Category Archives: Mobility & Flexibility

Stretching is a waste of time

I spend most of my time working with clients who want more mobility, be it the ability to get a greater shoulder turn in the backswing or to turn more to ‘load the hips’ in the downswing. The flip side of this is that I spend most of my time working with golfers who spend far to long sitting, either at a desk 8-10 hours a day or on a plane/train/car traveling to the next tournament 2-3 days a week. Unsurprisingly, a fair few of them arrive on my client roster with the mobility of a clam, meaning even basic human movement patterns, such as the squat or hinge are challenging endeavours.

Seeing that part of my job is centred on optimising movement patterns and mobility, these clients expect me to help them improve in this area. However, what isn’t expected, indeed even resisted by some, is when I break down my ‘mobility’ methods, It’s often not what people expect. For most clients, there is very little to no static stretching whatsoever.

The response is pretty predictable – “how am I going to improve my mobility/flexibility if I don’t stretch?” Or “But I’m stretching everyday at the moment; surely I need to do more if I’m going to get better?” My response is to ask whether there religious stretching routine to date has actually improved their mobility. The answer is always No.

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No matter how much time a client spends stretching, they typically see only transient improvements in flexibility and negligible improvement in motor control when performing any movement using that new range of motion. Static stretching alone is not the answer. In fact, it barely provides any benefit at all.

As a result, I’ve dropped almost all static stretching from my programs in favour of some more advanced mobility methods I’ll discuss here.

Why stretching doesn’t work?

Well first off, muscles can’t actually be lengthened – There are various research studies that have looked at this exact topic. Secondly a single 20 second static stretch has been shown to noticeably reduce force output – hardly ideal if your about to go and do a strength training session or complete a high power output activity such as golf.

Most importantly however, tightness in the muscle is often just a symptom not the cause of the problem and therefore stretching is just a band aid for the symptoms and will not fix the cause in the long term. A muscle is tight because it’s protecting a perceived instability, compensating for another area, or is guarding against a perceived threat. So if your tight first you need to ask why said muscle is tight?

For most of us with tightness one or all of the factors above are also at play in limiting range of motion.  Stretching doesn’t address the cause of the muscle being tense in the first place. If the muscle is actually ‘tight’, static stretching should allow the muscle to become less tight, and those gains should be permanent if they are appropriate to the restriction. However, particularly in an area like the hips, that are designed to have a large range of motion before actual end range due to a bony block or capsular ending, the muscles are most likely hanging on to give stability to some other part of the body. Static stretching won’t fix the issue on a permanent basis, as you’ll simply return to being tight as a drum again to give you the stability to move.

You need to fix the stability issue, which is the cause. Not attack the tight muscle, which is just the symptom with static stretching.

As a quick aside: The hip joint can get to 170 degrees of flexion, and in some angles outside of the sagittal plane it can get to more than 200 degrees flexion. It can also extend to between 40-60 degrees, which adds up to way more than the necessary 180 degrees to do a split. This leaves soft tissue restrictions as the reason most people can’t hit the splits. Sure, some have structural issues with the shape of their hip joints, but that can’t be something that could account for the entire population.

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Bodybuilder, Flex Wheeler, used to hit the splits on stage, carb depleted and dehydrated while packing more muscle than 95% of the population, proving the concept of “muscle bound” reducing flexibility to be completely and utterly false.

Let’s look at the hip flexors as a specific example, a tight hip flexor is often the result of femur sliding forward (anterior glide), resulting in the glutes becoming stretched and weak (this is what’s meant by a capsular issue). Additionally, if a segment is unstable, so other areas become tense to try to provide the stability needed to move. In the case of the hip flexors, they attach to the spine, so If you core musculature responsible for stabilising the spine is weak, your hip flexors will try to stabilise your spine and they’ll stay tight to give stability.

There is huge interplay between the core and the hip. It’s not enough just to look at the hip in addressing your poor mobility. To echo the message of smart people such as Gray Cook, Charlie Weingroff , and Mike Robertson who have really made this stuff mainstream, we need proximal stability to have distal mobility. In other words, we need relative stability through the trunk to make full use of the range of motion available in joints such as the hips and shoulders.

Another example would be tight hamstrings – many people have hamstrings that feel permanently tight and couldn’t touch their toes if their life depends on it. Many of these golfers still cling to the idea that static stretching of the hamstrings is the answer, down this road lies nothing but frustration and wasted time!

These individuals typically display a pelvis that is anteriorly tilted, placing the hamstrings in a stretched position to start with, coupled with an inability to posteriorly shift weight back into the hips. If we can improve the lumbo-pelvic position and alignment, both statically and dynamically, we’ll improve that feeling of hamstring ‘tightness’.

If not stretching, then what should I do?

As I said earlier muscle, or any soft tissue for that matter, doesn’t have the physiological properties to permanently deform and lengthen. That leaves us with optimising adjacent players in gross movement patterns to improve the pattern itself, and create an illusion of muscles gaining length or suppleness. True mobility, therefore, is dependent on an athlete’s ability to create proper movement strategies.

Below is the plan of attack we use with our clients to get their mobility restrictions in the right direction:

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While many people think foam rolling or other SMR techniques are a method of stretching, they’re not. The muscle isn’t undergoing any kind of length change, but rather a neural down-regulation that reduces resting tone in prime movers, meaning you can move more easily and with a better chance of having balanced tension around the joint. It’s a testament to how resetting the neural tone of a tissue can help increase range of motion faster than simply stretching. Picking up that tight hamstrings example again, foam rolling/ SMR techniques hitting the glute, glute med, and adductors are often useful to reduce tension in these muscles and allow a more posterior pelvic tilt. Here’s a tact and floss SMR technique that I’ve found particularly effective:

But again, un-gluing a chronically tight area without restoring stability to the tissues it’s trying to help stabilise will only result in it getting tight again.

Dynamic mobilisation comes into play with the newly unlocked joints and tissues. The role of active mobility is to train the body to use the range of motion in the most effective way possible so that the likelihood of maintaining this new range is higher.

When doing any active mobility, focus on keeping the spine tense and the core active while sinking deep into the stretches, hold each for a single breath per rep, and continue on to the next one. Continuing our hamstring tightness example, modified quadruped rock backs, kneeling adductor mobilisations or kneeling posterior hip/glue mobilisations work well.

Lastly, we need to ensure this new range of motion sticks and is usable within functional movement patterns. This is where motor control and movement pattern correctives come into play.

For the those with tight hip flexors this is where exercises teaching core control and separation of hip extension from lumbar extension are really useful. For those with tight hamstrings we will now utilise toe touch correctives, to address the poor pattern. As shown in the video below elevating the toes and squeezing an airex pad placed between the legs is a good option as it encourages posterior weight shift and engages the glutes to encourage posterior pelvic tilt respectively. As with dynamic mobility be sure to keep the core tense and focus on breathing.

Closing thoughts

If you happen to be the individual with tight hamstrings and a poor toe touch pattern, used as an example here, you’re in luck as all you need to do is follow along with the exercises in these videos and let me know how much better your hamstrings feel and your toe touch is after a month or so. However, the point of this article really was to highlight the limitations of static stretching and show the system we use in our programs to develop mobility instead of stretching. For any mobility restriction you have targeted foam rolling/SMR, followed by dynamic mobilisation work and finally pattern correctives will do much more for you than mindlessly static stretching ever did.

If you would like to see more articles like this, covering how to deal with other specific mobility restrictions such as tight hip flexors, t-spine or shoulder mobility, let me know in the comments and if enough people ask for it we’ll get it written.

3 (or 4) Exercises to do everyday for better posture and better golf

There are some exercises I believe golfers can’t get enough of.

Why?

Because they help offset the toll that working on a computer (or even a mobile device) takes on your body and your golf swing.

Specifically, that toll is forward shoulder position, downwardly rotated scapular, a flexed thoracic spine and forward head position. This can lead to issues rotating and even controlling the club-face in the golf swing, as well as to neck, shoulder, and back pain.

All the hours you spending at your desk, surfing the internet on your laptop, texting and playing angry birds on your phone can’t be undone with a few hours a week in the gym.

You need to up your game, the more frequently you perform these exercises the better.

Now just hear me out before you complain too much about not having the time: The best part is these no-weight, no-sweat exercises anywhere, even in the living room during the adverts of your favourite TV show! (the videos below are actually filmed in my kitchen and conservatory just to prove the point).

Exercise 1. Forearm Wall Slides w/ Scapular Retraction

Stop what you’re doing right now, and sit slumped forward in a chair. Now with your arms crossed in front of you try and rotate your shoulders to the left and right just as you do in the golf swing, take note of how much rotation you are able to achieve.

Next imagine that there’s a string attached from the ceiling to your chest and that string is being tightened, pulling your chest closer towards the ceiling, extending your spine and making you sit up straight. Cross your arms again and rotate, you are able to get more range of motion right?

This exercise drives the thoracic extension essential for good rotation mechanics. As well as teaching good scapular position essential for overhead movements and that also has a potential affect on club-face position.

For best results, do 10 to 15 reps of this exercise up to three times a day. (It’s easy to do in your office, and a great warm up before you lift weights.) Those of you with shoulder issues will love how good it makes your cranky shoulders feel too.

2. Hip bridge w/ leg extension

It’s not just slumping that hurts your posture. Simply sitting can be harmful, too.

For instance, when you sit constantly, as most of us do, the hip flexors on the fronts of your hips become short and tight. What’s more, your glutes—actually forget how to contract. (After all, when you’re sitting they’re not being used for much of anything except padding for your hipbones.)

The combination of tight muscles on the front of your hips and weak muscles on your backside causes your pelvis to tilt forward. This puts more stress on your lumbar spine, which can lead to low-back pain.  According to Lance Gill and TPI lower back pain is the number 1 reason why people stop playing the game of golf.

From a technical stand point too the glutes are important, when we talk about hip/ lower body stability, the ability to rotate around a stable lower body in the backswing without swaying, or the ability to post onto a firm lead leg during the downswing we are essentially talking about the strength and ability to contract of the glutes.

Enter the hip bridge with leg extension. It strengthens your glutes and teaches them how to contract —which helps allow your pelvis to move back in its natural alignment. Do 5 to 6 reps for each leg, holding the top position of the exercise for 3 to 5 seconds.

Bonus exercise: For extra credit perform the couch stretch (so called because you actually use the couch to do it) for 15-30 second holds to stretch out those pesky hip flexors.

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3. Quadruped rotation/extension

Like wall slides, this is another great exercise for your upper body posture. This exercise helps mobilise your upper back by rotating at your thoracic spine, it as teaches the good rotational mechanics (rotating at the upper back not the lower back) that are vital in good swing mechanics and will also help protect that lower back from injury. Do 3 sets of 10 on each side once, twice or even 3 times a day

 

You’ll be amazed what a few minutes a day can do to improve your mobility and movement quality. As well as undo the damage to your posture, and golf swing, slumping 8 hours a day can cause. And because posture and state of mind are linked you’ll feel better, happier and more confident too. Now that’s what I call a win win!

 

T-spine mobility progressions

I am a big fan of this Mike Boyle statement:

“bad golfers rotate from the low back, good golfers rotate from the thoracic spine and the hips”

Indeed, Mike has been largely responsible for bring the thoracic spine to the attention of golfers. In short, increasing t-spine rotation will allow you to increase shoulder turn in your back swing, stay more stable in the lower body and protect your lower back.

Happily, many golfers are now working on t-spine mobility, exercises such as the open books and half moons (video below) have been increasingly popular. However, I can’t help but feel golfers are missing part of the picture.

Extension first!

Most of us have horrible posture (blame your boss as it’s all that time you spend at a computer or driving that’s at fault!). This leads to a rounded (kyphotic) posture of the spine which means the t-spine is locked in a flexed position.

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If you’re trying to do an open book mobilisation starting with this type of spine you will never get the rotation you are looking for. Developing t-spine extension and normal spine position is essential to proper rotation, t-spine extensions on a foam roller or a bench (pictured below) are your best options here.

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These exercises are great for increasing t-spine mobility however they do so in a manner in which we are supported and stabilised by the floor.

With most mobility drills, there should be a progression to coming off the floor into a more vertical position so that the body is required to support/ stabilise the moving joints, load bearing is a manner more applicable to that required in the golf swing and the usability of that mobility can be more applicable.

Following that idea of moving from a ground based position to standing, we look to progress through a quadruped, to half-kneeling, to standing and golf posture positions.

Here’s a few of my favourite progressions:

Quadruped extension/ rotation

This introduces some shoulder and core stability elements, whilst the quadruped position does increase the load demands somewhat.

Be sure to keep the core tight and make sure the movement comes from the t-spine not lumbar spine (lower back). Be sure to follow the moving elbow with your eyes.

Half-kneeling thoracic rotations

This movement relies on core control to develop hip and thoracic spine rotation, plus some extension of the spine to accommodate the arm movement.

Try to reach the arm as high as possible and get the biceps as close to the ear as possible. The band provides some assistance with this so removing the band would actually represent a progression

Spiderman lunge with overhead reach

Similar to the half kneeling thoracic rotations this movement relies on core control to develop hip and thoracic spine rotation, but also introduces the knees, ankles and feet to the stability equation. You are also now required to express thoracic spine mobility in a more dynamic motion.

So, If you are struggling to see the gains you make in t-spine exercises like open books actually carryover to your golf swing give this ground based to standing progression a try.

Also Stronger Golf is now on Instagram so if you want more video content and even the odd fancy infographic, it would be great if you could check us out. Thanks.

Improving ankle dorsiflexion for a better golf swing

The ankle, along with the wrist, maybe the most ignored joint in terms of athletic performance. However the foot is our only contact point with the ground, in a sport such as golf where a powerful swing is the result of creating large amounts of ground reaction force its importance should be obvious. Structurally speaking the foot is also our base and affects everything else further up the kinetic chain. To quote Lance Gill

“We need to pay more attention to ankle dorsiflexion as it directly affects golf swing kinematics”

TPI research has for a long time espoused the link between issues maintaining dynamic posture in the golf swing, such as early extension, and the inability to correctly perform a deep overhead squat. The better understanding of movement mechanics brought to us by the increase in movement assessment, such as TPI’s own/ FMS and incredibly smaDorsi/plantar-ankle-strongergolfrt people such as Grey Cook, has also shown us the link between poor dorsiflexion and a poor deep overhead squat. To bust a bit of jargon here too dorsiflexion is simply your ability to flex your foot upward.

Dorsiflexion is also important for daily tasks such as stepping down stairs, getting up out of a chair and even walking! An inefficient gait pattern, with a circular motion or leg swinging outwards as the person steps, is often a result of a lack of dorsiflexion

How do you know if you need more dorisflexion?

Here is a really simple, down and dirty, assessment you can do right this second as the only thing you need is a wall:

Placing your left foot 5 inches from the wall step back with your right foot and get in a half kneeling position, so your left foot is still on the floor 5 inches from the wall and your right knee is down on the floor. Keeping your foot flat on the floor push your left knee forward until your knee touches the wall. If you have to lift your heel off the ground or your knee has to track inwards and not in a straight line in order to touch the wall your dorsiflexion is compromised. Swap sides to get a result for the right ankle too. Note: Ideally this test would be completed bare foot.

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Let’s make it better!

Manual therapy and self-myofascial release techniques coupled with joint mobilisations to address restrictions in the joint have in my experience have proved to give the fastest and most effective gains in dorsiflexion (for those of you felt a ‘pinching’ in the front of the ankle when performing the test joint mobilisations are particularly important).

Foam rolling the calves is the most obvious; sitting on the ground with one leg atop the foam roller, pass the calf 5 over the roller 5 or 6 times. Adjust position slightly each time to hit different parts of the musculature and different angles. We can also amp this up somewhat by pausing on tender spots and performing ankle pulses up and down and circles, before continuing on to find the next spot.

A big thing often over looked in increasing ankle dorsiflexion is the role of the plantar fascia (the thick connective tissue that supports the arch on the underside of your foot). If the fascia is tight it will pull on the gastroc and soleus muscles of the calf, which will limit dorsiflexion. The foam roller is to global for such a small area, it doesn’t get into those fibres in the way we need, so a lacrosse ball is your best option here. Simply make 5 or 6 passes up and down the foot searching for those tender trigger points, when you find one just hang out there for a second before continuing on.

For many just this work on the plantar fascia will improve your dorsiflexion immediately. Try re-testing straight after doing this and I bet many of you will see an improvement. We even see improvements in deep overhead squat from doing just this, and a better deep overhead squat means better ability to maintain posture in the golf swing, not bad for a minute or too spent standing on a ball!

Lastly, It is also important to actually move and get some dynamic mobility improvements at the joint. Wall-ankle mobilisations are one of my favourite ways to achieve this

Foot and ankle mechanics can be improved quickly and easily. They also have a really significant impact on the kinematic sequence of your golf swing and ultimately your performance.

Movement quality is the foundation

I am constantly trying to improve and refine the quality of my clients movement. For many, we have to re-lay their movement foundation completely prior to introducing more intensive methods of training.

But why is movement so import?Movement-Quality

What many people fail to realise is that they are working too hard to achieve improvements in strength, power, etc. If they would only take a step back and address the big picture issues, they’d actually see a better change in performance. Movement is the low hanging fruit. Working on mobility, stability and movement will add pounds to the bar as well as mph and control to your swing, almost instantly in many cases.

The body is built to move as one seamless, integrated unit. Instead I see golfers with a laundry list of movement issues:

– Poor breathing patterns

– Anterior pelvic tilt and lumbar lordosis/ Posterior pelvic tilt and thoracic kyphosis

– Horrible thoracic mobility

– Poor rotation through the hips

– Poor rotation through the shoulders

In truth this list could go on, but these are the major ones to start. As an example, let’s look at one of these issues and see how it could hold back your performance.

anterior-pelvic-tiltIf your pelvis is in constant anterior tilt with a big lordosis of the spine, you’re stretching out the big muscles on the back side of your body (chiefly the hamstrings) and not allowing them to contract optimally.

Perhaps more importantly, your core is offline, your diaphragm and pelvic floor are no longer facing each other and able to work together to create intra-abdominal pressure and stability. Effectively, you can’t transfer energy from your lower to your upper body as efficiently. This presents a massive problem as your ability to convert the power created by rotation of the pelvis into club head sped in the golf swing relies on the efficient transfer of energy through the core. With a weak or unstable core you’re losing distance and control.

This is why I bang on about movement quality so much. You can train hard, hitting balls, deadlifting and squatting heavy but these won’t give you optimal results (in fact, that may even exacerbate the problem) until you sort your movement. In short, it can add distance to your tee shots and lbs to your deadlift, without ever actually training the pattern in question.

Both in my personal training and when working with clients, call me lazy, but I want the easy gains first. Think working smart, before you start working hard.

Spring cleaning for your golf game

The first major of the year has been and gone, golfers everywhere are gearing up for the summer season and looking forward to making this their best season to date. Much anticipation, along with re-gripping and replacing of golf clubs, buying new season apparel, upping time spent on the cp-overhead-squat-movement-testcourse and the range, and booking of lessons with the local pro usually accompany this period. However I think I have one more thing to add to that list: A physical screening.

Golf fitness is not about doing endless cardio on the treadmill or even, about lifting weights. It’s about getting your body into, and through, dynamic positions in the golf swing with greater speed, power and efficiency. With this in mind, everyone we coach online or in the gym is put through a movement assessment to identify individuals weaknesses in these movement patterns, help develop appropriate programming in order to improve mobility, strength, stability and power and ultimately best benefit their golf swing. After all, you wouldn’t go on a road trip without mapping out the route you want to take beforehand. So why would you jump into an exercise program to improve your golf game without knowing exactly what areas you need to work on?

A physical screening for golfers should give information on areas such as:      

– posture            

– balance            

– the ability to disassociate the upper body from the lower 

– shoulder mobility, particularly external rotation

– thoracic spine range of motion

– glute strength            

– core strength   

– power output        

– hip mobility, particularly internal rotation

– hip flexor/hamstring/calf flexibility 

The physical assessment can be an invaluable tool in improving your swing mechanics, as it can rule out physical factors that might be causing a swing flaw. If an individual test poorly for a particular component and presents a swing fault associated with it, removing the physical deficiency will often improve the swing fault. However, if that individual tests well for a particular deficiency, but presents with a swing fault that typically correlates to that deficiency, we can equate the fault to poor swing mechanics and/or bad habit.  This would require work with a teaching professional, so that the inefficient motor skill can be corrected and the neuromuscular pathway reset.

So whilst your getting ready for this summer of golf, consider a physical screening and really start playing your best!  

Do you need to stretch?

Lets start with a statement that, at first glance, may seem rather counterintuitive…

Just because something is tight DOES NOT mean it should be stretched.

The case in point is the hamstrings. Tight hamstrings are one of the most common complaints I here from clients, and their reaction to  this is often to stretch them. Makes sense right? But is this really the correct course of action?

We have spent so long assuming that everybody is in posterior pelvic tilt from sitting at a desk all day. However constant cueing to arch or straighten the back when assuming golf posture, along with spending long periods standing walking the course, has left many golfers living in anterior pelvic tilt.

Anterior pelvic tilt, means the pelvis is tilted towards the front side of the body. Now think about this, it stands to reason the hamstrings would feel tight, but they are only this way because they are in a constant position of stretch! So yes, your hamstring may feel tight, but stretching  them is only going to make things worse. You may feel better initially, but it will not resolve the issue.

Check out these low level anti extension drills for a better way to combat anterior tilt:

 

Another common area for golfers to attempt to stretch to relieve pain or tightness is the lower back. The spinal erectors, of the lower back, have essentially two sets of fibres – the superficial set (which promotes  lumbar extension), and the deep lying fibres which promote posterior sheer force. Due to the lordotic curve of the lower back, our lumbar vertebrae are constantly in a position of anterior sheer, as the superior vertebrae is essentially ‘slipping’ forward on the one in front of it. If we stretch our spinal erectors, we decrease the magnitude of posterior shear force. What does this mean? Again, while it may provide temporary relief, we are essentially allowing our lumbar lordosis to increase in size. Not cool man!

Neck tightness is also prevalent in golfers, especially as we age. Much like the lumbar spinal erectors the levator scapulae provide sheer force on their associated vertebrae. In the case of someone with forward head posture, the lavator scapulae is already excessively stretched, thus feeling tight. However, just like the previous examples, stretching it is only going to exacerbate the underlying issue.

If your serious about moving better, performing better and staying healthy (which sounds pretty good to me, at any rate!) don’t rely on feeling – Instead, focus on the underlying causes add trying to address them. Treating symptoms is a short term fix that leads to inferior results.

 

Recovery!

Driving physical adaptations from a training program requires the blending of three key elements – training, nutrition and recovery.  Training gets the most exposure, as it’s the most easily controlled of the three and lets face it man has been trying to get strong by picking up heavy objects since the beginning of time.

Nutrition has also come a long way in the last 5-10 years.  Gone are the days of high carb diet, low fat diets (remember those cardboard snacks that were all the rage) Increasingly, as are the days of truly low or no carb diets.  Balance in your diet and nutrition is important as well.

Where many people miss the boat, however, is recovery.  Recovery should be simple – get at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night, stretch in between workouts, foam roll, etc.  But how many people actually do these things? Many people are shocked at how much better they feel, and how much harder they can train, when they simple get enough sleep.  It sounds simple (and it is!), but it makes a profound difference.

A_child_sleepingSleep

The most basic and probably most important recovery strategy first; how much sleep are you getting?

Reduced sleep for a prolonged period of time can decrease insulin sensitivity, testosterone and other anabolic hormones associated with muscle growth and strength increases are acutely suppressed with sleep deprivation. There is actually mixed evidence as to whether missing a night of sleep impairs workout performance. Although it would be safe to say that it does not help, and could potentially hinder. If your training intensely you need to be shooting for 7-9 hours of sleep a night, though this varies from individual to individual and more maybe required.

Another thing to consider is the quality of your sleep. Strategies such as manipulating light exposure for brighter white/blue/green lights in the morning and dimmer red/pink lights (or just darkness) at night definitely does aid in maintaining a proper sleep cycle. Supplements, such as melatonin, can also be used to help with sleep latency (time required to fall asleep) and abstaining from stimulants or introducing relaxing molecules (lavender and theanine) may aid in sleep quality.

Research has also pointed to shifting the majority of your protein towards the morning, and perhaps having a small carbohydrate-containing meal at night, could theoretically aid in maintaining a proper circadian rhythm.

Diet and supplementation

220px-B_vitamin_supplement_tabletsI will admit nutrition is not necessarily my area of expertise, so I’ll leave specific recommendations to the experts in this industry. John Berardi over at precision nutrition is one such expert whom I whole-heartedly recommend.

For the purpose of this article, it will suffice to say your body needs macronutrients to build and repair muscle when engaged in physical training. Eat a high amount of nutritional dense foods throughout the day. A post workout shake consisting of a protein powder and a carbohydrate in a 2:1 ratio, will also massively aid recovery from your workouts. Daily supplements in the form of multi-vitamins and fish oil will ensure appropriate micronutrient levels and in my experience have value for almost all.

Self-Myofascial release

Personally I don’t think it’s possible to overdo foam rolling. I’ll foam roll pre workout, post workout, even the night after a heavy workout, or the day before to get nice and loose. Foam rolling definitely works!

The fascial system is like a web that covers every bone, muscle, artery, vein, etc. in the body. The problem occurs when areas of the myofascia are restricted or damaged, it pulls on surrounding areas. If an area in the middle of your thigh is restricted, the surrounding areas between your knee and hip would get short and tight. Therefore your restriction in the middle of your thigh is the cause of the problem, but it may manifests itself in your upper thigh or around your knee; in fact, it could even damage areas that are very far away from your leg!

Foam rollers are used to release myofascial tissues and restore the body to its optimal state. Simply roll on the foam roller with pretty much any area of the body you can think of (IT band, calves, hamstrings, quads, adductors, back, lats are the usual suspects) complete 2 or 3 passes, pausing on areas of soreness for 15-20 seconds.

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As great as SMR/foam rolling is, they definitely aren’t a replacement for quality, hands-on manual therapy.

Pricey? I have to admit yes.

Worth it? Absolutely.

Not only can hands-on therapies address tissues and restrictions that you simply can’t touch with a foam roller or lacrosse ball, but the quality of your movement will improve drastically as well.

Ice/Contrast baths

These two options are staples in our recovery routines because of their ease of use.

One of the simplest things you can do post-workout is to ice down the specific joints you trained that day. Now obviously, icing down your hips can be a challenge. But the extremities (shoulders, knees, elbows, wrists, ankles, etc.) are pretty easy to get at.

Contrast showers and baths are one of the easiest methods for speeding recovery after an intense workout. The hot water stimulates dilation of the blood vessels, while the cold water produces constriction. This contrast effect aids in the mobilization and removal of metabolic wastes, and brings fresh blood and nutrients to the damaged area to speed recovery.

The premise here is simple: Treat the area trained most intensely (e.g. low back following heavy deadlifts) with 1 minute of hot water, followed by 30 seconds of cold water; this is considered one circuit. Perform 3-5 circuits and always end on cold!

Dynamic mobility and static stretching

If you’re big, stiff, or beat-up, simply going through your dynamic warm-up on your off-days is a great way to groove better movement and restore lost function.

Static stretching seems like it’s been around since the dawn of time, but has fallen from favour rather of late. Static stretching makes this list because of its role in promoting recovery.

According to Supertraining by Mel Siff stretching increases the range of useful movement of a muscle, reduces the incidence of injury, decreases the severity of injury, delay the onset of muscular fatigue, prevent and alleviate muscle soreness after exercise, increase in muscular efficiency and prolongation of sporting life.

Low intensity cardio/Pool workout

“Cardio” seems to be getting a bad rap these days. Unfortunately, I think that’s due more to a lack of understanding and/or poor application than anything else.

Low intensity cardio such as walking, rowing, riding a stationary bike, or even pushing a Prowler/dragging a sled are fantastic for flushing metabolic waste from the muscles and providing nutrition to the joints.

The key words here are LOW INTENSITY. Keep it light and remember this is for recovery purposes – nothing more, nothing less.

The pool is a fantastic option for your low intensity cardio. The buoyancy is great for your joints, not to mention the fact there’s a fantastic therapeutic effect to hanging out in water.

Remember muscle growth occurs in the recovery time between workouts. Train hard for sure, but recover hard too!

Shoulder mobility and your swing plane

There are several physical characteristics that can directly influence the plane the club travels on, as well as, the orientation of the club face during the swing. Mobility in the trail shoulder (right shoulder, for right handed golfer) is one of the most important.

The position shown in the left hand picture, demonstrates the most stable position for the trail arm. The weight of the world can be supported with the trail arm more vertical. Indeed, many coaches have used the analogy of atlas holding the weight of the world over his head to visualise the positioning of the trail shoulder. This is also the most common position seen on the PGA and LPG tours today.

If the trail shoulder can’t get into this position due to a physical limitation, typically lack of general shoulder mobility, thoracic mobility and/or  shoulder external rotation, then a more horizontal trail arm will be seen. This will also often result in a higher swing plane than ideal and/or the club travelling across the line at the top of the backswing position, as shown in right hand picture.

The player has two choices. Adopt a less than ideal position of the trail arm in the swing or change their physical abilities. Below are some of my favourite exercises for increasing shoulder mobility:

Adding in some soft tissue work for the pecs is also a great way to manually improve muscle fascia and get back some range of motion in the shoulder.

And make sure to balance all pressing movements in your program with rows also. A 1:1 ratio at least, although for those who lack shoulder mobility 2:1 in favour of rows is probably closer to the mark.

low-back-pain

Injury proof your golf game

Research conducted into injuries amongst golfers has shown that almost 80% of injuries in professionals occur through overuse, with injuries primarily to the hips, wrists, back and shoulders. Injuries in amateurs can be caused by overuse, but in most cases occur due to low-back-painfaulty swing patterns developed around physical limitations. As a result, they over stress areas of the body and create injury, or further pre-existing injury. Injuries in the lower back and elbows due to poor technique and dysfunctional movement patterns are common in amateurs.

Injury inducing swing mechanics

Low back injuries

S-posture: Excessive anterior tilt in the lumbar spine causes inhibition of the abs and glutes. This position can lead to loss of posture, reverse spine angle, early extension and ultimately low back pain. Normal anterior tilt of the pelvis should be about 15-25 degrees. Golfers may have been told to stick their butt out when getting into golf posture, many do this by going into excessive anterior tilt. This immediately inhibits the abs and glutes. Or they exhibit lower-crossed syndrome and the same inhibition occurs.

Reverse spine angle: The golfer overly recruits the musculature of the back and lats, to go into too much extension in the back swing -this will directly increase the amount of sheer forces that the lumbar spine will be subjected too at impact. Reverse spine is can also be caused by a lack of mobility, particularly external rotation, in the shoulder.

Early extension: Golfer goes into rapid hip extension during the downswing – this inhibits the abdominals ability to stabilise through impact and increases the forces on the lumbar spine as a result. The players lower body can often be seen getting closer to the ball during the swing.

Reverse ‘C’ finish: Finishing the swing in full hyperextension (big arch in back) puts the lumbar spine under more compressive forces, increasing the chance of injury.

Restricted right leg follow through: This is a bigger deal than most people think due to the large deceleration torque created in the spine. You should be able to count all the spikes on the bottom of the right shoe from down the line after impact.

Elbow injuries

Chicken wing/Flying elbow/limited backswing: Limited shoulder range of motion, particularly external rotation, on either side increases the potential for tendonitis and other injury in the elbow joint.

Limited shoulder mobility on the target side often results in chicken winging. Chicken winging is characterised by the elbow bending and remaining close to the body as it slides aroundthe back to the follow through. If shoulder mobility is limited in the trail arm, you could have a flying elbow in your backswing, a limited backswing or it may force the golfer into a reverse spine angle.

Overuse injuries

Playing a repeitive sport, such as golf, can lead to imbalances and overuse injuries. Mobility work, improving soft tissue and muscle fascia quality, and a balanced program of resistance exercises, will help iron out imbalances and prevent overuse injuries. Having balanced chest and upper back musculature, plus strengthening the rotator cuff, can help avoid shoulder injuries. As well as helping to keep a neutral spine at address and adding power to your golf swing.

Developing adequate extension and rotation in the t-spine and mid-back to allow a full shoulder turn and negate the necessity for excessive lumbar movement.

Imbalances in forearm musculature can occur as a result of the numerous gripping and re-gripping required in golf, these imbalances can also lead to elbow pain. Soft tissue work for the forearms will improve tissue quality and help alleviate these pains.