Whether you want better posture for increased golf performance, injury prevention or simply a more confident, youthful appearance, this blog is a must-read. In this two-part blog series, Dr Ben Langdown, Sports Scientist, Golf Strength & Conditioning Coach and researcher in the field of Golf Biomechanics and S&C, gives us a thorough breakdown of how desk posture can affect your golf performance and what you can do to fix it. I was lucky enough to meet Ben at the Titleist World Golf Fitness Summit, 2014, where he and his colleague Jack Wells came all the way from England to give an outstanding presentation on the ultimate dynamic warm-up for golfers. Many of you have heard me reference their research since then (yep, Ben is one of the experts that helps his golfers hit the ball up to 40 yards farther just by giving them the right type of warm-up).
In Part 1, Ben will discuss anterior pelvic tilt, known as ‘lower crossed syndrome’ in some areas of physical therapy, the swing faults or injuries that may accompany it, and together we will show you exercises you can start performing today to improve your lower body posture. I hope you enjoy it!
Part 1: Anterior Pelvic Tilt
Your office desk. Your neat little set up. Or is it more like your enemy, joining forces with your office chair…conspiring against you…set to ruin your posture and even your golf game?!
Many people fail to realize that their desk habits impact their performance on the golf course. If you like to play golf and you also work in an office environment, it’s imperative that you address your desk posture and spend time training in the gym to reverse the power struggle between your posture and your office furniture. The next 10 minutes could change your life! Well, ok maybe not your life, but your ability to hit that little dimpled white ball around the 18 holes at your local golf club!
Recently, the press has asserted that sitting is “the new smoking”. Like smoking, clocking up hours in a sedentary position can have a multitude of negative health consequences such as increased risks of developing cancer, heart disease and type II diabetes. OK, so we know sitting can be detrimental to your health, but did you know that it can also lead to excessive anterior pelvic tilt (APT) and upper body postural dysfunction (sometimes referred to as upper crossed syndrome1 in some areas of physical therapy). Sounds serious, hey?! When it comes to your golf performance, it could well be the difference between getting (or not as the case may be) into those positions your golf coach has been talking about for the last few seasons!
In the first part of this blog, we focus on how desk posture leads to APT and what you can do to fix it.
The habit of sitting over a period of years, combined with a lack of training, can lead to key muscle groups in your golf swing becoming lazy and detrained, e.g. the gluteals, also known as your buttocks! In your swing, the gluteals provide stability, rotation and generate force to increase your clubhead speed. If these important muscles aren’t trained, a variety of swing faults may emerge as compensation movements. Along with gluteal weakness, the hip flexors (front of the hips) and the lower back can become tight from too much desk time, specifically tightness in the iliopsoas which may present itself through an altered pelvis position (too much forward tilt – APT) when you address the golf ball. This also causes an increase in length of the hamstrings (i.e. putting them in a stretched position – especially the biceps femoris). This altered set-up position can have potential compensatory consequences, such as increased rotation and a reverse spine angle and may even increase lower back pain and the risk of injury2 – especially where other dynamic sports are being undertaken. Interestingly though, this APT has been associated with increased sprinting speed3!
In addition to the gluteals becoming weak, another culprit of becoming detrained when we sit for long periods of time is the abdominals. Without strong abdominals during dynamic movements it’s hard for us golfers to transfer high forces up through the body and out to the arms and clubhead during the motion of the golf swing. So, now you could be facing a situation where you have an unstable lower body (weak gluteals) trying to send forces up to a detrained abdominal region. It’s been said before that this scenario is like trying to do the shot put on an ice rink, or fire a canon from a canoe. We call this postural dysfunction excessive anterior pelvic tilt (APT) that is shown on the right side of figure 1 below with a normal posture on the left.
Figure 1. Normal posture (left) and APT (right). Note the forward tilt of the pelvis and the increased arch in the lower back.
Solutions to overcoming APT include strengthening the glutes through exercises such as deadlifts (shown here), squats, hip thrusts or when you’ve limited access to weights – mini-band exercises e.g. Speed Skaters (shown below).
Coaching points: Using a mini band, placed around both legs just above the knee, you should keep the torso tall and skate back and out to the side with alternating legs. You can imagine there is a raw egg behind you on either side, when you skate back you are not allowed to smash the egg with your toe tap on the floor! In other words, control the movement, use that front leg to squat down slightly and then return to a tall standing position after each rep. Complete 3 sets of 6 reps each side to begin.
As well as strengthening the weak areas of APT we also need some flexibility work to take place and correct the tight hip flexors and erector spinae. The following hip flexor exercises involve using a roller to improve the muscle tissue quality and reduce tightness through the hips followed by a hip flexor stretch to increase flexibility in this area.
Coaching points: For the rolling you should do 2 x 30 seconds on each side no more than 3-4 times per week to allow your muscles to recover from the massage effects of rolling. Use the free leg for support to reduce the pressure on the roller if it is too painful to begin with.
Coaching points: The hip flexor stretch should be held for a minimum of 30 seconds on each side and completed every day when warm. You can increase the stretch by reaching tall and leaning slowly over to the side of the front leg. Do not twist the torso at all as you lean. The stretch should be felt on the front of the hip for the trail leg. Ensure the legs are far enough apart if you can’t feel the stretch.
Obviously there are many more exercises available than this, and each programme should be tailored to the individual’s wants and needs. Start by giving these examples a try and look out for our second part to this blog post on upper body postural dysfunctions, how they may affect your swing and what you can do to fix them.
- Bayattork, M., Seidi, F., Minoonejad, H., Andersen, L. L., & Page, P. (2020). The effectiveness of a comprehensive corrective exercises program and subsequent detraining on alignment, muscle activation, and movement pattern in men with upper crossed syndrome: protocol for a parallel-group randomized controlled trial. Trials, 21(1), 1-10.
- Mendiguchia, J., Gonzalez De la Flor, A., Mendez-Villanueva, A., Morin, J. B., Edouard, P., & Garrues, M. A. (2020). Training-induced changes in anterior pelvic tilt: potential implications for hamstring strain injuries management. Journal of Sports Sciences, 1-8.
- Nagahara, R., Matsubayashi, T., Matsuo, A., & Zushi, K. (2017). Kinematics of the thorax and pelvis during accelerated sprinting. The Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness, 58(9), 1253-1263
Dr Ben Langdown is a Senior Lecturer in Sports Coaching at The Open University and has published various journal papers in the area of golf and sports science. Specifically, Ben's research focuses on athlete monitoring, warm-up protocols, and training interventions in the sport of golf. Ben is also a Strength and Conditioning Coach for England Golf and over the past 15 years has provided biomechanics and S&C support to golfers from amateurs through to European (Men’s and Ladies’) Tours and a European Senior Tour Season Champion. Ben has presented at 4 World Golf Fitness Summits and the 2018 World Scientific Congress of Golf, where he also acted as an invited review panel member supporting education for >150 academics/coaches. He has delivered various invited keynote workshops with international organisations, including England Golf, The PGAs of GB&I, Spain, Czech Republic and Slovakia with all adopting his applied approaches. Most recently, Ben has developed the AMI Sports: Golf athlete monitoring app allowing further insight into golfers’ practice, tournaments, training and daily wellbeing.