause or rest between each swing. This will loosen the muscles and joints that work hardest during your actual swing movement.
Exercises that strengthen your back will not only help prevent stiffness and injuries, but also can add power to your drives. Exercises such as the standing medicine ball trunk rotations and the side lunge can build up strength in the core muscles that give your swing most of its power. The hip hinge is an example of an exercise that can add strength while also increasing the range of motion in your hips. Begin by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes pointed forward. Take a heavy club and place it behind your head. One hand should grasp one end of the club just above and behind your head, while your other hand grasps the other end in the small of your back. Make sure your hand or the club is in contact with the small of your back, the point between your shoulder blades and the back of your head throughout the duration of this exercise. Shift your weight onto your heels and bend forward at the hips by pushing your hips back. Bend until your torso is nearly parallel to the floor, or as far as you comfortably can. Allow your knees to flex slightly. Hold this position for a moment, then slowly return to your upright position by pushing your hips forward and up.
Todd Maternowski began writing in 1996 as one of the co-founders of "The Chicago Criterion." He joined the local online news revolutionaries at Pegasus News in 2006, where he continues to work to this day. He studied religion at the University of Chicago.