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Golfers & Back Pain

Part 2 – Which Is Better: Mobility or Stability?

Golfer's pop quiz: Would you rather have mobility or stability throughout your body?

Trick question. You want both! First, let’s discuss some definitions of these terms.

  • Mobility: the ability to achieve a certain position, either actively or passively

  • Stability: the ability to maintain control of this position and generate power from it

When we are talking about mobility, several things may come to mind for you: Being able to touch your toes, or getting into that difficult yoga pose or trying to get the ball out of the hole after your birdie putt. While these are some great examples of global stability, meaning big compound movements, we also need to discuss specific mobility. In very few cases does someone have restrictions in all planes of movement of all joints. This would make nearly every part of life exceptionally difficult. Instead, you likely have restrictions in particular planes of movement in specific directions. This is particularly important due to the nature of the golf swing. We have to be able to achieve consistent positions that are reproducible and not painful. If you have a restriction that reduces your mobility, then you won’t even be able to get into the position!

So what if you are able to touch your toes, do a perfect downward dog and squat all of the way to the floor – but you still can’t manage a consistent and productive golf swing? Now we start to discuss stability. Stability is your ability to own a position. What do I mean by this? Let’s say you are able to squat all of the way to the floor. That’s solid. But are you able to deadlift 100 lbs. from the floor? Can you stay in that squat and breathe comfortably? These questions pertain to your stability – that is to say the ability of your muscles and nervous system to work together to control the position and to generate power when needed. I’ve worked with plenty of people who have fantastic mobility but cannot achieve stability for anything. This causes a lot of problems when it comes to function and sport performance. If you can’t generate any power, you cannot be an effective athlete.

So how does this relate to your golf swing? Excellent question. When your golf professional asks you to achieve a certain position in your backswing, are you able to do it? If the answer is yes, that’s great! Now here’s the next question: can you get there during a swing and then generate power from this position? This is where we typically start to fall apart.

Mobility and stability are particularly relevant when the low back is concerned. Very often, the low back becomes the scapegoat for your poor mechanics. We discussed this in the first blog post in this series. When we perform your first Titleist Performance Institute Screen, we will be looking at both mobility and stability in many positions to evaluate how it may be affecting your golf swing.

Here’s a way you can check your mobility and stability today:

  1. Stand in your normal golf swing posture without holding a club.

  2. While keeping your upper body and knees still, try to tilt your pelvis forward, then backward, then back to start position.

How did it feel? Did you get some quality movement both forward and backward? If so, that’s great! You have some solid mobility there. Now let me ask you this. What did it look like? Were your hips moving like you were doing the hula during an earthquake? We call this the ole shake and bake. This is a very common sign of lacking stability in your core and hip complex. Try to perform this exercise several times a day over the next week to see if you can improve your performance.

In our next blog post in this series, we are going to examine the top causes of low back pain in golfers and how they tie in to mobility and stability.

Have questions in the meantime? Email me

See you next time,Ryan

Dr. Belmore is a doctor of physical therapy, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and Titleist Performance Institute Certified golf specialist. 


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