When most people think about posture, they think about the position of the back, says Golf Digest fitness advisor Ralph Simpson. But what about the position of your head? Is it stacked over your torso or protruding a bit?
According to the Mayo Clinic, forward head posture (FHP) can lead to a wide variety of health issues including muscle strains, arthritis, disc herniations, pinched nerves . . . in other words, all the typical problems Simpson sees in his golfer patients as a physical therapist. You can tack on tendinitis, respiratory issues and sleep disorders, too, he says.
Why does poor head posture lead to so many problems? Here is a simple physics analogy to help you understand what's going on. If you took a 25-pound dumbbell and held it close to your body so your forearm is vertical, it's not that difficult to manage. But hold that same dumbbell with your forearm pointing 15 degrees away from your body, and your muscles will fatigue much quicker. Considering that the average human head weighs roughly 10 to 12 pounds, it makes sense that the added stress of holding it in a forward position would eventually radiate down through the body.
FHP is even more likely for golfers, Simpson says, since the head and trunk already are tilted forward when they address the ball. Poor head posture in the golf swing is a key factor in many rotational swing issues and can exacerbate injuries to the lower back. Here Tom Watson demonstrates a golfer standing in good address posture vs. bad address posture. Just like the photo above of FedEx Cup champion Billy Horschel at address, note the positions of the head. You almost want to feel like the neck muscles are pulling it back when you stand over the ball, Simpson says.
The good news is that Simpson has a simple exercise you can do to help correct your head posture. Add it to your workout routine and you might soon find a number of your health issues start to vanish. Click on the video below to see him demonstrate.
Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.*
(Photo by Dom Furore)