The Importance of Pelvic Control in the Golf Swing – Pelvic Tilt Test
You don’t hear much about pelvic control in the golf swing.
At least not much in the golf magazines or within instructional golf swing videos.
Sure, almost all golf swing articles include a cursory mention of starting the swing in a neutral posture and that the pelvis (or more likely the belt buckle) should be facing left of the target during the follow through.
But, there’s little talk about the position of the pelvis between the setup position and the finish of the swing.
The cover image of this post shows some stop action shots of Rory McIlory’s mid-iron golf swing. At address, he has a nice neutral hip position. During the backswing and first part of the downswing, the top of his pelvis tilts forward (anterior tilt) and near impact, the pelvic tilt reverses with the top pulling back as he tucks his tailbone beneath him (posterior tilt – image from Bret Contreras).
This quick reversal of pelvic position and extension of the hips not only generates power, it facilitates the transfer of ground reactive power through the now activated core.
It’s obvious how this motion or pelvic snapping contributes to power in the golf swing, but it’s being able to control the movement that is important.
Many golfers can place their pelvis into anterior and posterior positions. But many of those also have herky-jerky pelvic movements that reduce power transfer efficiency, losing distance and causing balance issues.
Pelvic Tilt Test
The Pelvic Tilt Test evaluates your pelvic position and the control you have over its movement from an anterior to a posterior position.
Thirteen in a Series
The Pelvic Tilt Test is the thirteen post in a series of mobility screening articles for golfers.
To receive notice when I publish new mobility screening articles, click the “Alert Me” button below and I will send you an e-mail when they are available.
Further down in this article there is also a free Mobility Screening Sheet that you can download and track your results as you go through the whole mobility screening process.
The links to the other published mobility screens are listed below.
Pelvic Tilt in Power Generation
Ideally, golfers should setup to the golf ball in a neutral posture. Having a neutral spine will make it easier to rotate during the backswing.
During the downswing, we can generate additional power by squatting and pushing off the ground with our feet.
To do this, we first go into hip flexion then quickly reverse the motion and go into hip extension.
If we keep a neutral spine position during the hip flexion and extension, the movement will cause our head will move down and then up. For amateur golfers, head movement makes it hard keep balance and the golf swing on the original swing plane.
However, if we can tilt our pelvis anteriorly during hip flexion and posteriorly during hip extension the hips can rotate easier clearing a path for the club while keeping the head still.
Having full control of pelvic tilt is important because any herky-jerky movements will cause swing timing issues as well as reduce the transfer of power during the hip extension phase. It would be like moving the support arm on a slingshot during release, the change of tension will decrease accuracy and power.
Why Golfers Have Pelvic Control Problems
Many golfers don’t start in a neutral position, but rather in S-posture. S-posture is caused by an anterior tilt of the pelvis. A common cause of anterior tilt is extended periods of time sitting either at work, while driving, or during leisure time. Sitting weakens and tightens various muscles that would normally help maintain a neutral pelvis position.
Over time, pelvic control is lost because the weaken muscles can’t overcome the tightness in the opposing muscles. The muscles have to be re-trained to keep the pelvis in a neutral position and move in a controlled smooth motion.
The Pelvic Tilt Test will evaluate if can tilt your pelvis anteriorly and posteriorly at will in a smooth controlled motion.
How to Perform the Pelvic Tilt Test
We want to test your pelvic control in your golf posture, so the steps are as follows:
- In front of a mirror, get into your normal 5-iron address posture.
- Cross your arms over your chest, resting the hands on your shoulders.
- Take note of your starting posture, either by looking in the mirror or asking a partner what position your back is in.
- In a neutral position, your spine will be straight or flat from the shoulder blades to the tailbone.
- With S-posture, you’ll have a slight saddle in the lower back.
- C-posture is when your back is curved outward from the shoulders to the tailbone.
- Once the starting position is noted, try to tilt your pelvis posteriorly. It will feel like you’re tucking your tailbone underneath yourself.
- From that position, tilt your pelvis anteriorly, so you’re pushing your tailbone out, and the top of the pelvis is facing more toward the floor.
- While you’re doing the tilts, your upper body should be remaining in the starting position. It shouldn’t move much at all.
- Take note if you can get your pelvis to tilt anteriorly and posteriorly.
- Next, is the movement smooth and controlled?
- Can you go from the posterior position to the anterior position in a smooth controlled motion? The movement doesn’t need to be quick, but smooth.
- Often if it’s not a smooth motion, you can feel a herky-jerky movement. This is called shake-n-bake. It occurs when you lose control of the movement and the pelvis sticks in place then quickly release as the muscles over compensate for the lack of movement.
- Mark your results on the Mobility Screening Sheet as described after the video.
TMF Mobility Screening Sheet
You can download a copy of the TMF Mobility Screening Sheet by pressing the button below and entering your name and e-mail, and I’ll deliver it to your inbox.
The Video Below Shows the Pelvic Tilt Test
Marking the Mobility Screening Sheet
First, circle your starting posture, Neutral, S-, or C-posture.
Next, can you tilt your pelvis anteriorly (arch) and posteriorly (flatten) without any problems? If so, circle normal. If you can’t arch (anteriorly tilt) or flatten (posteriorly tilt) your back circle the one (or both) you’re having problems with.
Lastly, it’s about the motion.
If you have no problems, circle normal, if you can feel your pelvis sticking then releasing, circle shake-n-bake, or if you don’t have any range of motion at all, or are having a real hard time moving, circle limited movement.
What Do the Results Mean?
There can be many causes for poor pelvic tilt. You could have limited lumbar spine mobility, lower cross syndrome (from sitting), or poor coordination, which is a lack of neuro-response between the pelvic muscles and the brain.
With the exception of degenerative lumbar mobility, corrections are easy. With LCS you usually can get into anterior tilt but have problems with tilting posteriorly and can be corrected by adding flexibility to the hip flexors and strengthening the abdominal and glute muscles.
Shake-n-bake is a neuro-response and is best corrected by practicing the pelvic tilt.
Corrections for Pelvic Tilt Limitations
Practicing pelvic tilts is the best way to correct the problems. If you might have LCS, exercises that strengthen the core and glutes work well.
Below are some exercises to get you started.
Supine Pelvic Tilts
The floor will give you good feedback on movement, you can tell if your back is arching off the floor and flattening to the floor during the tilts.
Hip Flexor Stretch
If you have LCS, these will help stretch out the hip flexors. You don’t have to do the side bends if you don’t want too.
Deadbug Same Side
The deadbug will work on your core, coordination, and hip flexors. Make sure you keep your back flat on the floor and don’t arch it.
This exercise is harder to do than it looks. Remember, the back needs to remain flat on the floor.
These videos and many other exercises videos that will help you improve pelvic tilt can be found in The Golf Conditioning Center.
In the Center, you can search for exercises by body part, swing characteristic, or by those that will help correct limitations found during mobility screens.
You will need to be a Gold Member to view the exercise videos.
The Pelvic Tilt Test evaluates your ability to freely move your pelvis from an arched position to a flat position. Use this test as a baseline before doing a golf conditioning program to see if you need to improve pelvic movement, core strength, hip flexor flexibility, glute strength, or neuro-muscular control.
Knowing possible issues will allow you to improve your swing, add distance, and reduce the chance of injury.
This is the thirteenth of sixteen mobility screens. If you’re interested in being notified when the next screen is published click the Alert Me button below, and I will send you an e-mail when they’re published.
You can read more about why mobility screens are a vital part of any golf conditioning program in Put the Horse in Front of the Cart and Get With the Fitness Program.
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