I recently came across this great video from Tony Morgan and Golf Science Lab explaining what s-posture is the impact it can have on the golf swing:
The video also covers drills to help the golfer get out of s-posture at set-up and here is where I wanted to add my two cents for what it is worth.
S-posture is not just for the golf swing
That extended lumbar spine and anteriorly tilted pelvis position, golfers refer to as s-posture, is actually a really common postural dysfunction in the majority of the population. Terms like lower cross syndrome and anterior pelvic tilt are used to cover all or parts of the phenomenon in the physical therapy/ medical world. S-posture is often the result of muscular imbalances created by our modern sedentary lifestyles (more on this later). This being the case, s-posture is often not a swing fault, as much as an ingrained movement strategy we see across the spectrum of human movement.
In my experience (both as a swing coach in a former life and now as a fitness coach) addressing the issue by swing drills alone often leaves the coach and the athlete hitting their proverbial heads against a brick wall as the golfer is physically unable to what is asked. This often proves particularly true when movement becomes more dynamic, velocity increases and/or fatigue is present - the golfer will revert back to their more default movement patterns in order to create force. We must address those muscular imbalances and underlying faulty movement strategies in conjunction with swing drills, to create an effective outcome that stands up in competition.
I’m not bashing swing coaches here – there are amazing coaches out there, they do a great job and should in my opinion form the lead cog of a players support team – everything I do as S&C is to support the coach and provide them with the best foundation form which to lay sports specific skill. What I am saying is that you need that foundation on which to lay sports specific skill.
So, back to S-posture.
As you recall I said s-posture is a common postural dysfunction in humans and often a result of our sedentary lifestyles – let’s look at that a little more deeply.
Your hips aren't really tight
The first thing people often feel as a result of siting too much is tight hips, or more particularly tight hip flexors/ hamstrings. It is not usually hip flexor or hamstring that is tight but more that the muscles of the glutes and abs have become down regulated, affecting the position of the joint structures and causing the hamstrings and hip flexors to get ‘tight’ or up-regulate in order to provide stability. Alternatively these muscles are pushed into stretched position (by tilting the pelvis forward and extending at the hips and lumbar spine – a.k.a s-posture) in order we can compress the joint and provide stability that way. Either way the take home message is that stretching won’t help solve these problems (see this article for more on why stretching doesn't work), we must solve the issues of joint alignment, muscle down-regulation and lumbo-pelvic control to improve mobility in the hips.
It all starts with breathing
How you breath affects your posture and how you move. Our lifestyles our constant mild stress response, lack of sleep, movement, etc often lead to a stress pattern in our posture where our pelvis turns to the right and our ribcage to the left. This allows more air to enter the left lung than the right every time you breath, gravity also makes it easier to fill the lower part of our lung than the top.
"How you breath affects your posture and how you move
Hyperinflation is basically where we inhale repeatedly without fully exhaling - recall how the lower lungs fill much more easily than the upper lung. Our bodies then accommodate this. With each breath our rib cage shifts forward, our back arches and our pelvis tilts forward. Hey presto you have s-posture.
The fix (a.k.a - the bit you actually wanted me to get to, and wished I’d stop waffling on about breathing)
It is clear then, if a golfer presents extended static posture or general movement strategy, fixing s-posture in his or her golf swing will probably requires more than a coaching cue or swing drill.
Instead we must also look at the joint structures, stabiliser muscle function and breathing mechanics in order to re-set their alignment and re-educate them to maintain this alignment in the presence of dynamic movements.
The three drills below, done in sequence, represent the most effective and time efficient method I currently have for achieving this:
> 90-90 breathing drill
This drill places the athlete in a slight posterior pelvic tilt so they can begin to feel the difference between that and their s-posture anterior pelvic tilt. It also starts to bring some tension/ activation to the core as well as address hyperinflation and breathing mechanics.
The key here is to push down with the feet to give you some hamstring activation and pull the tail bone off the ground by activating the core and glutes - this pulls the pelvis towards the rib cage and creates better core alignment.
Inhale through your nose, using your diaphragm and not the muscles of the chest and shoulders to breath - try to fill all 360 degrees of your belly with air. Exhale forcefully and fully, as if trying to blow out 100 candles. The aim is to maintain that exhale for twice as long as you inhale. Once fully exhaled try to pause for a second of two before inhaling again. Complete 4-6 breaths - after the first breath breathe against those contracted abs your first full exhale created.
> Half-kneeling KB lift
The half-kneeling position is a great opportunity to stretch the hip flexors and develop lumbo-pelvic control, if done correctly.
Get into a half-kneeling position, with the rear femur (upper leg) at right angles to the floor. You may also need a pad under the knee to keep the pelvis from tilting down on one side. From there contract your glute and abs to tilt the pelvis backwards – you should notice a surprisingly effective stretch on the hip flexor.
From this position you can do all sorts of movements in this position and the dynamic movement challenges the golfer to maintain that neutral pelvis they’ve just created. One of my favourites is to add a KB lift/ chop - this increases the challenge to pelvic stability, promotes good shoulder movement and develops core strength.
Grab a kettlebell by the horns and hold to the side of you (same side as down leg), from this position pull the kettlebell to your sternum before pushing over the opposite shoulder. Return the bell to the sternum and finally to the starting position. Inhale as you pull the bell to your sternum and exhale as you raise the bell up overhead, as reverse the movement and lower the below to your sternum inhale and as you lower the bell down from your sternum exhale once again. Fight to keep that neutral pelvic position throughout by keeping the glutes and abs engaged. Complete 5-8 reps on each side.
> Wall hip hinge drill
The hip hinge is a really important movement in the golf swing – golf posture is after all a hip hinge. Many with an extended posture or movement strategy will hip hinge via tilting the pelvis – i.e. going into s-posture. The aim of this drill is to teach the golfer to maintain neutral spine and hinge via hip motion rather than pelvic movement.
Think about pushing the butt back to touch the wall and using your hands help on your hips to provide feedback as to whether or not the pelvis is tilting forwards. The arch in the lower back should not increase.
Once you have completed the drill for a few reps you can take a small step forwards and repeat, challenging you to go through greater ranges of motion. You'll probably want to complete around 8-10 reps with this drill.
The thing I really like about this little intervention series is, as it requires no equipment, the player can use it as a warm-up/ daily corrective exercise sequence. Similarly, the coach can use it as a teaching tool to start to undo some of those faulty patterns and teach better positional awareness and body mechanics during a lesson. Whilst myself, as S&C, can start to load some of those patterns, increasing volume and intensity, building strength and power whilst simultaneously improving movement quality in a way that will positively impact the athletes golf swing mechanics.
A win all round then - and a great example of the importance of the player having a team working together to identify and correct weaknesses.
Interested in having me join your team and helping take your game to the next level?
As part of our personalised online coaching programs we communicate with your swing coach and involve them in the process of setting goals for physical capabilities to ensure the work we do in the gym truly carries over to what you are trying to accomplish on the course.