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Fitness Friday: Help for your sore lower back

Every week my colleague Ron Kaspriske, Golf Digest Fitness Editor, presents Fitness Friday on the Instruction Blog. This week he talks about a problem common to many golfers, including me: a sore lower back. Look for Weekend Tip tomorrow, and remember to follow me on Twitter: @RogerSchiffman.

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest

Here's Ron: Perhaps more than any other spot on the body, golfers feel soreness and pain in the lower back. The bad news is that the dynamics of a golf swing aren't particularly good for the five vertebrae of your lower back (known as the lumbar spine). Over time, even the most fit golfers might experience issues with this region simply because the human body wasn't designed to swing a golf club correctly. The good news, however, is that you can greatly reduce your chances of pain and injury if you improve the mobility of your mid-back vertebrae (known as the thoracic or "t" spine).
 
Physical therapist and fitness expert Gray Cook (@graycookpt) first introduced me to a concept several years ago that the body is made up of alternating mobility and stability joints. In the case of your spine, your lumbar discs have some flexibility, but not a considerable amount when it comes to twisting. They need to be relatively stable when you swing a club. The thoracic vertebrae, however, are very flexible. They need to be mobile.
 
So what often happens to golfers who suffer back pain is that they aren't particularly mobile in their mid-back region, so they rely more on the lumbar spine to rotate the body. Since the lumbar discs are twisting more than they should, it causes pain and injury. Under Cook's theory, if you can handle much of the upper body's rotational needs with your flexible thoracic spine, you'll probably avoid a trip to an orthopedist.
 
One such exercise that can really improve your t-spine mobility is the modified Russian twist on a physio ball. It not only trains you to rotate through your mid-back, but it also strengthens the glutes and hips, which provide a stable platform allowing the upper body to rotate back and forth. PGA Tour pro Camilo Villegas is among many golfers who train with the Russian twist. And if you're a fan of my 20-in-20 workouts, you can add it to your routine. To watch me demonstrate the Russian twist, click on the video below.
 
Ron Kaspriske
Fitness Editor
Golf Digest

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