What is Reverse Weight Shift?
Frequently ‘hanging back’ is one half of a reverse weight shift pattern. ‘Hanging back’ describes a lack of weight transference onto the lead leg in the downswing, so that weight remains predominantly in the trail side though impact. This tends to go hand in hand with a premature release of the wrists (or ‘casting’ – see previous post) and an ‘arm dominant’ swing (rather than the correct weight shift and pivot), as the golfer tries to help the ball into the air rather than compress the ball with a descending blow.
At the top of the backswing the golfer has a ‘reverse spine angle’ – a spinal tilt toward, rather than away from, the target. The positioning of the lower body limits its ability to initiate a properly sequenced downswing. If it tries to do so, more often than not the lead leg will push the lower body away from the target thereby delivering weight into the trail side. Almost inevitably this leads to a reverse weight shift and a problem with ‘hanging back’.
What Causes A Reverse Weight Shift?
Whilst the problem may simply be the result of subconsciously trying to get under the ball, as with the vast majority of swing issues it is quite likely that there is a physical restriction of some kind that is the real ‘root cause’.
Many golfers have forward pelvic tilt and something of an S-posture at address – a posture fault that, of itself, can produce a reverse spine angle ‘at the top’. This posture is the product of a shortened musculature in the front of the body and a weak ‘posterior chain’. Most often it is caused by a sedentary lifestyle, but in some cases it can be attributed to the golfer having been instructed to “stick the bum out” and trying to implement it without any real understanding of how and why!
The ability to maintain the spine angle correctly during the backswing not only requires good posture for neutral joint alignment at address, but is also directly proportional to the strength and stability of the core musculature (especially the abdominal and gluteal muscles). These muscles combine to maintain the trunk’s forward flex throughout the backswing and downswing into impact.
To maintain the correct spine angle during the backswing, the shoulders must also be able to rotate around the spine without forcing the upper back (thorax) into hyperextension or excessive lateral bend. Any restriction in thoracic mobility and/or reduced flexibility in the latissimus dorsi muscle will limit pelvic and shoulder girdle separation. Consequently, there will be insufficient rotation of the torso, with the arms and hands being used independently to manipulate the club into position.
A full range of internal trail hip rotation is also paramount for correct ‘loading’ of the trail hip with minimal lateral movement. If the body is unable to rotate around the hip, a lateral ‘sway’ tends to occur and/or the trail knee is forced into extension. Either way, the upper body will more than likely assume a ‘reverse spine angle’.
Excessive sway forces weight onto the outside of the trail foot and makes it very difficult to achieve proper weight shift, because there is no stable platform from which to drive weight during transition. Poor hip mobility is not the sole cause of this particular problem. The ability to stabilize your trail leg, prevent lateral sway and effect proper weight shift during the backswing and transition into the downswing demands high levels of muscle strength in the legs and glutes – especially in the glute medius, which works to prevent the trail hip from rising or shifting laterally during ‘loading’. In the most extreme cases, significant weakness in the trailside glutes, adductors and abdominals prohibits proper weight shift altogether, but since the vast majority of amateur golfers have weak glutes, it stands to reason that their capacity for optimal weight transfer is, at best, inhibited.
What You Should Do
By way of summary, if you want to optimise correct weight transfer and movement sequencing in your swing you need to ensure that you have good posture, without excessive forward pelvic tilt, at address; you have a strong core and a well-balanced anterior/posterior musculature; an excellent range of rotational movement in the upper back, good levels of flexibility in your lats; an excellent range of internal hip rotation in combination with strong adductors and abductors; and last, but by no means least, strong glutes (especially the glute medius).
Remember, whether you are an amateur golfer looking to correct a problem with your game, or a teaching professional with students whom you think may benefit from screening, our screening programme is free-to-download. If necessary, you can then download the relevant module(s) from our comprehensive Foundation Level Programme of golf-specific conditioning exercises to target any identified area(s) of weakness.