For the past few years there has been a debate in the fitness/physical therapy/rehab worlds about the answer to this question. Does posture matter? Now, before you say “of course”, I will have you know that there is tons of research that supports the argument that posture doesn’t really matter. But doesn’t matter for what? Pain? Performance? Emotional state? Most of the studies that have come out are trying to look at whether or not posture causes pain. I will be the first to let you know that there is no direct causation of pain from poor posture. That’s right, a physical therapist is telling you that the scientific community has been coming to the same conclusion for a few years now, that sitting with shitty posture will not directly cause you pain.
This, however, is a really loaded conclusion. What if someone has a herniated disc in their neck? Will sitting for hours on end cause that herniation to start producing symptoms? Will sitting with rounded shoulders like Quazimoto result in rotator cuff tears if that posture is then brought to the golf course and swung on round after round? Even after the conclusion that posture has no direct causation of pain in one’s neck, shoulders, or low back, it can change your biomechanics which can ultimately result in injuries. Why increase the risk of injuries and pain if you don’t have to?
“Poor” posture therefore is subjective, but typically can be defined as rounded shoulders, a forward head, increase in the rounding of your upper back, and maybe even a flattening of the curve of your low back. This all leads to increased stresses on the muscles of the front of your neck and between your shoulder blades. At the same time, there is a shortening of your pecs, and the muscles on the back of your neck. This is a condition known as Upper Crossed Postural Syndrome. By itself this doesn’t necessarily cause pain, but with rounded shoulders comes decreased joint space in your shoulders. This can lead to fraying of your biceps tendon, rotator cuff tendons, and labrum, and weakness in your neck leading to increased tension. All these things don’t sound too beneficial for your golf game do they.
So, I’d like to think that we know posture does matter for the health of your muscles, tendons, bones, discs, etc. But does posture matter for golf performance? Typically, someone with this sort of “poor” posture will set up over the ball and have a C posture. This C is indicative that there is some tightness and weakness in the muscles mentioned above, or a conceptual issue with set-up position.
If an understanding of set-up posture is not the issue, the physical limitations that occur with a C posture will lead to an inefficient, limited, and possibly painful swing. A C posture will actually lead to limited spinal rotation in your thoracic spine. This part of your spine that the ribs attach to is one of the main centers of rotation during your swing. The other being the hips. If you cannot rotate well because your spine is rounded forward your body will try to find rotation elsewhere, likely your low back. There is also a chance you will add some lateral movement to your swing, and fake rotation of your shoulders by sliding your shoulder blades around on your back. All of these will lead to power leaks and less distance than a true rotational swing.
There are other implications of a rounded posture on your performance. Rounded shoulders and a flexed posture will actually limit your ability to inhale. Sit up tall right now. Take a big breath in through your nose. Now, slouch a little, and do the same thing. There’s a big difference isn’t there. Difficulty getting oxygen in and carbon dioxide (CO2) out will lead to CO2 building up in your blood which will drive up your respiratory rate. Your body will go into a Sympathetic Nervous System Response. Basically, your body will think you are under a threat, and it will increase your blood pressure, slow down your digestion, elevate cortisol and adrenaline levels, increases heart rate, and tightens muscles. Good luck hitting that put on the 18th.
Lastly, a rounded posture can actually lead to decreased confidence. This goes for on the golf course, or in the boardroom. A more upright, less rounded posture will lead to an increase in your confidence in your choices, ease in maintain more positive thinking, as well as an increase in happiness. All of these are beneficial to take to the course.
So, it’s pretty clear than posture DOES matter. It matters for your health and it matters for your golf game. But what can you do if you notice you have a C posture on or off the course? First, I’d highly suggest heading over and signing up for The Daily Habit. Here you will be able to sign up to receive weekly e-mails that deliver golf specific exercises to help you move and feel your best. You can bet there will be daily mobility, flexibility, and stability drills to help address your posture. But, to get you started, you should look below and start with the 3 exercises below.
Cobras - 2-4 sets of 5
Open Books - 2-4 sets of 8 each side
Shoulder Dislocates 2-4 sets of 10