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It's all in the hips

Tight hips can drain your power and hurt your back—4 ways to fix it

August 18, 2023

Low-back pain and golf are intrinsically linked, and that's because the wrong part of the body is often recruited to swing the club.

The rotational requirements needed to effectively and powerfully swing a club should come from the hips and the mid-back, says Dan Shipman, one of Golf Digest's 50 Best Fitness Trainers in America. Unfortunately, many golfers rely too heavily on the lumbar region of their spine to get the club around.

As Shipman, a Golf Digest Certified Fitness Trainer, explains:

"For many recreational golfers, the issue is the reversal of the roles of the hips and the lumbar spine. An ideal golf swing requires a golfer to rotate their hips while keeping their spine in a neutral position. The hips often don’t rotate because they have tightened to help create stability that the lower body is lacking down the chain."

He continues:

"Tight hips can cause the body to look for rotational ability from other places. Our bodies will look above and below the problem joint first. Below the hips are the knees and above the hips is the lumbar spine. Those joints can't rotate a whole lot. And when they do, it can cause a lot of wear and tear."

Turn your hips, not your spine

According to Shirley Sahrmann, professor of physical therapy at University Washington in St. Louis, the lower lumbar spine can only handle 13 degrees of rotation while the upper thoracic spine can handle up to 47 degrees.

"When we think of golf, how much rotation are we trying to get—a lot more than 13 degrees," Shipman says. "So that back pain you are experiencing might not stem from walking 18 holes or your posture, it might just be from rotating the wrong part of your body in your swing."

The good news, Shipman says, is that increasing hip mobility can help to reduce back pain. By improving the range of motion in the hips, golfers can achieve a more efficient and effective swing while also reducing the risk of injury. Your body will rotate more using your helps, start relying less on the lumbar spine for the rotation and will be able to properly use the hips.

Shipman has a hip-mobility progression to incorporate into your workout routine. Click on the video to watch him demonstrate.

4 moves to help...

For more on Golf Digest's Fitness Trainer Certification program, click here.