Golf is a funny sport in that you don’t need to be generally fit to play it. But the force put out by every swing of the club can be tremendous and if you’re experiencing lower back pain, here are some things that I usually try with my golfer clients.
Let’s Talk About Spinal Rotation
A golf swing is primarily a forceful rotation of the spine.
In order to train this movement and to be able to do it year after year, I always focus on strength and range of motion.
When I’ve got a golfer, I always work on abdominal exercises and, specifically, exercises that involve rotation of the spine. Here’s an example:
For range of motion:
Strength means nothing without flexibility (range of motion). Golfers have to be able to swing a club behind them and be able to follow through. We’ve all seen the “old man swing” where the club goes back two feet and chops at the ball. It’s much easier to maintain your range of motion than to try to get it back after it’s gone.
There are tons of variations on stretches and strengthening exercises. These are a good place to start.
Affiliate Disclosure: We may earn a commission if you click a link on our site and make a purchase. For more info, see our disclaimer.
Foam Roller on Gluteals
A foam roller is literally just a cylinder of foam that you roll on to loosen up your muscles.
I’ve found that when I get my golfers to roll out their glutes (their butt muscles), they feel an immediate release of pressure from their lower back – whether they had pain there or not.
Here’s what it looks like:
This isn’t just for golfers. It is a very good little trick for anyone. I use my foam roller daily and it keeps me from having to go to the chiropractor.
They make several types, but I prefer and recommend the most basic foam rollers.
Put a Towel Under Your Back While You’re Lying Down
Your lower back should have a bit of a curve in it. Your butt shouldn’t stick out too much, but it should be there.
Most of us don’t have enough of this curve due to sitting being so popular. So to help put this curve back in (and, therefore put our spine back in its correct position), I recommend you put a towel under your lower back and lie down for a minute or so at a time in that position.
Depending on how far out from normal your lower back is will determine how long you are able to hold this position.
Here’s a video that demostrates exactly what I mean:
I usually have my clients do this at the end of the day as they are lying in bed or right after work when they get home. Some do it for 5, 10 or 15 minutes. Don’t do it more than 15 minutes.
Please don’t fall asleep with the towel there. It can cause problems.
Tight hamstrings also contribute to lower back pain.
In fact, any tension you can take off of the posterior chain (calves, hamstrings, gluteals, back muscles), the better off you’ll be.
But I rarely see someone who has great hamstring flexibility and who also has lower back pain.
Here’s an example of how to stretch your hamstrings:
You can, and should, do this throughout the day if you’re having lower back issues.
Hip Flexor Stretches
This is the king-daddy secret of all time. Most people would never guess that tight hip flexors cause lower back pain.
I have personally helped at least 50 separate chronic back pain cases by stretching the hip flexors and nothing else.
Here is an example of a great hip flexor stretch:
Now, it is hard to stretch your hip flexors or your quadriceps without stretching them both at the same time. So if I am targeting these areas, I’ll also do some good stretches for the quadriceps. Here’s the main method of stretching them:
So to strengthen your lower back, I’d recommend doing a simple exercise called a “superman.”
It’s called that because you look like superman when he’s flying around:
This exercise is performed by all sorts of athletes, as well as beginners. I’ve had people in their 70’s do it, kids in their teens, and everyone in between.
There are variations to modify it if you aren’t up to it yet.
Any Other Abdominal Exercise
Honestly, all abdominal exercises help.
Your abdominal muscles work with the muscles of your back. Working one helps the other.
Don’t think that you are wasting your time doing abs. It’ll help your golf game both in the short and long term.
The One-Sided Problem
Here’s what sucks: we don’t swing both ways.
By that, I mean that we don’t swing the club both ways. Left handers only stand on one side of the ball and right handers stand on the other.
Over time, this means that we are going to be well developed in certain muscles, but weak on the other side. Any imbalance can cause issues, especially in the long run.
Therefore, when you work out, make sure that you emphasize both sides.
If you have spent time working out both sides and are generally balanced, then you won’t have any problems. It is just a point that I always stress with my golfers. We will do an exercise one way, then switch it around and they’ll see for themselves how much weaker they are on the other side.
When you find imbalances like this, no matter what you’re training, train the hell out of it so that you correct the imbalance. The gains in performance, comfort, and general health are amazing once you are able to pinpoint something like this.
While the golfer demographic is getting much more diverse these days, most of the golfers that I’ve trained have had office jobs and then go out to golf and get moving. They haven’t all necessarily been exercise buffs.
So a lot of lower back pain is actually caused by these desk jobs and sedentary lifestyles.
90% of people with back pain would see it go away by just doing a balanced exercise program. If I get a golfer, I make sure he or she has great range of motion in the rotation of the spine and is strong throughout.
This will help you keep that full swing and continue killing the ball into your 80s and 90s.