I am guessing that all of us can relate to the title of this article. I am sure you have bent over for that 4 footer (can’t give you that 4 footer, sorry), and felt that lower back feel tired, sore, painful or tight. Regardless of what the word is, you feel it! I also am guessing that some of you have changed to belly putters for the reason that your back hurts when you putt! Even if you are one of those players that has switched to a belly putter because of back pain, that pain is an indicator of something else going on within the body. I am sure we could use the excuse: I am older now and that is just what happens; or maybe we use the “cave man excuse”: humans just were meant to walk on two legs! Regardless of what excuse you use, there is a reason and solution to solve those lower back problems. Even if you don’t realize it, the lower back that you feel when putting is also affecting the other parts of your game (i.e. driving, long irons, chipping, pitching, etc.) This article has the goal of explaining why your back is sore when you putt and what we can do to help alleviate the problem.
Why Does My Lower Back Ache?
Well, let me say this to start. If you are in agreement with the “caveman excuse” you are in the ballpark as to why the lower back begins to ache on the 12th or 13th green. Standing upright, which is a specific posture (keep that word “posture” in mind throughout this article), places stress on the lower back. When I say stress, I am talking about the muscles of your lower back working to support your body in a specific position. The same holds true for when you putt. You get behind the ball, line the putt up, look at the line, maybe crouch down, take a few practice putts, and then away you go. In all the actions described above, your lower back is actively working to maintain posture in all those positions. Do this little activity to give you an idea of what your back is doing all the time to support your body. Take your hand and make a fist. Squeeze that fist as hard as you can for one minute, no less, more if you can. Now relax. How do your hand and forearm feel? Pretty tired, huh, maybe stiff. What you just did is exactly what your lower back does all the time. It is constantly contracting to hold your body upright. After time it gets tired and the result is a sore, stiff, and tight lower back.
Up to this point we understand that the lower back is involved to a great extent in supporting the body. Now, how about when we move? Have you ever felt that back tighten up when you are getting out of a chair, and then you have to wait a second after you stand up before you start walking? Again, I will guess that the majority of us can answer yes to this question. This an example of a movement where the lower back is already fatigued, but nevertheless the lower back is now involved in moving the body, even though it is fatigued. When you walk, run, bend-over, turn, or rotate, your lower back is involved in the movement. The lower back gets a so-to-speak “double whammy” when it comes to what it does for the body. The lower back is involved in both supporting a position in which you place your body and also in the movement of the body. (If you need an example of how much the lower back works during the day, keep your fist clamped for a day, and see how your forearm feels the next day.) So at this point we know the reasons why our back is sore when we step over that 4 footer for birdie (sorry it is still not a gimme in my book, gotta be inside the leather). It is a twofold reason: number one has to do with posture, and number two with movement. Now that we know why our lower back gets sore or tight, how do we fix it?
How to Fix that Aching Lower Back
Before we describe ways to fix the lower back let us first give some suggestions to those who already have severe lower back problems. I would first suggest you see your personal physician. Always better safe than sorry. If you are someone who constantly has a sore lower back or you get up every morning with a stiff back, go see your doctor. You never know what might be going on in that lower back area. Quite possibly you may have a problem with a disk, a bone spur, or any number of serious lower back problems. I have seen a lot of these issues in my day, and I will say, number one, it always important to be under the supervision of a physician in such cases, and, number two, if you catch such lower back problems early they are much easier to treat than the ones that linger. So do yourself a favor and go see your physician before things get worse.
Now, on to how to help eliminate the lower back that tires on the back nine of your weekly round. We know from above that we are using the back “24-7” so to speak. Golfing requires the lower back to work even harder than normal. This is a result of the rotating, stabilizing, and power production required of the swing. The lower back is getting tired because it is neither strong enough nor does it have enough endurance within its muscles to support the activities you perform on a daily basis!
I am betting by now you have a pretty good idea of what to do to rid yourself of that lower back soreness. The lower back must become stronger and increase its endurance capacities. This will increase the durability of the lower back to withstand the stresses placed upon it during your daily activities. Strength can be defined as having enough force production with your muscles to perform a certain activity, and endurance is having enough energy in those muscles to do an activity over and over again. These are simplified definitions, but they work well for what we are talking about. Strength in relation to the lower back has to do with the ability to maintain postures. You must get the lower back strong enough to maintain the postures of the activities you participate in (i.e. golf). Endurance in the lower back is creating enough stored energy in the lower back muscles to do to whatever activity it is that you do over and over again without getting tired (i.e. golf swing).
The combination of strengthening the lower back and creating more endurance within these muscles creates the highest probability of the lower back staying healthy for all activities. The next question you probably have is: what are the proper exercises I should perform to get my back in better shape for golf?
Sean Cochran is one of the most recognized golf fitness instructors in the world today. He travels the PGA Tour working working with most notably PGA and Masters Champion Phil Mickelson. Learn more about Sean and his golf fitness programs at http://www.bioforcegolf.com