When I see videos and commercials of the guys on Tour working out in the gym and doing exercises like squats, deadlifts, and Russian twists it worries me.
I’m not then surprised when I find out that they’ve developed a low back injury.
Do you know that 80 percent of injuries in golf right now are low back injuries?
And 25 percent of the guys on Tour right now have a low back injury.
Now that’s insane, but to me it’s not surprising.
And I know there’s a lot of finger pointing going on about what’s causing it.
People are blaming the swing itself. Modern swing vs Classic swing.
Phil Mickelson says you can take that modern swing and wrap it in a back brace.
Now there is something to be said about the stress on the low back when you slam your lumbar spine into end-range of motion…
but there’s much more to the story than that.
Your spine is a flexible rod, and because it’s a flexible rod it can’t bear load.
In order for your spine to bear load it requires a guy-wire system to stabilize it.
These are your core muscles.
It’s no coincidence that on either end of your spine are 4 ball-and-socket joints.
These are your hips and shoulders.
They are designed to generate power.
Power is force x velocity
That means your hips and shoulders can move a heavy load through a wide range of motion and they can do so rather quickly.
That’s what ball and socket joints are designed to do.
The joints in your spine are your discs.
Your discs are NOT ball-and-socket joints.
They’re fibrocartilaginous joints.
Your discs are collagen fibres stacked on top of each other, layer by layer and held together by a ground substance.
Your discs are an adaptable fabric.
They are NOT designed to generate power.
Exercises like Russian twists generate spine power, because your spine is rotating a weight.
Recall, power = force x velocity.
The implication is that if your spine is rotating the load must be kept as low as possible, that way the power is as low as possible.
Asking your spine to rotate under load is literally like trying to create rotational force with a t-shirt – the fabric will eventually delaminate and tear.
I will say that again, if you continuously generate spine power, your discs will eventually delimitate and tear.
That’s what a disc tear is.
What about squats and deadlifts?
The ground substance holding your collagen fibres together can adapt.
It can change how tightly the collagen fibers in your discs are held together.
If the collagen fibers are held together tightly the discs will be very stiff and therefore very good at bearing load.
This is important if you’re a power lifter or a NFL middle lineman.
If the collagen fibres are a little looser the discs will be more mobile and they will act more like elastic springs.
They will be better at storing and recovering elastic energy.
Golfers want these types of discs.
If you’ve played golf for a long time then your discs have adapted to be like elastic springs – meaning your collagen fibres are held together a little looser and are more mobile.
And that’s good for golf.
So you have mobile discs from playing golf and now you ask your spine to bear heavy load by doing deadlifts and squats.
This places enormous stress on your discs.
In the middle of our discs is a nucleus.
And that nucleus contains a gel.
When we do squats or deadlifts a great deal of turgor (pressure) develops inside that gel.
But you’re a golfer and you’re collagen fibres are not held together very tightly.
So because of that turgor and because you have loose collagen fibres, that gel is forced to the outside of the disc damaging the outer annulus fibers.
That’s what a disc bulge is.
And if it rips through the annulus fibers, that’s what a disc herniation is.
Right now you might be saying “but I golf and I do deadlifts and my back doesn’t hurt”.
Tolerance and Capacity
Every tissue has a tolerance and a capacity.
Tolerance = how much load the tissue can take before it becomes injured.
Capacity = sum total of work a tissue can endure over a given amount of time – a workout session, a day, a week, etc..
Everything you do is either good for your back or bad for your back.
You’re either adding capacity or taking away capacity.
Capacity is a COMMODITY and there’s a limit to it.
It’s like money.
You’re either putting money in the bank or you’re taking money out of the bank.
If you’re a golfer and have spring-like discs with loose collagen fibres then doing squats, deadlifts, or Russian twists is waisting the capacity in your discs.
You’re just always pulling money out of the bank to buy useless things.
And if you keep doing that you’re going to end up in overdraft.
Biological overdraft is what pain is.
Chronic low back pain means that you’re discs are in BIOLOGICAL DEBT.
If you’re a golfer and you’re doing squats, deadlifts, or Russian twists you’re waisting your discs capacity and if you don’t have low back pain now you eventually will.
In future articles I will show you how to increase the capacity in your low back and how train your joints and tissues to become elastic springs.
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I’m a Kinesiologist, Golf Fitness Specialist, Corrective Exercise Specialist, and Nutritionist.
As a member of the American College of Sports Medicine and National Academy of Sports Medicine I’ve helped hundreds of people recover from low back pain and reach their full athletic potential , including many Olympic and professional athletes.
The focus of my 20 year career is on golfers.
If you’d like help reaching your full potential sign up for a free 30 minute consultation where you can discuss some of your key health goals and concerns with me directly
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