I would like to revisit the “You’ve got structural problems, dude!” part of last week’s blog post. Let’s look at the picture of Tiger in the red shirt again. Here it is:
He appears to be equally balanced on both feet, but what is his right shoulder doing so much lower than the left? Recall that we saw a big twisty movement in the way he walked off the course.
Take a look at this screen shot of him from the back. That right shoulder is still lower, and take a look at that left hip again. This prompted a lot of discussion on how he should best address the problem. Interesting what this doctor had to say on Twitter that day:
He goes from saying “change swing or retire” to “he needs a non surgical rheumatology assessment of his spine”. It is well known in the golf community that Tiger has changed his swing multiple times. Check. Didn’t help. Rheumatology is defined as “any disorder of the extremities or back, characterized by pain and stiffness”. That is a pretty broad definition, eh?
However, you can see with your own eyes that his left hip is twisting all over the place. Taking a rheumatological look at his spine would be taking a look at the place that hurts, which is the symptom. Is it the cause as well?
I think not. Tiger himself identified the fact that his “glutes are shutting off”; “don’t activate and hence, it goes into my lower back.” He figured out the cause, but just isn’t having any luck with the strength and endurance in the glutes. Yet. Yet is the key word here, but I think there is one more elephant in the room that needs to be addressed: that left hip.
The left hip, in my opinion, is the primary cause of his low back misery.
Apparently the guys at Nike tried to tell him the same thing, to no avail. So I have fuel for my fire!
How does one hip cause such misery?
Stand in front of a mirror. Are your hips level? In the same horizontal plane? If they are, try hiking one hip up. What does that shoulder do?
It drops down, but why? Well, the hips are the foundation of your upper body. If one hip is higher than the other, the first thing that happens is that both shoulders move to stay on top of the hips. Your head also moves slightly to one side or the other. At that point, if your eyes are open, the eyes look at the horizon and notice that the world is slightly crooked. The eyes then rectify the situation by dropping one or the other shoulder. This picture illustrates it beautifully, minus showing the shoulders.
This is also why most people have varying degrees of scoliosis (curvature of the spine), but that is a topic for a future blog post. 🙂
So now, how do we fix it? Well, remember to be patient as we build strength in those muscles that aren’t strong YET (aka Tiger’s identification of the glutes) but let’s see if we can impact the horizontal position of the hips as well. Here are two of my favorite hip leveling positions:
First exercise: Kneeling Wall.
Kneel, with something cushy underneath your knees if they need it, where your knees and nose touch the wall. Here is the absolutely critical piece: MAKE SURE THE WEIGHT IS EQUAL IN BOTH KNEES. If it isn’t then you are continuing to favor one side over the other. If necessary, force the weight onto the knee that isn’t doing as much work. This creates a platform where the hips are required to do the same amount of work, and you will feel your quads burn up to your hips. It might take 4-5 mins, or even up to 12. Breathe. Hang in there! We want those hips level!
Second exercise: Wall Heel Drop
Take a thick book, or if you have a fancy calf stretch board, turn it around so the diagonal side is facing away from the wall. Throw yourself up against the wall, with your head, your hips, and your heels touching the wall. It is easier with your toes up on that book or board to stay balanced. Notice if the weight is distributed equally on both heels. If it isn’t, force it. I used to wait patiently, and now I push the issue.
It is essential that you have the same amount of weight on both heels, which means both hips are doing the same amount of work! Contract those glutes equally to get your tight calves to connect to your hamstrings to connect to your glutes. Breathe. This is also a FANTASTIC sinus release as most heads are forward, and this forces your head over your hips over your heels and allows your sinuses to drain. Try it for a few minutes, and I keep clients there for 10 minutes if the sinuses are especially clogged. Level those hips!
Let us know in the comments if you give these exercises a try and what the impact was!
These are such excellent intructions! Everyone should listen to you. You’ve taken me from twitching on the floor in back agony to RUNNING THE SAME DAY, just by forcing (did I say forcing?) me thru these exercises. They work.
Thank you for the lovely compliment & vote of confidence! I remember the back pain, and I am so glad to hear you were back on the trail the same day. Delightful! Keep up the great work! 🙂 Laura