Is Your Desk Ruining Your Golf Swing?

by @HolistictFitSF & @BenLangdown

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, Ben Langdown, Sports Scientist, Golf Strength & Conditioning Coach and Ph.D. in the field of Golf Biomechanics and Swing Variability, 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 last November, 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 lower crossed syndrome, the swing faults or injuries that commonly 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: Lower Crossed Syndrome

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 lower and upper crossed syndromes (see Janda, 1987 & 1988 for further research). 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, I’m going to focus on how desk posture leads to lower crossed syndrome and what you can do to fix it.

The habit of sitting over a period of years can lead to the main muscles in your golf swing becoming lazy, including the gluteals, also known as your buttocks! In your swing, the gluteals provide stability, rotation and power. If these important muscles aren’t firing properly, a variety of swing faults can emerge. Along with the gluteals not firing effectively, the hip flexors (the muscles on the front of the hips) and the lower back often become tight from too much desk time, which can lead to an altered pelvis position (too much forward tilt) when you address the golf ball. This altered set-up position can have consequences such as over-rotation (reversed spine angle) and may even increase the risk of injury and lower back pain.

In addition to the gluteals becoming weak, another culprit of adopting a lazy attitude and becoming weak when we sit for long periods of time is the abdominals. Without strong and functional abdominals it’s nearly impossible for us golfers to transfer 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 lazy 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 Lower Crossed Syndrome (LCS) and this is shown on the right side of figure 1 below with a normal posture on the left.

lowercrossed

Figure 1. Normal posture (left) and LCS (right). Note the forward tilt of the pelvis and the increased arch in the lower back.

Solutions to overcoming LCS include strengthening the glutes through exercises such as Speed Skaters. 

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 LCS 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 more exercises to complete than this but start by giving these exercises a try and look out for my blog post next week on upper body postural dysfunctions, how they affect your golf swing and what you can do to fix them.