One of the most epidemic movement dysfunctions in golf is the inability for the right handed player to rotate around their lead hip. I have had the pleasure of working with hundreds of professional and amateur players over my 20 years focusing on golf specific strengthening and let me assure you this is normal.
You see, over 92% of the world is right hand dominate and an even greater number of left hand dominate players like Henrik Stenson are left handed yet play golf right handed. I have taken hundreds of hours of continuing education and the only organization that I’ve come across that teaches you to treat left and right handed individuals differently is the Postural Restoration Institute (PRI). Through my work with PRI I have come to realize how handedness, eye dominance and malocclusion all affect how we swing a golf club. I will be writing a series of articles that will break down in layman’s terms what I have learned over the past 20 years of treating golfers. The purpose will be to give our patients and clients an easy to understand explanation of how to improve their golf bodies.
In the clinical setting they will typically demonstrate that their pelvis is tipped forward on the left side
The right handed patterned golfer has a tendency to rely on their right side more than their left to do things like lining up a drive, read a putt, picking a ball out of the hole, teeing a ball up, and wait for another player to hit or swing the club. Watch Tiger Woods and you will see the best example of this. The habit of using your right side while neglecting your left makes people asymmetrical. Sprinkle on top of that the thousands of times right handed golfers turn their shoulders to the right to make a backswing and it is predictable that their body will take on a new form.
This is the start of what is driving them to bear weight more on their right side. They will have muscles in their abdomen and hips adapt to the new position and then make adjustments in the thorax to compensate. When this happens the right shoulder will usually tip forward and they excessively side bend to the right, and stay side bent throughout their swing. As you can see in the young golfer below, the spine becomes twisted and the right side of the neck has increased demands placed on it.
When performing our assessment of the golfer they will demonstrate more pelvis rotation in the backswing to the right and very little pelvic rotation to the left at impact. They will struggle balancing on their left leg compared to the right and show a flat shoulder plane in the backswing because of the over dominate right abdominals. We use K-vest to capture this data to offer the objective numbers that help guide our corrective program. The k-vest data that is typical of this program is seen below.
When assessing the video analysis we use a down the line view that will show the pelvis has moved towards the golf ball at impact compared to where it was at address. This swing characteristic is called early extension and is often coupled with increased flexion of the lead knee as seen on the right.
Ideally we would like to see the hips still on the line drawn behind the body and the left knee generally straight. The following exercises are designed to correct the physical limitations that are the possible cause for this swing fault.
The golfer with a forward pelvis is more likely to injure their back and lose distance. The following program will help most golfers who struggle with low back pain and are the short hitters in their group. It is not by any means a comprehensive program and please perform these exercises after obtaining permission from your physician.
- Lie on your back with your feet flat on a wall and your knees and hips bent at a 90-degree angle. Place a 4-6 inch ball between your ankles and a band around your knees.
- Place a 4-8 pound weight in your right hand and straighten your right arm towards the ceiling.
- Inhale through your nose and as you exhale through your mouth, perform a pelvic tilt so that your tailbone is raised slightly off the mat. Keep your back flat on the mat. Do not press your feet flat into the wall instead dig down with your heels.
- Shift your left knee down or your right knee up so that your left knee is slightly below your right knee.
- Rotate your right thigh out against the band. You should feel the muscles on your right outside hip (buttock) engage.
- Inhale through your nose and as you exhale through your mouth, reach your right hand up towards the ceiling as you rotate your palm so it is facing toward your feet.
- Inhale through your nose as you maintain the reach with your right arm. You should feel the muscles underneath your right shoulder blade engage. Exhale through your mouth and reach further.
- Repeat this breathing sequence for 4-5 deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth.
- Relax and repeat 4 more times.
Restore: It is imperative to restore normal function of the left hip after repositioning it to its neutral position. Your body will likely find this extremely challenging. The purpose of this exercise is to train the inner thigh and outside hip to properly stabilize the pelvis as your hip rotates over a stable leg.
- Lie on your right side with your right hip and knee bent at a 90-degree angle and your right foot placed on the wall.
- Keep your left hip neutral and place your left knee on a bolster so that it is below the level of your left hip.
- Place your right arm or a pillow under your head and keep your back and neck relaxed.
- Press your right foot into the wall.
- Press your left knee down into the bolster feeling your left inner thigh engage.
- With your right foot pushing into the wall and your left knee down, slowly raise your left lower leg up towards the ceiling. You should feel the muscle on your left outer hip (buttock) engage.
- Slowly lower and raise your left lower leg 10 times while keeping your left outer hip (buttock) muscle engaged.
- Relax and repeat 2 more times.
Retrain: Once your body is in the proper position and you are aware how to properly activate the muscles needed to incorporate an efficient golf swing it is time to train it.
- Stand facing a table, desk or a counter top.
- Place a 2-inch block underneath your left foot.
- Place your right foot on the ground ahead of your left.
- Round out your back and place forearms on the surface.
- Shift your left hip back so that your pant zipper is towards your left big toe. You should feel a stretch in your left outer hip (buttock). The majority of your weight should be on your left leg, through your left mid-foot/heel.
- Keeping your left hip back, inhale through your nose as you slightly squat by bending both knees.
- Exhale through your mouth as you push through your left mid-foot/heel and straighten both knees. You should feel the muscles on the front of your left thigh and left outer hip (buttock) engage.
- Repeat this breathing sequence for a total of 4-5 deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth, slightly squatting with each inhalation and returning to the starting position on exhalation.
- Relax and repeat 4 more times.
The next time you struggle with low back pain or lack of distance understand that you may be fighting a strong pattern that can be corrected with the right approach. Keep it in the fairway.