“Your handicap may lie, but your hips don’t”. -Shakira
Okay, so maybe my memory of Shakira lyrics leaves a little bit to interpretation, but one thing is for sure, our golf swing starts from the ground up in more ways than one. The first large rotary center (very important thing) that we reach on our journey up from the ground are our hips. We’re going to give you a bit of a crash course in some key anatomy as well as how this ball and socket help us hit another ball towards its own “socket”.
The biggest muscles for our hips are our gluteal muscles, which are made up of three separate muscles; gluteus minimus, gluteus medius, and gluteus maximus. These are often referred to as the “glutes”. They help us squat, rotate, and maintain our standing posture in day to day life as well as during the golf swing. If we neglect care of them, many nearby structures will take up the slack, most notably, the lumbar spine.
Another major player when it comes to our hips and golf is the iliopsoas which is two separate muscles, iliacus and psoas, that form “one” larger muscle. As you can see this muscle covers a ton of area and is deep within our abdominal cavity. It reaches from as high as T12-L3 vertebras all the way down to our lesser trochanter of the femur (see photo below).
Now, the iliopsoas helps maintain our posture during the golf swing, but a lot of the issues we find with it result from the large amount of time most of us spend sitting in front of a computer at work, in the car, and in front of the TV just to name a few. The issue comes from the muscle being in its shortened position for long durations while we are in hip flexion and then we head out on the golf course to walk 18 holes. During that time, we place large amounts of rotational force through our lumbar spine upwards of 70,80,90, and even over 100 times.
Finally, the last of the hip musculature we want to address is a little guy that can cause a whole lot of ruckus when he gets upset. The Tensor Fascia Lata or TFL for short, is a key contributor to stabilizing the pelvis during standing, walking, or running. In addition, it helps with the movement or stabilize just about every motion our hip does, but more on those movements later. The TFL is often aggravated in the posting leg of active golfers, but can be a culprit in trail leg issues as well.
The golf swing requires a high demand from the hips regarding range of motion and overall strength. There are four main motions that occur at the hip during a typical golf swing; flexion/extension and internal/external rotation. If you look at the photo below, it will give you a good picture of what each of those motions are. Note: the view on the left is looking at the right hip from the right side.
Now as for those motions in the golf swing, that’s where things start to get a bit busy. When we address the ball, most of us go into about 10-20 degrees of hip flexion (this number may vary) and we stay in this position of flexion until after impact where we start extending our hips but ideally, we do not exit true “flexion” until the absolute end of posting, or else we get into early extension swing faults which goes down another path. This is pretty much the extent of “forward and backward” motion in our hips or flexion/extension.
Next up is the big guy, hip internal rotation or IR as we like to call it. This is the one that gives most golfers most issues. Your average PGA touring pro has around or greater than 45 degrees of hip internal rotation on both sides. Now your average desk jockey (or student) probably struggles to get to 25 or 35 degrees as we spend so much time sitting. If you can’t reach this full rotation, usually it’s our low back that takes up the slack in a motion that it was definitely not designed for.
Stand up right quick and take a practice swing, but hold the finish. Feel how on your posting leg, your pelvis feels almost like it’s about to fold over on top of your thigh bone? That’s internal rotation folks!
A Quick Helper for Hip IR
One of the biggest culprits to limited hip internal rotation is an overactive tensor fascia lata or TFL for short. Feel free to bounce back up to the section on the TFL above for a quick refresher if you need!
Similar to some of the shoulder activities we showed you recently, this too also involves a softball or a lacrosse ball (start with the softball). Place it right where your pocket opening would be on a pair of shorts, not a pair of jeans with the top entry pocket, but your standard pocket opening. You will lay on the ground and go slightly side lying so that you can get a good amount of weight into the ball and begin to work around the area of the pocket, up to the crest of your hip bone and down about 1/3 of the way towards your knee on the outside of the leg. If you drive your knee into the ground this will help fire the TFL and allow you to find any more tender spots or trigger points that may be causing issues with your mobility
As always we hope this article was helpful and feel free to shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions!
Western Carolina University
Physical Therapy Intern, Summer 2017