Five Moves to Improve Your Posture and Your Golf Swing
By Charlene Bendt, PGA
At some point, everyone has probably been told, “Stand up straight!”
Usually, we do for a minute or two, but after a few minutes, gravity gets the best of us and we find ourselves again hunched over our desk, computer or steering wheel.
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When we have good posture, the spine is neutral and the muscles around the spine are active and sharing the load equally. Training these muscles is a great way to help you maintain healthy posture and means less likelihood of aches, pains and injuries. It also leads to increased energy levels, improved breathing and an elevated mood!
Posture is also one of the easiest parts of the golf swing to work on. You can get up from your chair right now and use the exercises below to evaluate and improve your posture, then watch your game reap the benefits, like more consistent balance, ball-striking and engagement of the muscles intended to support your swing
Start With an Assessment
Ideally, this is done facing a mirror. Take a club behind your back. Your long-term goal with posture is for the club to be in a straight line and to touch your tailbone, between the shoulder blades and the back of your head (while keeping the chin level to the ground). Aim to have your ankles, knees, hips, shoulders and ears are stacked.
Notice where you are at the start of the exercises the first time you do them. Reassess after the exercises and integrate the feel of the improvement. The following exercises will help you find the ideal position for upright posture more naturally and, eventually, lead to become your default posture.
Five Posture Perfectors to Try
Unless otherwise indicated below, repeat each movement 8-10 times. Be sure to sync the movements with your inhales and exhales as described.
- Seated Cat/Cow. Begin by sitting up tall on the edge of your seat. As you take a deep inhale, reach your arms out in front of you with your palms up. Draw the shoulder blades down. Stretch your arms to the sides of your body, lifting the chest toward the sky and reaching the palms back behind you as far as you can. Pause for a moment. As you exhale, return the arms to the front of the body, interlace the fingers and push your palms away from you, tucking the chin and rounding out the shoulders and spine.
- Mini Deadlifts. Stand in your best upright posture – like the assessment pose. Hold a golf club in front of you, allowing your arms to hang down in front of your body. Soften the knees, draw the shoulders back and down. Inhale as you hinge forward from the hip joint, keeping the spine long and reaching the top of the head toward the opposite side of the room. Keep the abs engaged to support the spine. On the exhale, push through the feet, fire up the glutes and drive yourself back upright to the starting position. Throughout the exercise, the club should remain close to your body and track vertically along the legs. For a more challenging variation, this exercise can be done while balancing on a single leg.
- Lunge with Lat Pull-Down. Stand in your best upright posture. Step back with your left leg, keeping the feet hip width apart and remaining on the ball of your left foot (this is a balance challenge for the core but if it feels too wobbly, drop the back knee to the ground and work the upper body portion of the exercise). The right knee should track straight toward the middle of the right foot. Holding the golf club, reach the arms up overhead with the palms facing forward. If necessary, bend the elbows so the shoulders can stay soft and away from the ears. On an inhale, straighten the right leg and reach the arms long straight overhead. On the exhale, bend the right knee and draw the elbows down toward the ribs as if you are doing a lat pull down in the gym. The club should move down behind the head and touch the top of your shoulders.
- Plank. These are good for the golf swing in so many ways and that is why they crop up in a lot of fitness articles. This version is done on a chair which makes it a little more accessible and easy to do anywhere. Be sure the chair doesn’t have wheels and is on a solid surface. Center the wrists right under the shoulders and walk your feet back until you are in a straight diagonal line from the top of your head to your heels. Imagine the club is on your back, just like when we are standing upright. Draw the abdominals in and push strongly out through your heels, feeling your whole body engaged. Hold for 10 seconds.
- W Turns. Start with your ideal standing posture. Soften your knees, place the club across your waist and send your hips back behind you so that you establish proper hip hinge. Once you feel you are in an athletic set up position, bring the club behind your head so it rests across your upper back. Keeping the club in place, inhale up to the top of your backswing, then exhale once you’ve made a turn. Inhale back to center, then exhale to pivot toward your finish position. The end of the club should point toward the ground just beyond where the ball would be, never toward the horizon. This exercise helps you feel ideal posture and what it’s like to maintain it in the backswing and through impact.
Once you have completed the routine, perform the assessment again and observe any differences in feel and awareness.
This is a great time of year to integrate fresh routines. Simply checking in with your body and breathing throughout the day or your round of golf will give you an opportunity to adjust as needed. Having a mark on your scorecard every few holes or setting an alarm on your phone are good ways to remind yourself to do so.
In case you need more incentive, upping your posture game can also help with the mental aspects of golf. When we stand tall, we create more space for our primary muscle of respiration, the diaphragm, to move freely and allow us to breathe more deeply. Taking slow, smooth, deep diaphragmatic breaths throughout the round helps with focus, calming nerves, managing energy and regulating heart rate.
You can tell a lot about how a player’s round is going by how they carry themselves. The look of the golfer that is playing well stands tall with shoulders back and takes confident strides down the fairway.