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These 3 Exercises Will Keep Your Back Safe on the Golf Course

tips on how to keep your back safe on the golf course

As the weather warms and spring approaches, nearly 24 million Americans will be eager to dust off their clubs and get back on the golf course, according to the National Golf Foundation. Golf is considered a safe, accessible sport that takes skill and concentration more than speed and power to be successful. However, golf injuries can and do happen.

A review of studies published in British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that spine injuries—and in particular lower back injuries—were the most common form of golf injury in amateur golfers, accounting for between one-fifth and one-third of all golf injuries. Repetitive motion, a poor swing and a lack of physical conditioning were the main culprits in golf injury.

Golf requires a certain baseline of fitness to keep your body—especially your back—safe, and core strengthening will go a long way to protecting your lower back, also known as the lumbar spine. Contrary to popular belief, the core is more than just the abdominal muscles. It encompasses basically every musculoskeletal structure in the torso—everything besides the arms, legs and head.

At Edison Spine Center, our goal is to keep your back safe and healthy so you can do what you love. If what you love is golf, here are some exercises you can do to keep you out on the links and shouting “Fore!” all spring and summer.

Planks

For a tour-ready core, we recommend one exercise over all others: the plank. The plank is the grand-daddy of all core exercises because it does not load the spine, does not need specialized equipment to perform, can be done almost anywhere and is incredibly safe and effective.

Get into the top of a pushup position. Tighten your torso and don’t let your stomach sag to the ground. That’s it! Hold here for as long as you can, then rest and repeat two more times. If you’re a beginner, aim for three sets of 10 second holds. As you get stronger, work your way up to 30 seconds each.

Other exercises, such as kettlebell swings and deadlifts, can also be very effective for strengthening the lower back. However, these exercises require practice, as well as careful instruction and supervision. Failure to keep good form or a lack of knowledge of how to perform the exercises can lead to catastrophic back injury. You also need either a gym membership or expensive equipment in your home to do them. Planks, on the other hand, are very simple and perfectly safe.

Seated Rotations

This exercise can help limber up your lumbar spine and keep your back safe as you follow through on every swing. Rotation is a key component to a good golf swing, and a good golf swing is integral in protecting your lower back.

Sit in a chair or on a bench. Grab a golf club and hold it on your shoulders behind your neck (this will keep you upright and in good posture). Without moving your hips, slowly turn your upper body to the left. Come back through the center and turn to the right. Repeat for 10 reps (left-center-right-center is one rep). Do three sets.

This is a great warmup exercise before you start your 9 or 18 holes. You can do it standing up before you tee off. Just make sure to keep your feet firmly on the green; otherwise, perform it the same way you would if you were sitting.

Glute Bridges

The glute bridge is not strictly a core or lower back exercise. It activates the gluteus maximus muscles—the buttocks, the largest and strongest muscles of the body—and stretches the hip flexors. Weak glutes and tight hip flexors are big contributors to lower back pain. The hip flexor muscles pull down on the pelvis, and in many people the glutes are too weak to counteract that pulling force.

The result is called anterior pelvic tilt, where the “wings” of the pelvis point down toward the floor. Anterior pelvic tilt can cause problems with walking mechanics, as well as an extreme curvature of the lower back called kyphosis. Some degree of kyphosis is natural for the lower back, but too much can put pressure on the individual lumbar vertebrae, which can lead to back pain.

To perform the glute bridge, lay on your back with your feet flat on the floor, knees pointed up. Squeeze your buttocks and lift it off the floor until you’re making a straight line from the knees, through the thighs and torso to the shoulders. Hold it for a breath or two, then lower back down. If you’re a beginner, start with three sets of five and work your way up to three sets of 10.

Take Care of Your Spine

If you are experiencing lower back pain, Edison Spine Center can help. Our surgeons have more than 50 years of combined experience treating back pain due to a variety of causes. We employ multiple modes of treatment, including nonoperative care and minimally invasive surgery. We can diagnose the cause of your back pain and develop a treatment plan that’s right for you and your lifestyle.