Back. Knees. Hips. It sounds like an anatomy lesson, but for many golfers, the painful reality is that their body’s aches pose more of a hinderance to their game than their technique—Tiger Woods would readily attest to this. And nowhere is pain more acute than the back.
According Sports Health, low back pain is the number one injury sustained by golfers, accounting for up to 34.5 percent of all injuries.
It led Dr. Jeremy James, co-author of most recent edition of the The New York Times bestselling Younger Next Year series, The Younger Next Year Back Book, to team up with 12-time PGA TOUR winner Justin Leonard and pro athlete trainer Bill Fabrocini to develop a strength and flexibility program specifically for golfers.
Improving your golf—and back pain
Jeremy James DC, CSCS has a special interest in the needs of golfers. Dr. James, founder of The Aspen Club Back Institute, saw that the largest subgroup at his back clinic were golfers, not skiers or snowboarders.
He recognized that bad—or non-existent—strength training routines, bad habits and a lack of education were the overwhelming causes of most golfers’ back pain. After working with Dr. James, golfing patients noticed an added benefit: their games improved along with their backs.
What Dr. James saw with patients, Leonard saw on and off the circuit.
“During my career on the PGA TOUR, I’ve seen golfers try a lot of things to get an edge. And I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. One thing I know for sure is the single most important tool to play the best golf of your life isn’t your clubs, golf lessons, or some gadget. It’s your body.”
James and Leonard’s online GolfForever program uses streamed videos to teach golfers how to work on their hips and core while avoiding injury.
“Generating real power behind your swing requires strong, mobile hips and a balanced, stable core. Following a physical training program designed specifically for golf is the most valuable thing you can do to improve your game,” says Leonard.
Lack of spinal stability, strength and mobility is why so many golfers fail to get the same distance they used to from their swing, and why many—regardless of age—are plagued by back pain.
Golfers know that golf is an advanced skill, requiring strength, rhythm and timing to execute a great swing. But what many don’t know is the specific body dynamics that are involved.
Dr. James, who also originated the interactive online platform Backforever.com, says, “The same strength training program that adds power and distance to your swing also prevents and relieves back and joint pain.”
A champion golf swing creates tremendous force
In a golf swing, force is generated from a strong core and hips, which is then transferred through the spine, into the shoulder, onto the wrist and eventually out through the club.
To get the best possible swing with the least amount of damage to joints and spine, it’s important that this potent force doesn’t just drive through the body, it’s also controlled.
“Strong acceleration is critical, and so is controlled deceleration,” says Leonard.
“These days, the best golfers have a powerful core, hips and shoulders, and increased mobility where they need it,” reports Dr. James.
Mastering power and control
It’s the rare golfer who has mastered both power and control. Even if golfers can generate high speed forces, their body still needs to be able absorb and control those forces, especially if they want to play well past their 30s.
Otherwise, joints and soft tissue structures—such as discs, ligaments and tendons—break down.
To be effective, strength and mobility need to be in the right places. Strength in the core and hips allows the body to generate high rotational forces, while mobility in the thoracic spine and shoulders allows these forces to safely dissipate.
A lack of either of these results in a weak swing, back or joint pain, or a loss of distance over time.
A solution to back pain
“It is now accepted science among experts that the best treatment for common, biomechanical low back pain is a back-specific exercise program and behavioral change in the way you move and your posture,” says Dr. James.
“Our goal with GolfForever is to produce greater strength and mobility so that golfers can play at the highest level, hit maximum distance, and still enjoy healthy, pain-free play long into the future.” More information about the GolfForever program can be found at www.GolfForever.com.
See also: Tiger Woods: A Dream Year