Hips don’t lie…
By Esmiralda Swart – Strength and Conditioning Specialist at TGSE
Hip mobility is a common problem among golfers. Limited hip rotation can be caused either by a physical limitation or poor movement patterns. When the hips don’t move we can expect to see some compensatory movements in the swing and also some swing faults. Limited hip rotation can also increase your risk of developing an injury.
Hip rotation in the swing is important because it helps with speed generation and transferring energy to the club head. The most common swing faults associated with limited hip rotation are a sway and a slide. Limited hip rotation can also cause a reverse spine angle in the swing, hanging back, early extension and a loss of posture. Most of these swing faults are dependent on the side of the limitation. These swing faults also tend to place a lot of pressure and strain on the lower back.
There are two tests that can be used to evaluate the hips. The lower quarter rotation test can be used to assess the amount of range in the hips during the backswing and downswing and on each specific hip (left and right) and the pelvic rotation test that can be used to assess the quality of movement in the hips (rotational versus more lateral movement).
On the left we see a golfer that presented with limited right hip internal rotation on the lower quarter rotation test and a more lateral movement on the pelvic rotation test. In the swing we can see that he exhibits reverse spine angle. Right hip internal rotation and proper pelvic rotation is important for rotating the hips fully and efficient movement in the swing.
On the right we see his swing after he performed the drills and stretches over a period of time. There was a marked improvement not only in the movements and swing but also in the amount of strain the player experienced during the backswing.
How we improve hip mobility will depend on what the cause of the limitation is. Tightness in the soft tissue (ligaments and muscles) surrounding the hip could be the cause. Other factors that could limit hip mobility is muscle weakness or muscle imbalances or simply poor motor and muscle firing patterns.
Stretches can be done for tissue extensibility problems. These stretches include a hip flexor stretch, a gluteal stretch, hamstring and a quad stretch. Foam rolling and massage will also be beneficial in loosening up the soft tissue around the hip.
Drills that will help with movement patterns and muscle firing patterns include: hip twisters, hip swings and some glute activation exercises.
Proper hip movement and full range in the hips are paramount for an optimal swing. If the hips move well then the body won’t have to work so hard and the swing will be more energy efficient and the player will be able to reach greater club head speed.
Hip movement during testing can give us an idea of what the swing will look like and the hips never lie. To book a golf fitness assessment contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Esmiralda Swart is the Strength & Conditioning Specialist at The Golf School of Excellence Johannesburg Campus. She has a Honours Degree in Sport Science and is a TPI Certifed Level 2 Fitness Professional.