Let's talk about posture.
Many practitioners and swing coaches will say things like "We need to fix your posture!!"
"Your posture is limiting your swing!"
"Your posture is going to cause back pain, muscle imbalances, and an inefficient swing!"
Firstly, to be frank, posture isn't as important as many make it out to be.
This article can be summed up in one line, and if you want to stop reading after this you are welcome to because it's the central theme...
The best posture is, more than likely, the one you are the most comfortable in.
Is upright posture the best?
We have all been told to sit up straight.
Squeeze our shoulder blades together.
Keep our head and neck back.
I'm here to tell you today that those ideas are pretty outdated and not true.
The posture shown in the picture above on the right is not "better" than the one on the left.
The one on the right is also way more uncomfortable.
And modern research has actually supported this too...
One study followed 686 subjects from age 17 to 22 and concluded that females that maintained a more slumped, rounded posture had a lower risk for persistent neck pain than the more upright posture group (1).
They concluded that this rounded posture was being used as a protective mechanism.
In another short article published in the Journal of Orthopedic & Sports Physical Therapy, they concluded that the best posture we can make use of is the one that's most comfortable (2).
The overarching point is, many theories of posture and muscle symmetry have been created to help practitioners try to prevent injuries and improve the function of humans... but in many cases these theories are just that, theories.
And they sometimes (maybe even often?) decrease function because they attempt to change a more natural pattern of movement.
Moral of the story is our spines are all shaped in different ways... there is no one singular best posture.
For example, let's say you have back pain...
And the doc says, you need to fix your posture. They need you to sit and stand with a straight back at all times.
Never let it round!
Do you know how uncomfortable this will be?
Also, do you realize how much paranoia this message can create?
You'll move through your day under constant fear of breaking yourself if you aren't in an upright and rigid posture.
Also, by making that emphasis on a very upright and rigid spine, you are adding this constant stimulus and tension to the area which will simply make any pain worse because of your obsessive focus and distrust of the area.
Relating this to Golf
We can 100% relate these ideas to your golf swing and setup.
Golf practitioners will use two common phrases when discussing posture:
Let's say you have back pain when you play golf, and your practitioner tells you it is because of your C posture (cough, cough... it's not).
Moving forward, you will make this excessive focus on straightening your spine and building rigidity in your setup position.
Doing so is going to place tension in your golf swing, making it incredibly difficult to complete a functioning and efficient swing.
And more than that, similar to above, this excessive focus could very well just make pain worse because of your distrust of the area and consistent attentional focus you are giving it.
I'm not saying the two images shown above are necessarily ideal in any way.
But neither is trying to create this rigid, tight posture at setup that looks geometrically perfect!
Again, setup to the ball comfortably.
There's a large spectrum of postures that you can succeed with.
In fact, some of the best golfers have had, what many would say, is subpar posture.
The list goes on and on.
If you look across the PGA Tour, athletes succeed with MANY different spinal positions and postures.
There isn't one right answer.
There are many.
But, my back pain? If it's not posture, what is it?
Back pain can be caused by many factors.
And I mean.. MANY.
I wrote all about pain and injury at the article below, so I won't dig too deep.
Here's the biggest thing you need to understand... pain is complex.
Solving pain starts with being an overall healthy human being.
Not some magical exercise or postural fix.
Simply be healthier.
Nutrition. Hydration. SLEEP! Stress reduction. Be active.
Then, if pain persists, we can start diving into biomechanical and physical solutions.
When we shift our view this direction is starts with:
1.) Getting stronger and
2.) Broadening our movement capacity and capability.
WRAP IT UP
Your posture may be a limiting factor, it may not be.
The point of this article is that posture isn't as important as many coaches and practitioners make it out to be.
Fixing your posture isn't going to all the sudden cure your back pain if you get 3 hours of sleep a night, eat junk food twice a day, and live a sedentary life.
Work on everything else first.
Become a healthier, higher performing human being first.
Then start physical training... hopefully with SCRATCH ;)
Only after doing these consistently should we look at posture as a potential cause of pain or injury.
Put another way, you CAN become your highest performing self with your current posture.
Let's go low.
1.) Richards, K. V., Beales, D. J., Smith, A. L., O'Sullivan, P. B., & Straker, L. M. (2021). Is Neck Posture Subgroup in Late Adolescence a Risk Factor for Persistent Neck Pain in Young Adults? A Prospective Study. Physical therapy, 101(3), pzab007. https://doi.org/10.1093/ptj/pzab007
2.) Slater, D., Korakakis, V., O'Sullivan, P., Nolan, D., & O'Sullivan, K. (2019). "Sit Up Straight": Time to Re-evaluate. The Journal of orthopaedic and sports physical therapy, 49(8), 562–564. https://doi.org/10.2519/jospt.2019.0610